Business Intelligence is More Than Creating Insights for Clients

By Eric Anderson, VP of Business Intelligence

The use of the term “business intelligence” (BI) is becoming ever more popular. Certainly not just relegated to digital media, “business intelligence” as a concept and practice is becoming woven into and across online and offline marketing, allowing agencies and advertisers to much more easily achieve the levels of integration, holistic planning, and analysis that they have been seeking. Agencies (and holding companies like WPP and Omnicom, etc.) are increasingly building sophisticated reporting & analysis systems and dashboards that cull data from a multitude of sources to promote and enable better cross-media planning, greater insights into performance drivers, and faster reporting and analysis to clients. In short, for most agencies, BI processes and tools represent meaningful client-facing solutions that save them time and make them look smarter.

However, there’s another aspect of BI that frequently gets overlooked, one that is focused internally. Sometimes, we as agencies get so focused on delivering value and solutions to our clients that we neglect or de-prioritize how we can use organizational information to make better decisions on how our businesses or departments are operated. Consider:

  • How do you make decisions on how to allocate your (most often) limited resources?
  • What activities drive the most value to your clients?
  • How are you measuring the quality of services/deliverables you provide to your clients?
  • Where are the bottlenecks in your ability to execute?
  • What would happen if you spent half as much time?
Answering these questions has a very real impact on your clients. When focused internally, BI tools and practices can be used to drive operational efficiencies, improve processes, better define priorities and make better decisions on how you manage your clients and business.

Areas where internally-focused BI can help:

Reporting and analysis automation
Consolidate data from many sources and make it available on-demand in formats that are actionable. Use this as an opportunity to standardize reporting and analysis methods.

Standardize how things get accomplished based on your best practices. Insure that all the information needed to complete a task is embedded into the request. Insure that metrics are in place so that the process itself can be evaluated.

Agencies #1 cost is people. Time tracking provides insight into how that investment is being utilized. Time must be tracked at a sufficient level so that activity value contributions to clients can be assessed. Keep in mind that the goal is not to assess how many hours are being worked, but what activities make up those overall hours.

Billing automation
Clients don’t notice billing until there’s a problem. Billing often requires input from client service teams and the time tracking system. Streamlining this process will save hassles and free up time for more valuable activities. Make this information available to managers so they understand analyze client-profitability drivers in the context of resource utilization.

Ultimately, internally focused business intelligence tools and processes are about creating operational efficiency. BI can create vision into how your organization operates so that better decisions can be made, that ultimately drive greater value to your clients.


dgould said...

Your post brings up an important about lookng internally not only with respect to BI but for client service in general. Too often we are solely focuses on teh client's campaign and forget that the client experience extends beyond just campaign results. Things traditionally considered as "back-office support", such as accurate and timely billing reporting, are an integral part of the overall client experience.

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