When you hear the term “business intelligence” (BI) what’s the first thing to come to mind? If you answered data or technology (or both!) you’re on the right track.
Yet did you know that the first recorded use of the term – business intelligence – was in 1865 – before the invention of computer systems as we know them today?
The following excerpt demonstrates how banker, Sir Henry Furnese, leveraged “business intelligence” to achieve success:
“Throughout Holland, Flanders, France, and Germany, [Furnese] maintained a complete and perfect train of business intelligence. The news…was thus received first by him.”
While following industry news and trends will always play a critical role in gaining a competitive edge, company leaders across all sectors agree that these don’t tell an enterprise’s full story. Understanding real and oftentimes “hidden” data are key drivers for gaining insight into meaningful and actionable information. The success stories in Rob Petersen’ article, 37 Big Data Case Studies with Big Results demonstrate this point well.
We’ve made our case:
Today more than ever, business intelligence plays a key role in improving operations, making better-informed decisions, and achieving higher growth rates.
Bottom line: BI doesn’t just help you grow your business; it helps you understand your enterprise’s full story and in doing so builds a solid foundation for continued success.
The desired result is clear but how do you get there? How do you get to a point where BI gives you a cutting-edge advantage with actionable insights?
The first step is to ensure that you’re using (or choosing) the right BI tool for your needs. Following are the top five features to look out for when selecting the right BI solution for taking your business to the next level.
1. One solution that connects to all your systems
Whether you manufacture a single widget or offer a variety of logistics services, every aspect of your company’s activities is stored on multiple data sources. This includes enterprise-wide information such as customer behaviour and the performance of your company’s offerings.
A comprehensive BI solution will access all information for a seamless integration and visual representation of your activities. The result? Business-wide insights that are easy to understand and that help you prioritize business initiatives and make solid, profit-making decisions.
2. Templates that help you understand your data from day one
No matter what your strengths – whether you’re strategic, creative, or blessed with great leadership skills – bring up the terms “data warehousing” or “analytics” and our guess is that your eyes will begin to glaze over. This is because data comes with the stigma that it’s complicated and difficult to understand.
Yet BI is crucial for analyzing and impacting a company’s success. The right BI tool works for you in that it makes you smarter at running your business.
This is where the power of templates comes in. A robust BI solution will include out-of-the-box pre-set reporting features that help you hit the ground running with meaningful information. Dynamic and well-defined templates will help you deploy enterprise-ready dashboards quickly and easily.
3. Self-service puts the power into your own hands
As mentioned earlier, out-of-the-box templates provide quick and easy insights into your enterprise. Yet sometimes you need to dig a little deeper for your whole business story. This is where customization, or self-service features come in.
A powerful BI tool provides do-it-yourself features for gathering the information you want. And that’s not all. It then transforms that data into a stunning representation of your enterprise’s activities without the help of a technical expert.
Since the goal of a BI solution is to sharpen a business’s competitive edge (in turn, increasing profits), self-service BI provides users with a tool for taking both the known and the unknown and turning this raw data into easy-to-understand and actionable knowledge – often saving on time and resources while minimizing risks.
4. Access anywhere, any time with mobile
With tablets and smartphones now playing a major role in the workforce arena, on-the-go access with full functionality to your enterprise data is more important than ever. Let’s face it. In today’s world, limited access to information leads to inefficiencies and even lost opportunities.
Quick and easy access to your enterprise data translates directly into superior business performance by putting critical and timely data at the fingertips of the people on the front line. As an example, imagine the improvements to customer satisfaction metrics when a salesperson can quickly answer a customer question on site. Or how immediate access to information via a mobile dashboard can enhance the timeliness of new opportunities.
5. BI security and collaboration
When it comes to business intelligence there’s a lot of access to important data – and vulnerabilities as well. This makes security a primary consideration. Who should have access to what information and how do you control that? For example, do you want every member of your team to have access to margins, or sales data between territories?
An empowering BI solution comes complete with authorization and restriction parameters that also affect data sharing. Imagine being able to collaborate the same report with a variety of team members with specific need-to-know variables. What does that mean exactly? It means you can prepare one report and share that same report with an unlimited number of people. And check this out: each person on your share list will see (or have access to) only the information that they require for their specific position or purpose, without the need to prepare separate reports for each role segment.
We promised you five tips for choosing the right BI solution for your needs. But here’s the deal: how can we offer you value without exceeding your expectations? That’s not a real question. We already have the answer: By giving you one more insider tip!
Bonus Tip: Make sure your BI solution supports your growing needs
All business owners, managers, and directors share the same objective:
To enhance efficiencies, boost revenue, and increase profitability. Business growth is how we define success. And with growth comes change. It’s inevitable.
Yet often a business’s impending growth isn’t taken into consideration when choosing a BI tool. Following are a few examples that demonstrate the importance of choosing a BI solution that supports your growing needs.
As your company expands, it will also generate more information. While this could be interpreted as a given, a BI solution that supports new and even multiple data sources is crucial for leveraging that all-important 360-degree view of your business activities.
In another scenario, you may need to migrate all your data to either an upgraded or completely new business software. Perhaps. Before you reach for the Tylenol, we’re here to tell you that migration does not have to lead to a migraine. A robust BI tool will safeguard all your historical information by removing the need to migrate it. And while you’ll want easy access to all your historical data, you’ll also want to ensure a seamless integration with new information.
What should you be looking for – specifically?
Simply stated, make sure that your BI solution has the capacity to maintain momentum with your company’s ongoing success by being adaptable, flexible, accessible, and scalable.
The big question
By now we’re thinking that you realize the importance of putting a solid BI solution in place. It will improve operations, help you make informed business decisions, and foster higher growth rates – better and faster.
And yet the big question continues to haunt you:
“How do we maximize our efficiency with the right BI solution?”
We know this because we hear it all the time. And we have the answer:
If your current BI solution has templates to help you understand your enterprise data right away, connects to multiple data systems, offers you customization features with mobile access, and peace of mind security with collaboration options, all while supporting your future growth and migration initiatives, then yes, you already have the power of BI in your hands.
If not, then it may be time to re-evaluate your approach to doing business. Not having the right BI solution in place comes with a cost. It prevents you from working as efficiently and competitively as you should. You may even find that you’re losing out on opportunities by working in a reactive state rather than in a proactive and strategic one.
Oh and one last thing. The right BI solution for your needs takes the “scaries” out of the words data and technology and puts both to work FOR you. Doesn’t that make good business sense? (Pun intended.)