BI Not Meeting Needs of Marketers and Merchandisers, Survey Finds

E-commerce workers can't get the answers they need quickly enough; integration still a headache.

A new survey of 228 marketing and IT professionals working in "e-Business organizations" (those involved with e-commerce) shows that many organizations still aren't working with all the information they need, and that the goal of "a single tool to integrate data" has never been stronger.

The survey, sponsored by Endeca Technologies, Inc., asked respondents in the U.S. and Europe about the current state of their e-commerce analytics requirements. Many of the results show that BI has a long way to go.

For example, more than 61 percent of respondents admit they are currently making decisions based on half or less of their available data. Only four percent said they're using at least 75 percent of the available information. The toughest data to get: the rapidly increasing volumes of semi-structured data (such as that from Facebook, Twitter, and blogs), information that helps them granularly segment their customers for targeting marketing programs. Thirty-nine percent said they don't currently incorporate unstructured data into their analysis but would like to do so and 20 percent said they weren't using such data but had no interest in doing so.

Nearly half of the survey participants say they are still using at least three or more tools to make their BI-based decisions, which, as Endeca points out, underscores "the need for data to be lifted from these separate silos and streamlined into a unified and easy-to-understand view." Only 20 percent said they could get what they needed from a single source, and 9 percent had to access five or more sources. Over a third (35 percent) reported spending hours combining data from multiple data sources.

Sadly, nearly one in five (18 percent) say they don't have access to the data they need.

Remember when the mantra was "a single version of the truth"? Today, it seems to have changed to "a single view of the truth." Over half (53 percent) say their top request of today's analytics tools is a single view of their data, and 21 percent said they can't get to the granular level they need with today's tools. In second place (at 36 percent) was having the ability to automate trend analysis; in third place: receiving alerts when programs don't perform to industry standards (at 35 percent).

Long IT queues are also frustrating for respondents. An unfortunate 41 percent of respondents said that it often "takes months to have their BI requests fulfilled or they often cannot get their requests fulfilled at all." [Emphasis ours] Only 16 percent said they could get their requests fulfilled in a matter of hours. Such slow turnaround is failing to meet basic user requirements -- 48 percent said their analytics requirements were changing constantly (at least monthly); one-fifth (20 percent) said their requirements changed daily or hourly.

The survey was conducted in August 2011; 56 percent came from B2C retail shops; 24 percent from B2B distributors, and the remaining 17 percent worked in manufacturing, financial services, education, and media. Forty percent of respondents work at the Director level or above; 60 percent were managers. Endeca works with retailers and large enterprises to help them turn "Big Data into better daily decisions."

About the Author

James E. Powell is the editorial director of the Business Intelligence Journal and BI This Week newsletter. You can contact him here.

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