Business Intelligence: ITS Evaluation Guide

Published August 07, 2022 in ITS Evaluation Guide

With increased data sharing and information flow, the amount of data available to authorities and operators is rapidly growing. It is important to ensure you can use this data – sorting out the critical information from the noise.

Business intelligence and reporting systems can consume data from various sources and transform it into useful information on which sound business decisions can be made.

As public transport has got more integrated, the information that can be shared between systems has become more complex. Having a specialist transport focused business intelligence and reporting system have become a critical requirement for bigger public transport operations as they move away from simply looking at milage and schedule adherence to analysing other trends like daily passenger movements, route speed, fare evasion trends and customer service perceptions.

Business intelligence solutions should process both formatted and, with more information taking this form, unformatted data. It should be able to integrate data from your planning system, ticketing system as well as control centre and vehicle systems at a minimum. When these sources of data are combined with robust data mining and visualisation tools, this allows the data to ‘speak to you’, have meaning, and assist you in making the right decisions.

The latest business intelligence systems are web-based applications with customisable portals for each person’s role and interests. The reporting available is extensive and is often developed specifically for public transport solutions. Most systems have a standard set of reports, with customised modules added when required to meet your specific requirements. This allows transport authorities and operators to analyse individual areas like traffic light priority or connection protection.

These reports can be highly visual and include graphs, charts and other visualisations that make understanding the data quick and easy. They are also dynamic, allowing users to drill down into the data to gain a core understanding of operations.

Benefits

The benefits of business intelligence and reporting systems include:

Better decision making. Business decisions need to be based on facts, not one-off observations or anecdotes. Better information that is visually well presented allows users to identify issues quickly and make data-driven and fact-based decisions.

Faster information = faster adaption to change. If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that a situation can change rapidly. For public transport operators, this is particularly true. The faster we have the information, the quicker we can adapt and change – and manage costs. Business intelligence tools can consume data overnight and have outputs ready to be reviewed the next day. Some tools even show intelligence in real-time.

Quality is better than quantity. Quality information leads to quality decisions. Excess data tends to overwhelm people and leads to poor decisions. Well-designed business intelligence systems allow relevant information to be identified, sourced and presented without the clutter of unrelated data.

Evaluation Guide

When evaluating business intelligence and reporting systems, look at the following:

1. Are there suitable pre-developed reports available?
Most business intelligence systems developed for public transport will have a standard package of reports available. These reports should cover mileage, on-time performance, and completed trips. Any suitable provider should also have a suite of other pre-developed reports that can be added according to your needs.

2. Can you customise reports?
Does your business intelligence system allow you to build or customise reports to suit your requirements? Most new business intelligence systems will have the functionality to develop your own custom reports specific to your needs and circumstances.

3. Is data automatically prepared for you?
Data preparation is essential. A proper business intelligence tool will ensure that your data is cleaned, processed, and populated into reports regularly. This means you have accurate and timely information when you need it.

4. Do you need to integrate multiple data sources?
Receiving data from multiple sources such as the ticketing system, traffic monitoring system or even weather information lets you make connections you may never have imagined. What is the correlation between heavy traffic and on-time running? Do I need more or fewer buses on a wet day? Do I have the correct number of services for passenger loading? Operators can now gain a complete overview of their operations. For example, AVLC and ticketing data is important, so ask your supplier if they can be integrated.

5. Can you explore the data in an interactive, visual way with graphs, visual tools, and maps?
Displaying information in maps, charts, tables, and graphs makes it easier to analyse and identify trends. A good business intelligence tool supports a range of visual representations that allow you to drill down into the data to view details that contribute to high-level results.

6. Do you need to report on service quality or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)?
Contract management using key performance indicators (KPIs) and service quality have become increasingly popular with transport authorities to improve passenger experiences. Payments and penalties are based on KPIs, or service quality metrics such as on-time performance, missed trips, arrival time at stops, and passengers carried. Reports should reflect these targets, so operators can see how they perform and where to improve. The business intelligence tool needs to support these metrics and allow the customisation of targets to be monitored across the network or even on a route-by-route basis. If you are using KPI based contracts or service quality-based contracts, then ask if these parameters can be entered and customised based on your specific targets. See more in Multi-Operator Management and Franchising Support.

7. Do you need a Contract Management System?
Business intelligence tools are used by transport authorities and operators to monitor contract performance. This includes reporting on mileage, late and missed trips, and automatically applying penalties according to operator performance. They can consist of service quality or KPI metrics. These systems should allow operators to explain exceptions, missed trips, and other anomalies on why they should not be penalised to justify payment claims. These can then be approved or rejected by the transport authority. The systems include full traceability and accountability so that every penalty or decision to waive one is justified. Make sure that your business intelligence system has a contract management system component to allow for the easy administration of contract KPIs. See more in Multi-Operator Management and Franchising Support.

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Mode of Transport

Public Transport Authorities, Bus, Ferry

Solutions

Intelligent Transport Systems

Meet the author

Andrew Shaw

ITS Project Manager, Trapeze Group

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