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Information Systems and Current Business Intelligence Tools

Information Systems and Current Business Intelligence Tools

Nowadays, in the era of information, there are various methods of processing and analyzing information. One of them is information system (IS) that collects, manipulates, stores and disseminates data and information. There are various types of systems, depending on their specifics of operations, methods of analysis and functions. In the information systems, multiple business intelligence (BI) tools are used to retrieve, integrate and analyze critical data to enhance performance and reduce operating costs. This paper examines two types of main information systems as well as provide explanations on two current business intelligence tools.

Executive information system (EIS) refers to one of the information systems that are based on arranging information for business executives. According to Olson and Kesharwani (2014), EIS is not about manufacturing goods, but rather designed for the general activities of the company. By means of EIS, top managers can access different corporate information such as sales figures, primary databases, stock market trends, and financial statements (Baltzan & Phillips, 2015). EIS provides flexible data reporting and tools for analyzing the information. It usually includes different software, hardware, programs as well as people. The capabilities of EIS are as follows: consolidation, drill-down, and slice-and-dice. Consolidation means collecting information and aggregating it from simple to complex groups of information. Drill-down helps users to see the needed information details, for instance, hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, and annually data. Due to slice-and-dice capability, information can be viewed from various perspectives. EIS also has common features, one of which is a digital dashboard. It integrates information from many components and fit the information to individual preferences with the help of indicators (Olson & Kesharwani, 2010). EIS simplifies the process, helps managers to address opportunities and problems, which, in turn, helps them making appropriate decisions helpful for an organization or business. EIR assists in filtering, summarizing and obtaining detailed data. It displays graphs and reports from the business processes of a company. EIS is very easy to use, and this is its chief distinguishing feature among other systems. Due to its system and interface design, EIS is very user-friendly (Olson & Kesharwani, 2010). One of the successful examples of EIS implementation is Gulf Oil and Gas Company, one of the major oil businesses in UAE (Albadri, 2013). In 2005, this company implemented the EIS system. This involved the replacement of existing systems (commercial, supply, maintenance) as well as the upgrade of the financial and HR systems. The headquarters of the company wanted to replace the previous system that was not up-to-date any more. The project turned out to be successful, although it took more time than planned. The aim of such a change was to newly stated maintenance policy of the company, eliminate shortcomings in functionality and control the costs of upgrades that were too high in the old system (Albadri, 2013).

One of the effective types of information systems is Customer Relationship Management (CRM). CRM allows companies to manage business information and data as well as business relationships associated with customers. According to Baltzan and Phillips (2015), CRM refers to strtegies, technologies, and practices that businesses use to manage and analyze customer-related interactions and data. The main aim of such a system is to improve business relationships with clients, to retain customers and to drive sales growth. CRM includes specific software of different types that helps to compile information on customers by means of various channels. Such points of interaction between a customer and a business could be the official website, live chat, customer support, social media, telephone, or email. There is CRM software that can provide data on purchase history, customers’ personal information, buying preferences, and all related concerns. There are a few basic CRM tools, such as marketing, contact center, sales force automation and location-based services. Marketing automation tools help to automate the tasks, which should repeat systematically, such as send them proposals or materials via social media or email. Sales force automation tracks interaction between a customer and a salesperson, and defines to which clients the information has been already sent and prevents sales managers from contacting the same person twice in a row. Contact center automation tools are aimed at simplification and partial automation of the contact centers work, such as recorded voice answers. Geolocation is used to integrate with GPS and helps to organize data according to customers’ locations. CRM information system has a wide range of benefits, the main of which are: trusted reports and quick identification of performance. Moreover, automation of the processes saves time and allows salespeople not to be repetitive. In general, CRM provides better customer services, which draws more customers. It also simplifies marketing and sales jobs and makes the deal close faster. Baltzan and Phillips (2015) describe Saab Cars US as an example of CRM implementation. Being an importer and distributor of cars, Saab competes in the premium automotive market. It tried to beat the competition and spend money for its customer relationship management system. In 2003, Saab introduced the Siebel CRM solution, which provided its call center’s employees with full information about each client. Moreover, it allows Saab Cars to measure the sales and to get more effective selling techniques.

Business Intelligence (BI) tools combine analytical tools, methodologies, and new information given from data with business knowledge, and are aimed at the decision making process (Olszak & Ziemba, 2007). BI tools include software for data mining, warehousing, visualization, online analytical processing of data (OLAP), Extraction, Transformation and Loading (ETL), database query and reporting. On-line analytical processing (OLAP) is one of the business intelligence analytic tools that let users access, analyze, and model business issues. OLAP helps the business users to slice and dice the data by means of tools that navigate time or hierarchies, for example, OLAP gives multidimensional insight into the data. It is usually used for analysis, modeling, reporting and planning of business optimization. They also allow business users to share information stored in data warehouses (Ranjan, 2009). OLAP helps to search for a specific cluster of information in the data warehouse, database, or data mart. Different information linked by means of the so-called OLAP cube. It helps to look at the infformation in a multidimensional way by combining different dimensions into one model that can be changed by the user. OLAP uses such operations as slice-and-dice, drill down/up and pivot since all of them refer to different ways of handing data. Slicing is the ability to combine data; drilling refers to navigation between various levels of data; pivoting or rotation helps to switch from one hierarchy of information to another (Ranjan, 2009). One of the benefits of OLAP is speed. Indeed, information is quickly analyzed; it usually takes nearly five seconds to process even the most complicated queries. Moreover, OLAP is very flexible and allows analysts to operate any dimensions and any data that is necessary. OLAP tools can create prototypes of business models by means of its analytical capabilities. Amazon is one of the companies that use OLAP to analyze purchases. It defines the products which customers might be interested in. To increase sales rates in the specific regions, Wal-Mart analysts also use OLAP on previous purchases and sales tendencies. As for the UAE-based companies, OLAP is necessary for oil companies such as Gulf Oil and Gas Company to conduct yearly, monthly and quarterly sales reports and make business forecasts.

Other BI tools are used to store and analyze data, such as data mining and data warehouses. Data warehouse (DW) is another BI tool that provides some space for thematic storing the data of a specific field (Ranjan, 2009). DW is a subject-oriented database that is designed not for transaction processing but more for analysis. The stored data at the warehouse is usually historical that was taken from transaction data. People can get access to data stored at DW to track and improve business performance, monitor and make changes to the marketing or sales campaigns of the company, make forecasts for future needs, manage logistics, review and improve customer relationships. According to Thierauf (2001), DW contains live data that can be found in various forms such as spreadsheets, photos, tables, documents, and stored information can be unstructured. It gets information from historical data, operational databases, external data, or information from the already existing DW environments. Among the benefits of DW are as follows: quick access to data at any time, improved decision making, consistency, and quality of data. DW also helps to make segmentation of markets, management of inventory as well as sales and financial management. DW is widely used by companies that have to store and retrieve a big amount of data (Thierauf, 2001). For example, Apple has data warehouses where it stores information to analyze the tendencies of its clients in various product groups. Each interaction of Apple customers is transferred and stored in DW, so the company is always able to get any needed information about the preferences of customers.

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To conclude, business tools and information systems are used by small and big businesses to navigate through information, and make it more systematic for further effective business decisions. CRM is used by most of the companies all over the world that are customer-oriented, while EIS is designed for company executives mostly and helps them access and analyze information. Such BI tools as OLAP and Data Warehouses are widely used by various businesses including manufacturing and entertainment companies in UAE.

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