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Choose your weapon: top analytics strategies revealed

Asked about their best analytics strategies, analysts got specific on dealing with data and picking a vendor.

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: Business Information: Enterprise business analytics boosts BI's brainpower:

For effective enterprise analytics that takes advantage of the untapped transactional data in business applications,...

industry analysts recommend the following analytics strategies.

Combine external and internal data. The proliferation of SaaS business services from vendors such as Salesforce and Concur makes CRM, travel and expense, HR and supply chain data more accessible, said Rick Sherman, managing partner at Athena IT Solutions. Moving such data in with enterprise applications allows "deeper analytics," he said. "It's much more valuable now because [companies] can look at how they interact with customers and prospects, their sales force utilization -- they can do a lot of different things with it. Each of these new sources not only opens new data, but also brings new value to data that they've had."

Look for fast ROI. Automating headcount reporting and profitability analysis are two proven applications, said Helen Poitevin, a research director at Gartner, who specializes in HR analytics. Sherman points to investments in finance, HR and the sales force as among the quickest-paying analytics strategies. Supply chain analytics has been around a little longer but can be harder to set up, he said.

Know the differences between on-premises and cloud offerings. On-premises tools from vendors, including Qlik and Tableau, might already be in your company. They let you combine all your data sets any way you want, followed by R or Python for analysis, Poitevin said, adding, "It's really useful when you've got individual analytics projects, but it doesn't scale." However, self-service, providing accessibility to a range of partners and user-friendliness, she noted, are more often found in analytics embedded in applications or in tools that specialize in specific business functions.

Decide between ERP vendors and third-party analytics. Years ago, the three biggest enterprise software vendors -- IBM, Oracle and SAP -- bought major independent business intelligence providers (Cognos, Hyperion and BusinessObjects), partly erasing the third-party distinction. "They were good before they were bought; they're still good now," Sherman said. "The [question] you have when you go with the ones that are embedded with vendors is, 'Do you need data outside the scope of their application?' "The same can be said of Salesforce. But the best analytics strategies usually require blending data from other sources. "Going with third-party tools like Tableau, Qlik, even Microsoft Power BI, Spotfire, et cetera, makes a lot of sense," Sherman advised

Next Steps

Combine finance and HR analytics

Start using analytics in HR

Choose supply chain analytics software

This was last published in August 2016

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