Two pieces of news provide a flicker of hope amid the doom and gloom.
Business intelligence (noun: biz-ness in-tel-li-gence): mainly refers to computer-based techniques used in identifying, extracting and analyzing business data, such as sales by products and/or departments, or by associated costs and incomes. (as defined by Wikipedia)
One could ask a hundred people about the meaning of business intelligence (BI) - and get a hundred different answers that range from sarcastic to serious. But the truth of the matter is, BI is the answer for many businesses looking to positively impact day-to-day operations, customer focus and the all important bottom line.
ICS Marketing Support Services
The history of ICS goes back to when Beurrman Marshall started as a marketing services firm based in Lansing. When it closed its doors, ICS emerged with a core group of professionals who recognized early on that there was more potential in the industry than previously given the chance to explore. That foresight led ICS into an innovative marketing services group and leader in business intelligence solutions that serves not only small to mid-size businesses, but major clients in the automotive, insurance and education arenas.
Barry Carr, IT manager and vice president of marketing, has been with the company for more than 20 years. With 30-plus years of experience that includes impressive academic achievements in psychology, economics and doctoral coursework in communications, Carr and his team have developed BI solutions, recognizing that many companies do not need, nor can they afford, the high cost of buying software solutions packages to be implemented and managed internally. The company has integrated itself into a niche market that serves to control, contain and service priority and sensitive marketing information needed to effectively run and grow a business.
"We provide customized solutions that eliminate the need to fully learn an entirely new software package that may cost upwards of $250K," Carr explains. "If a company has an entry point that is trained in the back-up and continued support of its needs, they will continue to grow in a cost-effective way that does not require the addition of newly hired IT professionals, or to retrain the ones that they already have. It is time consuming, frustrating, and oftentimes unnecessary."
Where BI fits into today's business structure is just that - eliminating the unnecessary hassle and cost while providing a service and product that is consistent in delivery and support, whether it be developing market analysis, demographic information, lead generation, e-marketing solutions, event registration, or detailed customer satisfaction information.
"Whatever the client needs, we are there to provide external and internal support," Carr emphasizes. "You simply cannot put data and IT needs into a box. Every company is different and needs different information and approaches. With BI, a team of professional IT people, who are also sensitive to the needs of marketing professionals, is there to service that need. Marketing is very specialized, even having its own language. Everyday the needs of our clients change based on what their competitors are doing. An agile and adaptable company needs BI solutions to work that in at a moment's notice and to provide an effective means of communication, data collection and information that is up to date."
Within its 20 years of growth, ICS has financially proven its viability and the need for its services, with a steady gain of growth from under $1 million to nearly $7 million in revenue and a spot in the Fortune 5000 for privately held organizations.
Strategic Products and Services
Strategic Products and Services (SPS) is a global systems integrator that designs and implements technology solutions to help customers become more efficient and competitive in their markets. With more than 20 years of profitable growth and experience and a presence in 24 states, SPS has built its team several levels deep to support business communications and networking needs.
Bil Moore, technology consultant, explains business intelligence: "In its most basic sense, business intelligence entails two steps: 1) gathering information; and 2) presenting that information in a format that helps businesses make actionable decisions."
In his words, SPS consults with clients to determine what the client is trying to accomplish. The company then determines what data are needed to make those changes. Sometimes the data are already being collected in a system or process but the customer isn't using those data. In other cases, the data are not available within the organization.
Often, clients may think they have a rough idea of the raw numbers, but SPS typically has to work with them to implement a process or system to gather that information.
"Next we work with clients to determine what those data mean to them and what actions must be taken depending on that data. This is different for every company and every department within a company," Moore says. "For instance, a CFO may be interested in revenue numbers but would not care about how many widgets were being produced each hour. The COO would care more about the number of widgets being produced each hour. These things are intertwined, but each person should only have to be presented with the information that they can take action on."
Recognizing that BI is especially important for small business owners, Moore points out that if a company has a staff of 10 and a few people aren't pulling their weight, that may be the difference between expansion and shutting their doors next quarter. "If the trends are visible before they become a problem, you can fix them early enough to not be a business interruption that perhaps in a larger organization does not have the same impact on the entire company."
Aware that financial constraints in today's tough economy have a large impact on decision making as to how to spend money, Moore points out that a small to midsize business can typically expect a six- to 18-month payoff with the implementation of BI solutions if utilized with diligence. Effectively, this means that an organization must first determine what they are trying to accomplish by analyzing each step of the process in place by working backward and determining the benefit.
"Too many companies try to do everything at once," Moore cautions, "and never see the real benefit because they created too much noise. Instead of simplifying their processes, they've just added more moving parts [figuratively] which means there are more places the process can break."
Continuously looking at new technologies and processes to determine which ones will be most beneficial in helping clients increase their bottom lines, SPS has purchased three companies in the past two years and is committed to its continued growth. For the past four years, SPS has been ranked in the top 300 of the VAR 500 (a listing of the top technology providers in the United States). SPS has also been ranked in the Inc. Magazine 500 fastest growing companies and has been given several awards from its strategic partners.
Barry Carr, IT Manager and Vice President of Marketing
4225 Legacy Pkwy.
SPS / Strategic Products and Services
Bil Moore, Technology Consultant
4166 Legacy Pkwy.