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Retail Business Intelligence (BI) BI As a Service (SaaS) – Silver Lining in Recessionary Times

We are in a recession. The recession and its effects are here to stay for at least two more quarters. In most verticals, customers are being cautious with their money and investments. This means that the pie is smaller, and that competition for this finite share is more intense.

Things have become so depressing that in the US, some retailers, are simply throwing in the towel rather than file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection and trying to slog through the recession.

That’s essentially what happened to several American retailer’s during the past several months. With the economy in rougher shape than the clearance rack at retailer’s stores, many retailers may seriously weigh the merits of this gloomy business strategy in the months to come.

“The reason we’re seeing liquidation rather than bankruptcy from so many retailers is because people are hopeless,” Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, recently told Newsweek. “We’re still looking at a very bad year in 2009 and probably most of 2010, so it’s very difficult to be optimistic about reorganizing and coming out of it stronger.”

To be fair, some sectors of the retail industry have been oversupplied. This is, after all, a nation that boasted of 2 million retailers before the recession started, which roughly translates to one retailer for every 150 people, according to research from Tony Gao, an assistant professor of marketing at Northeastern University.

During times such as this, most companies fall within two categories. There are those who play defensively–cutting staff, cutting costs, concentrating on the highest-revenue product lines and customers, and hoping for the bad times to go away. Smarter companies, however, realize that the time when their competitors are hurting may be the most opportune moment to go on the offense and gain market share.

The second kind of company is one that will not only perform better during the recession, but come out of it as a leader in their market. How does this kind of company go about such strategy?

The first thing is to aggressively identify areas of improvement, as well as redefine and strengthen one’s positioning. Then, corrective measures must be put in place to both eliminate inefficiencies and exploit untapped potential, aiming for excellence rather than for sufficiency.

So in this environment, a pertinent question arises: Can IT best practices and retail-specific technology applications help weather this storm?

The positive effect of this environment is that it is during economic hard times that smart organizations take a fresh look at the fundamentals of their business. They become more aware of their strengths and weaknesses, refocusing their positioning and attempting to better understand their vertical. This is because a recession–regardless of vertical–does not altogether stop sales, but forces companies to compete harder for the reduced volume. Organizations that do best can not only withstand the recession, but emerge from it much stronger than their competitors. In this sense, a recession is an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage in the short and medium term.

To understand their vertical better, companies must make the most out of their data–which is where business intelligence (BI) plays a vital role.

The Role of BI in a Recession

Even from an economic perspective, the law of survival of the fittest works most transparently during lean times. To survive in the retail industry, a strong command of data is essential, which is where Business Intelligence becomes a necessity rather than a luxury.

For companies, this means primarily making the best-possible use of data through BI. Competitive data helps organizations reposition themselves in their attempt to jockey for a better advantage. Customer data tells them of important buying patterns that if correctly predicted, can be exploited to increase market-share. Operational data identifies areas of inefficiency and can help companies achieve more with fewer resources. Without this insight, it is virtually impossible to remain competitive: if you don’t make the effort, rest assured one of your competitors will. How to Choose an Optimal BI Solution in Recession-Time?

Companies must realize that more data and a greater investment on BI are not necessarily better–as in a straight-line equation. Just like all resources, data must be handled efficiently and should provide a good value to the organization; there is a point past which the marginal return of analyzing more data or investing more in BI rapidly tapers off. The key in this regard is finding that point and operating as close to it as possible. When every decision-maker in an organization has access to meaningful data through an efficient BI solution that fits the company’s budget, the amount of leverage that BI brings will be near optimal.

In particular, recession-time BI needs to have the following characteristics:

Be consolidated and reliable – For small and midsize companies working with a modest amount of data, it generally means having a management team choose the preferred set of numbers and verify their reliability. Then, the team would work with the system administrator to make data terminology consistent and understandable by nontechnical end-users, for example labeling table columns along something that makes immediate sense to the personnel conducting the analysis.

Should not be expensive but, should provide a good value for the investment - All most all BI Solutions attracts many costs like licensing costs, upfront costs, new hardware and IT resources to maintain the application. Access anywhere: Time is money and access to information and its analysis plays a major role during lean times. A decision maker must have the freedom to access information every where to bring in better and larger deals.

Be delivered quickly and efficiently - The development & deployment time of a BI Solution must be as low as possible (4-8 weeks) to enjoy quick ROI, double the sales, and optimize operational costs.

Empowering as many employees as realistically possible within the organization – In a time of recession, most companies operate on a bare-bone crew. This means that virtually every employee must own his piece of the business and think and act like an entrepreneur in his area-and often beyond. But this step must be taken carefully: turn every employee into a decision-maker without giving him the right tools to make better decisions, and the company may fall into a state of quasi-anarchy.

Can On-Demand BI Solutions suffice the above needs?

