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If you’re inundated with data and considering whether you need business intelligence, this article could help. Many businesses soldier on with inadequate tools because they’re not sure how or why business intelligence solutions deliver value.
We’ll look at the ways BI can help your business – and when it’s time for you to implement a BI solution.
First let’s look at what business intelligence is all about. You’ll find lots of definitions about what BI really is, but there’s no real mystery about it. Business intelligence simply describes the transformation of your raw (unstructured) data into something meaningful. It’s achieved using BI software.
It’s probably more helpful to explain the benefits of business intelligence. Most organizations these days realize that they’re sitting on a on a ‘gold mine’ of data – such as customer transactions, how people are behaving online, financial, and HR data.
There’s almost unlimited information that can be used to give leaders a better picture of what’s happening with the business, and you can use the data at your disposal to help you make better (fact-based) business decisions.
Imagine you could have a magical crystal ball that could help you predict financial or sales performances, that could give you an insight into the industry as a whole – and show you what your competitors are up to.
Well, business intelligence is not quite a crystal ball, but you can use BI tools to forecast what could happen in future – supporting your strategic business plan by aligning it to what’s happening in the real world.
The BI Survey has highlighted some of the main outcomes from using a business intelligence solution:
- Increased competitive advantage
- Reduced cost
- Increased revenues
- Improved employee AND customer satisfaction
The great news is that business intelligence is no longer just the preserve of enterprises with deep pockets. Thanks to huge advancements in BI technologies, flexible deployment and licensing options now mean that it’s in reach for all types of organizations.
Let’s look at the 5 signs that will tell you that a business intelligence solution is needed in your business.
You know your business needs a little BI ‘magic’ when…
1. You have lots of data – but no real information
Sound familiar? It’s easy enough to collect data – pretty much every key stroke leaves a digital footprint that’s added to your stockpile of data. But there’s no point if you’re not gaining any value from it. The key lies in the difference between data and information.
Often the words data and information are used interchangeably, but when you’re talking about business analytics, information and data are different. Information is data that has been converted into a meaningful and useful context ready for onlookers to harvest insights.
If you’re lacking information, you may need help aggregating and analyzing data into actionable insights. This is where the ‘intelligence’ of a BI tool enters the picture.
The power of business intelligence is that it increases your ability to identify trends and issues, uncover new insights, and fine-tune operations to meet business goals. Data is the gateway but business intelligence is the key to unlocking the value in all that information.
2. IT stands between you and your BI report
If your IT department controls all company data, getting reports can become a task. Creating reports without a BI software, especially complex reports or dashboards, requires someone with a technical background and therefore forces non-technical users to be reliant on IT.
When you’re constantly having to request that your IT department tweak and edit reports, it can lead to a bottleneck with long delays in getting the work done. This is a clear sign that it’s time to bring the data to the people who actually benefit from analyzing data to meet business goals – the business users.
Any solid BI tool with a clean, intuitive UI will allow business users to build their own reports as well as having the flexibility to add or tweak any BI dashboard.
3. You’re still relying on spreadsheets, but your data is BIG
One of the main problems companies experience is when they hit Excel’s scalability wall. Excel is often used as the lifeblood of a company’s reporting needs, but it can become sluggish when reports contain more data than Excel was designed to handle.
In a growing business, it doesn’t take long for data to grow far beyond Excel’s capacity, even if you dutifully clean and manage your data sets. When this happens, you’ll be left working with desktop spreadsheets that are siloed and don’t enable real-time data sharing and updating.
Getting a unified, accurate view of the bigger picture using a BI tool that can easily mash up data from multiple sources will make a coherent analysis of any amount of data — and fast.
Basic tasks like creating organizational plans, distributing and collecting information from different managers, consolidating multiple spreadsheets, and debugging broken macros and formulas, will suddenly become a breeze.
4. You dread joining data from different sources
In today’s business environment, big data refers to the amount of mashing-up data coming from many different sources into a single coherent location.
If you’re still running reports in different systems, trying to make sense of all the connections between the data sets, then you’re working too hard – and probably gaining just a fraction of the insight you could be gaining by using a BI tool to cross data sources.
Once you start using a BI tool to successfully work with multiple sources of data, you’ll also find out how easy it is to add additional data sources to the mix, and that there’s no end to the insightful mash ups you can gain.
5. A pie chart is supposed to deliver KPIs
Businesses are quickly learning the difference between reports and KPIs. Although reports are crucial as a starting point for any analysis, KPIs give you the ability to display core metrics that will guide your business decisions.
If your data can’t tell you which of your business areas are doing well or struggling, or deliver clear, actionable data, then you’re missing out on why business intelligence is important. If you want the real advantages business analytics can provide, your little pie chart just won’t cut it anymore.
Every modern, data-driven organization needs some type of BI tool to help shift from running business on intuition, to running it with intelligence. If you recognize any of the above pain points, it’s time to investigate how BI can help transform your data into information. When you do decide to invest in a BI tool, make sure your organization prepares its BI strategy, executes a full Proof-of-Concept (POC), and chooses a tool that fits your organization’s need today and in the future.