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5 signs your company needs better business intelligence

Supplier: Phocas Software By: Paul Robertson
23 July, 2015

Business owners often end up spending their time solving day-to-day operational problems that could have been anticipated, planned for and dealt with.

As a result, these owners may lack the time to stay ahead of the curve and focus on more strategic issues such as planning the next phase of growth for the company.

Why does this happen?

Perhaps because they are too busy 'getting things done' and forget the importance of the bigger picture. Just as frequently, they don't often have the means to analyse their performance across a range of core elements.

One way to overcome this is through Business Intelligence (BI). With a good business intelligence tool in place, data analysis becomes more efficient, insights are more accurate and businesses can make informed decisions.

Do any of the following indicators apply to you?

Your idea of business intelligence is a spreadsheet

Using spreadsheets for analysis doesn't mean you have business intelligence. Spreadsheet-based BI is a highly manual process that is prone to errors, and often delivers outdated and inaccurate data. At the same time Excel, the most commonly used spreadsheet application, comes with several significant complexities.

For example, data may require different macros – either logic or custom, and developing, building and updating these macros requires specific skills and can be very time consuming.

Often there are different versions of one spreadsheet which are all being updated by different people at different times. Because of this, you have issues with version control and the distinct possibility of multiple 'versions of the truth,' making analysis far more difficult and time consuming.

To avoid this, analysts may choose to use one version over the other, which may result in less reliable reports and insights.

Overall, spreadsheet-based BI is highly inefficient and mostly ineffective. 'True' business intelligence delivers accurate insights based on consolidated, real-time data to minimise errors. And a great BI tool is built on a simple interface to maximise efficiency.

Your business intelligence process is largely manual

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your business intelligence process reliant on manual activity such as acquiring, gathering and compiling data from disparate systems?
  • Are you required to clean the data for duplicates or ensure its accuracy?
  • Do you have to manipulate the data in any way?

If you answered yes to the above three questions, your business intelligence process is primarily manual, making it very inefficient and time-consuming. Business intelligence technology no longer requires manual data entry and manipulation from disparate systems.

Current business intelligence tools allow you to automate several processes – report generation, data consolidation, de-duping – to expedite the data analysis and generate insight.

It takes a few days to draw insight from your data

Often, corporate data is stored in different locations and may take days for analysts to do a thorough analysis. On many occasions, reports based on this data are outdated by the time it gets to the hands of the decision makers. Essentially, the team is spending their time delivering outdated, inaccurate reports providing questionable value.

The goal of BI is to help you make better decisions in real time. If it is taking decision makers too long to receive, analyse and act on the data, you are using reporting, not Business Intelligence.

The ideal BI tool is equipped with real-time reporting functionality so that business owners can take immediate action based on the real-time and accurate insights.

You can't perform in-depth analysis of your data

It is not uncommon for analysts to find that all or part of data sets are missing or historical data is not fully available.

Without access to historical data, a business loses the opportunity to understand their true performance over time and the ability to predict future trends. Loss of data most commonly results in inaccurate or less reliable insights. In aggregate, this results in poorer decision making over time.

Business intelligence can help companies avoid this. The ideal tool allows you to import and save historical data, and analyse for a range of different metrics, to give you well rounded insights.

You don't know how well your business is performing

The sole premise of analytics and business intelligence is the idea that you always need to know how your business is performing against your objectives, your competitors and the market conditions.

If you don't know how close or far your business is from your goals, how will you know what to improve? KPI measurement is a key component of business intelligence.

Recording the performance of the firm's sales pipeline is the key starting point. From initial engagement to closing the deal, which includes cost to generate a lead, time needed to capture the lead, time taken to turn the lead to a customer, the cost incurred to close the deal and the revenue generated.

Budget comparison should also be considered in this process. Aided by an effective business intelligence tool.

Business intelligence relies heavily on giving business owners a real-time snapshot of their business performance. Only when decision makers have this information can they generate real insight and build better plans for the future growth of the company.

If you have experienced any of the above five factors, your business intelligence methods can be improved through an effective business intelligence tool.