Best of BI: Booz Allen's $50 million BI investments pays rich dividends

Predictive analytics and modeling are helping executives anticipate demand and capitalize on opportunities.

Several years ago, each division at Booz Allen Hamilton had its own reporting processes and systems. But executives knew the McLean, Va.-based consulting firm couldn't grow effectively if it had disparate groups doing their own reporting. They also knew they'd have to provide better information to Wall Street traders when Booz Allen went public, which it did in 2010.

To address those issues, the firm established a new unit called Enterprise Reporting and Analytics (ERA) in 2008, says ERA principal Chris Soong.

Since then, ERA has used business intelligence tools to centralize and strengthen Booz Allen's reporting capabilities. Collectively known as RADAR (for Reporting and Dimensional Analysis Repository), the BI tools feature drillable dashboards that the firm's officers use to manage their lines of business.

In the past 18 months, Booz Allen has started using BI technology for more advanced purposes, employing the tools not only for backward-looking reporting, but also for forward-looking analysis, Soong says.

He says the new focus on predictive analytics and modeling is helping executives shape the direction of the firm to better meet future customer demands. "Now we can see where to invest more [to produce] more revenue and where to invest less," Soong says.

For example, the ERA team analyzed data sets, including the firm's own requests for proposals, to produce metrics showing which disciplines within the cybersecurity practice will grow the most.

"This guarantees we can seize the opportunities and be prepared. We have to plan for staffing and resources to meet the demand we can anticipate from clients," Soong explains.

Neil Raden, an analyst at Constellation Research, says most organizations are still using BI tools for reporting but he has seen companies with more mature BI practices using analytics to drive decisions about strategic growth, as Booz Allen is doing.

That, he says, "is the next wave of successful BI: using information to make the right decisions."

Next: Cancer center digs deeper into clinical data with BI

Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer in Waltham, Mass. Contact her at marykpratt@verizon.net.

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