Today’s businesses, no matter how big or small, operate significantly differently from their predecessors of decades past. Mobility technology, the emergence of big data, and overall advances in cloud technology mean that no matter the industry, organizations require a much more comprehensive approach to management.
Business intelligence (BI) is not a new concept, but cloud and mobility technology have made it significantly more accessible for any type of organization, regardless of the industry. More importantly, when combined with the massive amounts of data points companies create – including transactional, operational, and historic data – BI can help companies uncover better solutions, make smarter decisions, and act more decisively.
Here are some of the ways business intelligence tools can streamline your company’s operations.
It removes team members’ barriers to data access
One big problem most data-reliant companies face is giving timely access and freedom to users within the organization to do their own research.
Normally, providing analytics requires having a data scientist or dedicated IT team member who can provide requested analyses. This is both costly and ineffective, and it means insights are significantly less timely and relevant to the users who demand them. At large companies, this is not usually a major issue, but smaller companies with limited resources can’t afford to expend resources and time on dedicated staff.
Instead, BI supports the ability to go “self-service” by providing users access to the data they need, along with the tools necessary to manipulate it. Team members can view their own reports and perform ad-hoc analyses to find data much faster that is also more relevant for satisfying their unique requirements. Indeed, self-service BI is becoming one of the most important aspects of business intelligence.
It simplifies comprehension and offers relevant data to the right people
In its raw format, data can be hard to comprehend, and more so if it arrives from disparate or unstructured sources, as is usually the case. Companies don’t always have neat, unified data streams, and understanding how they connect with each other or finding correlations within them can be problematic when it is only available as a massive spreadsheet or database.
Even translating it to basic charts and diagrams only partially help resolve the issue. BI tools integrate a variety of features that simplify data, including data processing, dynamic visualizations, customizable reports, and dashboards. These tools all work to narrow each user’s data only to that which is relevant, making it easier to understand.
Moreover, as companies seek to improve decision making (nearly 50% of companies surveyed by Dresner Advisory Services named it a critical BI objective) and reduce costs (nearly over 60% deemed it very important or critical), BI helps companies become more sustainable and efficient at deriving insights from data.
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It allows you to track progress and success more easily
For most companies, data isn’t just external, but also generated by hundreds of internal touchpoints. Sales, payroll, HR, marketing, and other departments all produce significant data related to their operations.
Even so, it can be hard for managers to gather all the data and use it in a timely fashion to effect real change. KPIs are an excellent way to determine how efficient operations are, but if you can’t track them in real-time or close to it, they will deliver minimal impact in terms of operational optimization.
One of the major benefits BI tools provide is the creation of reports and dashboards that feature not only real-time data, but dynamic visuals and information that people can interact with for more precise views and easier comprehension. This makes it simpler to track success metrics and results, for better performance over the long run. As you are able to visualize issues more effectively, as they occur, you can make faster decisions to resolve difficulties and improve operations on the fly.
It has a real impact on your ROI and drives productivity
At the end of the day, any implementation of technology should be weighed against the value it will deliver. Oftentimes, installing a new app or tool results in a lot of hype and very little in the way of actual results. Still, implementations of worthwhile tools have the opposite effect, swiftly improving operations and spurring greater ROI in a short time.
Fortunately, BI functions in the latter group, with most surveys showing that business intelligence has a real impact on ROI. According to Dresner Advisory Service’s survey, 90% of sales and marketing teams interviewed claimed that BI was an essential tool for successfully running their operations.
Moreover, an older study from IDC found that implementing BI and analytics tools shows an average 112% five-year ROI, with an average payback of 1.6 years for every $4.5 million spent. On the other side of that coin, IDC also discovered that poor data quality costs the US economy nearly $3.1 trillion a year. Deploying BI may therefore reduce the likelihood your organization falls into the latter group.
Moving forward with BI
Business intelligence has long gone from being a buzzword to becoming a real, valuable part of modern business operations. By focusing on improving the quality of your data and the analyses you can perform on it, you can also start uncovering ways to reduce waste, improve resource allocation, provide greater access, and start making smarter decisions.