Do you remember those "3D magic eye" pictures from the 90's? They looked like a jumbled mess of colours but if you stared long enough, you could see a 3D image hidden within the chaotic pattern.
Fast forward a few decades and Business Intelligence (BI) is doing something similar to those "magic eye" pictures. It's revealing important information that isn't always apparent at first glance.
So, what is Business Intelligence? BI is the use of software and services to analyse the masses of data that businesses are acquiring and transform that data into actionable insights. BI gives you the "hidden image" amongst the mess of data coming in. It does the heavy lifting of data analysis for you, and helps easily understand the trends and changes in your business.
Reports, dashboards and data visualisations are some of the useful tools that BI produces. These tools allow you as a business owner or manager to make informed, data-driven decisions and react quickly to trends and changes - without waiting days or weeks for manual reporting and analysis to be done.
Times have changed
As your business grows, the amount of data accumulated grows with it. At a certain point, it becomes hard to see the wood from the trees. Spotting issues and trends between multiple reports and sifting through lengthy spreadsheets isn't easy - and it isn't quick. Some of the problems with traditional, manual reporting techniques include:
- Traditional reporting can be very time-intensive
- It can require skilled resources to properly produce meaningful reports
- You can end up with data that's outdated by the time it arrives on your desk
The good news is that times have changes. Many cloud-based ERP systems and online business management software packages now include business intelligence functions as standard. It's no longer a case of waiting for your finance team to get back to you on important reports. It's now a case of setting up powerful live dashboards that include report snapshots, KPI metres, trend graphs and more. The set up happens once and then you see live updates every single time you log in.
"It's no longer a case of waiting for your finance team to get back to you on important reports. It's now a case of setting up powerful live dashboards that include report snapshots, KPI metres, trend graphs and more."
Turn goals into results
Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, can become a crucial gauge of the health of your business. Are you on-track with monthly sales revenue? How about your customer acquisition, days outstanding on debtor payments, or even your gross profit? KPIs are a part of the business intelligence toolbox that can live tracking against business targets.
Many businesses create objectives then fail to measure them or act on the results. With business intelligence KPIs, you know exactly how you're tracking every time you look at your BI dashboard. Knowing when to increase or change efforts between under and over-performing parts of the business can be invaluable. KPIs let you make agile, data-driven decisions and stay focused on the results you need.
Use data to reduce costs
Having the business intelligence at your fingertips can slo help you reduce purchasing costs. How? If you had a good idea of how much stock you needed in advance, you could get your purchasing happening much more strategically. Purchasing larger stock quantities to secure bulk discounts can be done confidently with the right data behind you.
BI reporting can help more accurately predict stock demand by bringing together data on inventory, sales, seasonal fluctuations, and more. You can also start predicting over-stock situations to ensure you don't end up with cash that's tied up in stock that's moving slowly or not selling at all. For inventory-carrying businesses, BI becomes a vital part of inventory optimisation.
"BI reporting can help more accurately predict stock demand by bringing together data on inventory, sales, seasonal fluctuations, and more. You can also start predicting over-stock situations to ensure you don't end up with cash that's tied up in stock that's moving slowly or not selling at all."
See what's driving business success
When you have live visibility of your sales, operations, productivity and profitability, you can see what’s driving business success and be aware of any roadblocks. Business intelligence simplifies complex data into user-friendly dashboards so you can see at a glance what’s working and what needs improvement.
By giving you complete control over the important processes in your business, business intelligence lets you make decisions to invest in areas that need it or lower costs in others to respond to customer feedback and compete more effectively.
Strengthen Customer Relationships
Delivering a great customer service can sometimes be challenging, no matter what business you’re in. By leveraging business intelligence, you can guide decisions and choices that benefit the customer experience. For example, you can track customer support cases right on your dashboard. Being presented with clear data on how well your company is servicing customers on an ongoing basis is vital for keeping customer retention in check. You can easily evaluate customer satisfaction and even drill down into fulfilment and delivery times - zeroing in on the areas of the business or processes that may be affecting the customer experience.
Put simply, business intelligence enables you to dig deeper into the numbers and know where you can improve the customer experience. There's a world of opportunities waiting to be uncovered when you start looking at customer data. BI can help you quickly identify those opportunities and focus on the right strategies to strengthen customer relationships and boost customer retention.
Knowledge Is Power
These are just a few of the benefits that business intelligence is delivering right now. Switching your view form the data chaos to easily identifiable trends and insights can help you turn your goals into results, reduce costs, know what's driving your business and strengthen customer relationships. Knowledge truly is power. With BI delivering clear insights, you can start making more profitable, data-driven decisions that make a lasting difference to your business.
BI gives you the information you need to make meaningful business changes. How can you make sure you have the right business processes (that also focus on profitability) to support those changes? Find out - download your free guide Process Improvement: the Profitability Dark Horse.