Business intelligence (BI) tools were invented to improve efficiency — the whole “work smarter, not harder” ethos. Why then do so many businesses overlook them or minimize their value in the name of saving money? Free analytics can only take you so far, and you will have a hard time growing a company if your ability to analyze your growing data hits a wall. Let’s take a look at just a few of the ways that BI tools can help to grow your business more efficiently.
Continuously Improving Data Collection
The efficient collection of data is not necessarily a premium functionality. You can use free tools to collect big data, and some of these platforms are actually quite good at it. The true premium occurs when you automate the acceleration of this efficiency, pairing it with a continuously improving organizational process. In short, premium BI tools learn your data collection process and become better at taking in what you need to produce your proprietary reports. Organization-specific data sets can be quickly formatted into reports on very specific and customized KPIs without a need to go through a layer of human scrutiny. This philosophy of continuous improvement for customized reporting is more important than you may think. Reducing or eliminating human error from business reporting can help your company more quickly and accurately identify sales trends, consumer behaviors or whatever KPI you are looking for. Imagine how accurate your reports will be when you can automate the noise data filtering process without the need for traditional data entry.
Let’s imagine that you have the best human data entry staff on the planet. These guys and gals are Six Sigma level — they don’t miss. However, all of these superstars have a different idea of how the data they collect should be organized. As a result, they generate subtle but important differences in their visualizations that have the ability to be misinterpreted as they move up the decision-making chain. Another huge advantage that BI tools have is the ability to standardize the visualization of important information. Videos, animations, charts, graphs and infographics are much more engaging than spreadsheets, to be sure. Should you expect your data entry staff to be world-class graphic designers as well? Or is it more efficient to invest in a program that has already standardized the way that it presents information to you, focusing on an intuitive translation of the information for nonspecialists?
Data mining is one thing — pattern mining is quite another. Properly identifying trends and moving toward actionable insights is a product of finding patterns, not individual pieces of data. The five-step process of pattern seeking in data — grabbing, storing, organizing, analyzing, presenting — is a difficult process to optimize using a single in-house specialist (or even a full department). Although humans can recognize outliers and pattern breaks that would stop the current generation of BI technology in its tracks, these situations are so few and far between that they are not seriously considered by any savvy business. BI tools have the ability to analyze and process huge amounts of data that simply cannot be properly rendered using a human staff or weaker data analysis tools. The ability of BI to integrate with databases, warehousing solutions and other third-party platforms is truly the only solution that can expand with a company regardless of the timeframe of that scale. BI tools also recognize patterns that other solutions might miss, both because of its more sophisticated algorithms and the sheer amount of data that it can take on at once.
As a company expands, performance goals will usually become a more important aspect of daily operations. BI tools help a business track and implement these goals, drilling down into day-to-day progress or expanding into quarterly or yearly reports. Information that would normally take days to organize is readily accessible through BI applications, improving the ability of a company to manage and quantify its goals. The real time data on the dashboards of premium BI tools lets users organize the most important information and track updates for performance goals in real time as well. This ability alone saves a company time and labor in finding problems. Basically, a business can diagnose if a goal has gone wayward much earlier than before and deal with the problem while it is still a small one.
There is no business in existence that can take advantage of any opportunity that it doesn’t know about. One of the major advantages of BI tools is that they improve a company’s awareness of the opportunities it has around it. The ability to expand the amount of data in a set and organize that data in patterns that other solutions miss improves a company’s ability to find opportunities and details to capitalize on them. Your R&D department should love BI systems because they provide quantification for hypotheses that may otherwise seem off the wall. In the same way, your sales team can use reports produced by BI tools to negotiate with prospects. Real time data, reports accessible from multiple devices and adaptable pattern recognition technology can help a salesperson make a quick decision on the fly. For a department that needs to be on its feet all the time, a premium business intelligence system may be just the thing to help that close rate go up. These are just a few of the many reasons that BI solutions continue to show up on CIO wish lists. With the right business intelligence solutions helping you gather and organize, you can quickly translate unorganized data into qualified sales trends, resource allocation, behavioral models, product viability and growth planning. In short, you optimize revenues while reducing costs, all with a labor force that you do not have to worry about giving extra vacation time or health benefits. If BI isn’t on your priority list to consider or expand, make sure that you understand exactly what you are missing out on before making the decision to pass!