Turning data into powerful insights about your business

The data you collect and store in your accounting and other systems, may contain powerful insights about your business and customers. These insights can help you make the right decisions about your business and its future. Business Intelligence (BI) reporting is the process of extracting these insights from your data and presenting them in a format that enables business leaders to act.

More and more businesses are becoming increasingly data-driven, where they systematically and methodically use data to power business decisions. BI reporting requires the use of software tools to collate the data, extract pertinent insights from it and present the insights in a report, graph, table, summary or dashboard.

A BI tool should be able to provide quick, easy-to-digest access to insights about the business and its current state of operation. For example, a company that wants to manage its supply chain better could use BI to determine where delays are occurring and identify what problems exist in the shipping process. From these insights, decision makers can then formulate strategies and decisions to remove the delays in the supply chain and improve efficiencies in the shipping process.

Tracking and monitoring KPIs

Most businesses use KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to measure and evaluate performance. The KPIs a company chooses to track should closely tied to its mission and goals. How well a business is performing is related to how well it is achieving its goals. A BI reporting system allows an organisation to quickly track its KPIs, identifying any problems and potential causes of those problems. KPI reporting needs to be accurate, meaningful and most importantly, actionable.

Each department and functional unit within the business will have its own KPIs. Marketing’s KPIs may include things like campaign performance, cost per lead stats, ROI on marketing spend and customer lifetime value (CLV). Sales will want to track things like the number of open opportunities, sales growth rate, and new customers. The executive team will need to monitor top level data from all departments, tracking metrics such as net profit margin, cash flow and revenue growth.

In constructing a BI report or dashboard you need to select the right KPI for the right audience. Executives have different KPIs than marketing.

BI tools and software

As with accounting software there are numerous providers of BI software and tools, designed for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Most vendors of the numerous accounting and ERP software systems will also provide an add-on BI tool or application. The potential use of BI and the reports it can produced is almost limitless, so trying to decide which tool to use and how to use it can be a bit daunting.
Despite the range of tools available, most BI applications incorporate 8 key features or functions. The key features and functionality are:

  • Dashboards: A dashboard is an information management tool that is used to visually track KPIs, metrics, and other key data points relevant to a business, department, or specific process. It summarises key findings and provides a quick snapshot of what’s happening.
  • Visualisations: Beyond dashboards, a BI tool should also offer a range of visualisation capabilities, allowing information to be transformed into a visual form. The tool should cater for interactivity where the viewer can observe, browse, customise and understand the information being presented.
  • Reporting: The ability to collect and present data so it can be analysed
  • Predictive Analytics: Using transactional and historical data to identify the likelihood of future outcomes.
  • Data Mining: The use of statistical algorithms and machine learning to discover patterns in large data sets and database systems
  • ETL (Extract, Transform and Load): A tool that extracts data from one or more data-sources, transforms it and then loads it into a data store or data warehouse.
  • OLAP (Online Analytical Processing): OLAP is at the heart of all BI tools and applications. OLAP performs multidimensional analysis of business data and provides the capability for complex calculations, trend analysis, and sophisticated data modelling.
  • Drill-Down: To be truly effective every BI tools needs to offer the ability to drill down throw the reports and visualisations, to present a more granular view of the data. For example, a report that shows overall sales revenue across the country should allow the user to drill down and view sales by individual states, region or cities.

Clean and accurate data

One thing that every BI reporting system needs – is access to clean and accurate data. Data analytics performed on bad data is not just useless it is potentially dangerous if decisions are being made on misleading or inaccurate insights. You need to have a good data governance policy in place and ensure your data sources are cleansed before feeding them into your BI systems.

Business intelligence can make a significant difference to your business. In fact, businesses who are not able to effectively harness their data and use it to drive business performance, will suffer at the hands of their competitors.

As more and more companies aim to become more data-driven, the BI tools they deploy will become increasingly sophisticated and powerful. AI (Artificial Intelligence) and machine learning technology is allowing larger quantities of data to be processed and analysed at much faster rates. This means the ability to deliver critical insights in real-time and presenting those insights immediately to the right people in the business.

FAQs

Why use a business intelligence software?

By using business intelligence software, a company can take data-driven results and have an edge over its competitors. It helps in implementing a data structure for encouraging data-driven decisions and know the best plan.

What are the distinctive features of the best BI software?

A reliable BI software helps to process data quickly. It enables new data to be added to an existing data set.

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