Like so many other technologies, business intelligence is steadily becoming democratised.  A few years ago, BI and analytics were the province of IT specialists and business analysts – a relatively niche, expert community.

Today, it’s recognised that analytical insight is far more powerful when placed directly into the hands of everyday folk making everyday business decisions.  As a result, the tools themselves have become more intuitive and engaging, with self-service insight almost as easy to obtain as vending machine coffee.

But culturally, many organisations still see BI as a dedicated role, not a way of working.  But “embedded analytics” isn’t just the literal incorporation of analytical capability into existing software or operational processes; it’s about making insight-driven decisions a key part of your business culture and day-to-day activities.

When people say “I don’t see how analytics are relevant to me”, I often ask them if they ever watch football or place a bet on a sporting outcome. Both commentators and bookmakers rely heavily on statistical trends and patterns around the match in-play and previous form to provide a compelling narrative or determine the odds.

Without discrediting the pundits, that information isn’t summoned readily off the top of their heads!  Or think about the last time you went to the supermarket and received a voucher off your next grocery shop.  That offer will have been identified as relevant based on your previous purchases.

So, analytical insight touches all our lives on a regular basis. Once we stop regarding business intelligence as a function in its own right, we can reframe it as a heads-up on any business scenario: whether preventing operational issues from turning into problems, or helping us to understand customers so intimately that we cannot just meet their expectations but surprise and delight them.  The trick is not to scrutinise every scrap of data for “hidden meaning” – rather, start with a list of pressing business questions you need to answer, and apply analytics to help you respond with confidence.

For some useful tips on applying analytics to your challenges, check out #SAP50Tips over the next few weeks or here to catch up with the backlog.