Business analytics can enhance business performance by helping companies make faster, more informed data-driven decisions. However, for advanced analytics to have the greatest impact, they must be easy and convenient for employees to use within their daily workflow. Inline analytics, which incorporate analytic capabilities into core business applications, are a popular way to achieve this goal.

What Is Inline Analytics?

Inline analytics is a popular way to embed analytics into an organization's business applications so that employees can apply analytic tools naturally, as part of their daily workflow. With inline analytics, a company's employees don't need to toggle back and forth between their business applications and specialized analytic tools. Instead, they can analyze data within the business systems or portals that they use every day to do their jobs. This can help employees become more productive and make better use of analytics for strategic and operational decisions.

inline analytics vs standalone

Key Takeaways

  • Inline analytics is one of the most common and efficient ways to embed analytics into employees' everyday workflows.
  • Inline analytics enables business users to analyze data within their core business applications or portals, so they don't need to switch tools in order to analyze data.
  • The adoption of inline analytics can accelerate the adoption of analytics and increase productivity for many different industries and business functions.

Inline Analytics Explained

Delivering relevant data and insights to users within their usual business applications empowers them to think and act analytically while doing their daily work. Inline analytics is one of the easiest and most effective ways to achieve this integration and increased productivity.

With inline analytics, the advanced data analytics functionality looks and feels like the application in which it's embedded — an ERP or CRM system, for example — providing a familiar user interface and a streamlined user experience for employees. The analytics tool also accesses the same application data, so employees can use the tool to make more-informed decisions based directly on the operational information they are already using.

Inline Analytics and Embedded Analytics

The rise of inline analytics is part of a broader trend to embed analytics into business applications and workflows. This trend reflects changes in how organizations use data analysis. In the past, many larger companies relied on technology specialists and business analysts to create reports, visualizations and other analyses for managers and other employees. But as all companies — large and small — increasingly use data for competitive advantage, businesses are looking for ways to empower all employees to analyze data to make better-informed decisions. Embedded analytics supports those goals by bringing analytics tools into the applications that employees use every day. Employees can use the analytics tools to gain better business insights, then apply those insights to improve business performance by implementing actions within the same application.

Analytics tools can be embedded into applications with varying degrees of integration. Inline analytics generally refers to a fairly advanced level of integration that provides a unified look and feel, resulting in a smoother overall user experience. This helps employees learn to use the analytics tools more quickly. A more basic level of integration is the gateway approach, whereby employees access analytics through a gateway after logging into their core business applications.

Providing inline analytics within business applications and workflows offers organizations a number of advantages. By eliminating the need for separate analytics tools, it improves employee productivity and tends to increase analytics adoption. As a result, inline analytics can accelerate the return on analytics investment and, in the process, boost employee satisfaction, improve customer experiences and increase competitiveness.

Inline Analytics Use Cases

The inline analytics model has applications across all industries and functions, as more organizations seek to apply data-derived insight to their day-to-day operations and decision-making.

When to Use Inline Analytics

The inline analytics model makes the most sense in cases where employees require frequent use of analytics and therefore gain significant value from the ability to use analytics from within their everyday business applications.

Some of the earliest adopters of inline analytics included the financial services, technology, manufacturing and health care sectors, but inline analytics are now being used in many different industries. Within each sector, the inline approach can be useful for functions such as managing supply chains and logistics in real time, optimizing marketing and sales strategies, and performing financial planning and analysis. Common use cases include:

  • Customer support.

    Many call centers have adopted inline analytics within the software that their agents use to track and manage calls. The inline analytics can be used to help employees solve common customer issues or identify opportunities to cross or upsell based on customer behavior patterns. Inline analytics can also track the customer support group's key performance indicators (KPIs), such as case resolution rates and response times.

  • Human resources.

    HR groups can keep tabs on metrics such as employee productivity and retention and can analyze the efficiency of recruitment and hiring practices. Companies can also analyze the effectiveness of their spending on onboarding and training programs.

  • Supply chain management.

    Real-time inline analytics can help companies respond to current or anticipated supply chain disruptions, optimize transportation routes, analyze carrier performance and improve capacity planning.

  • Finance.

    CFOs and finance specialists use inline analytics to quickly diagnose financial issues, analyze the performance of different business groups, generate accurate forecasts and modify budgets in real-time.

Examples of Inline Analytics

Inline analytics can be implemented within applications in several different ways. They include:

  • Dashboards:

    Leading business applications include dashboards that graphically display a collection of information relevant to each user and may also include capabilities for further analyzing the information to identify underlying trends and causes. They often present KPIs and other important metrics, as well as charts illustrating business performance trends and history. Leading applications allow dashboards to be customized for specific roles and employee preferences.

  • Interactive reports:

    In addition to a standard set of prebuilt reports, business applications may include the ability to build customized analytical reports that provide insights into specific aspects of business performance.

  • Ad hoc queries:

    Employees can ask their own questions to explore the application's data and uncover insights that can improve business performance.

Adopting inline analytics can enable employees to work smarter and become more productive, thanks to the integration of analytics modules or dashboards into the business applications they already use. Because leading application suites and many analytics tools offer the ability to build inline analytics into business applications, this can be the most expedient way for organizations to incorporate advanced analytics into their workflows. Inline analytics can also help foster an analytics mindset among business users, fueling the use of data and data-driven decision-making across the enterprise.

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Inline Analytics FAQs

What companies or industries use inline analytics?

Organizations in the financial services, manufacturing and technology industries were among the earliest adopters of inline analytics. However, as more organizations pursue increased digitization and data-driven decision-making, there are applications for inline analytics across all industries and functions, including supply chain, logistics, human resources, finance, IT, marketing and sales. Inline analytics offer the most value in cases where business users need frequent access to advanced analytics in the course of their duties.

How do you implement inline analytics in your business?

The good news is that leading applications and many third-party analytics providers already offer inline analytics functionality. However, organizations also need to evaluate whether vendors meet their needs in terms of the user interface, security, scaling and pricing. It's also important to invest in adequate training and change management to ensure that business users understand the new functionality and are willing and able to incorporate it into their day-to-day tasks.