Today, with different data sources being used and with cloud-computing being increasingly popular, the benefits of on-demand BI Solutions are even stronger and more varied.

On-demand BI Solutions are breathing new life into the software industry by offering significant advantages to users.

Using On-Demand BI to seek excellence during a Recession

As we have seen, in a time of recession most companies fall within two categories: those that play defensive as they wait out the hard times hoping for the best; and those who use the opportunity to aggressively improve their processes and become a leader in their market. To fall within the second category, business intelligence (BI) must be deployed for the specific purpose of understanding their vertical and their business better, cutting costs and improving quality–and the results will start to show.

The Prominent results being:

· Making data and information widespread and transparent within the organization

· Consolidating data and making it consistent across the company

· Adding value by delivering the right reporting, analysis and dashboarding tools without requiring additional burden, particularly on IT

- Optimize Inventory costs

- Maximize earnings through visual Profitability Analysis reporting

- Increase Sales by improved customer recognition

- Get better mileage for merchandise spends, with better Product behavior patterns

- Have increased ROI than competitors

Between Your Dreams and Your Job

Everybody has a dream. Deep in the innermost recesses of our souls is the desire to have our dreams come true. The snag is dreams don’t come true automatically. It takes a lot of focus and hard work. Dreams don’t put food on the table. It takes a while before our dreams become commercially viable. In the interim, most of us take a job to keep body and soul together.

Sadly, more often than not, our jobs stand in the way of our dreams. Initially, we took the job as a temporary measure to get our act together to pursue our dreams. Years down the line, we have settled in the rat race, and our dreams have become a distant memory. We are trapped between our dreams and our job, a prisoner trapped in the rat race.

We cannot quit because we do not have enough money. We do not have enough money because we do not have the time to commit to building our business to the level that it can grow and sustain us. We need the job, but it is standing in our way.

How do we resolve this dilemma?

How do we stage a “jail break” and go for our dreams?

The first thing is to have a plan. A plan to be secure, a plan to be comfortable, and a plan to be rich.

Plan for Security
The basic component of your plan to be secure is savings and low risk investments (bonds etc) that will guarantee sufficient income to meet your basic necessities – food and shelter. This guarantees your upkeep at the poor (survival level). You will not have to beg to eat, nor sleep in the open.

Plan to be Comfortable
The basic component of this plan is investments that generate a robust cash flow to support your standard of living at the middle class (comfortable) level. This involves investments for cash flow in profitable companies rather than capital gain which is outside your control, real estate investing etc. With this plan in place, your current standard of living is assured

Plan to be Rich
With your plan to be secure and plan to be comfortable in place, throwing enough cash flow to sustain our current standard of living, you are ready to take a walk on the wild side. You are ready to have a go at high risk investments, with money you can afford to loose, knowing your two plans are in place to catch your fall.

You are now ready to start your business, and in the early days, you can afford not to draw a salary, ploughing everything back into the business for rapid growth and expansion.

Most importantly, you are now ready to fire your boss and walk away into the sunshine. One of these days has finally come. The day you wished you had the time to travel the world, go scuba diving and mountain climbing etc.

With sufficient income from your plan for security and comfort, you are able to finally free to exit the rat race and go do what you really love, go for your dreams, live life at your own terms with no boss breathing down your neck. You have finally escaped the trap. You are now a free man.

Womens Business Grants For Your Business Start Up

We have all been witness to the boom in women’s businesses being created in recent years, and have heard the stories of sharp and savvy ladies acquiring women business grants to get started in fabulous new careers, opening stock brokerage corporations, real estate investment or marketing companies, law firms, and other high end professional businesses.

Obviously, these are naturally bright and enterprising, business-minded young women, who have had the privilege of a college education, or business degree, and are likely to be at an advantage to navigating their way round the legal mumbo jumbo of the government grant application. But what about some of the simpler gals?

You don not necessarily have to be a social genius or corporate ladder climber to advantage the benefits of women business grants though. Nor do are you required to pursue any business in what is generally considered the “professional” field. Any American taxpaying citizen over the age of eighteen of common intelligence could acquire free government money to open a hot dog stand if they wanted to, particularly, American women.

Each year the government awards thousands of women, who are eligible to qualify, with generous cash funds through small business grants to establish various types of businesses. While many do pursue high finance and professional ventures, a great portion of the female applicants are striving for smaller “mom and pop” types of businesses, and receiving a lot of free government money to do it.

The government is equally as willing to hand over a few thousand dollars for you to start a family restaurant, neighborhood grocery store, day care center, bakery, dance studio, or corner tavern as they are to finance a law firm, medical center, or realty company. Business is business and the United States economy depends on every single business, large or small. Statistics have also proven to Uncle Sam that investing in the ladies is more often than not a sure bet, as we have nearly double the success rate in business than men.