The Friday Interview: Michael Kearney, SAS Ireland

8 Dec 2006

This week’s interview is with Michael Kearney (pictured), managing director of SAS Ireland.

What is business intelligence?
Business intelligence is effectively giving the tools to decision makers to make better decisions, faster. Most organisations have vast amounts of data and the amount is doubling every 18 months. The systems they have are helping to run the business on an effective productivity level but they don’t give good insight into the business.

Why should companies be interested in it?
There’s always somebody out there who can do what you do faster and more efficiently, that’s the reality. Why companies should look at business intelligence is because it’s a complete shift. You’re competing on analytics. It’s telling you what customers are profitable, what products you should be bringing to the market, what risk is associated with that and what customers may move to a different supplier. That’s where organisations have to get to, not just eking out a fraction of a percent in efficiency.

So it’s a strategic rather than a tactical implementation?
It’s not a case of blindly going out and trying to win the next tender: it’s much more progressive. That’s where business intelligence will help you. It’s about competing on analytics. Once organisations adopt that mindset they are on a much more secure footing because they’re one step ahead of the competition in terms of innovation. At the end of the day people don’t want more data: they want information.

How does it change business planning?
You don’t plan for the past, you plan for the future. Looking at vast amounts of information about your past is only of use if you can transform that into a future view. Predictive analytics is modelling your business on the future, for example ascertaining what customers are going to defect and targeting them in your marketing campaigns.

Is business intelligence only suitable for large companies?
If it was the case that the problems were exclusive to larger organisations I would agree, but they’re not exclusive. In small organisations the exact same problems exist. People will be trying to use Excel to model what they should be doing next year but data quality is invariably a huge issue. There is not an organisation, big or small, that should not be competing on analytics. If the Irish economy is to carry on the way it is that’s what we have to do.

By Gordon Smith

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