Occasionally, we get asked if all the hype about business intelligence is true–does BI really help you work smarter? Most businesses, particularly small- to medium-sized businesses, don’t realize how convoluted and labour-intensive their information systems are until they see a good BI solution in action. Sure, their system has a few pain points and there are a few data silos here and there, but it mostly gives them the information they want and they are content with where things stand.
But we’ve seen it happen time and time again: Once a company’s information systems are transitioned to a BI solution, their entire business is transformed. Here’s how:
- BI lets you get it all together. Having your data stuck in data silos just slows you down and introduces room for inadvertent errors. Your data is trapped behind walls that frustrate the people who could greatly benefit from having access to that information when making decisions and predicting future outcomes. Manually copying and pasting columns into a program like Excel, a process that takes hours of effort on a recurring basis and lends itself to inadvertent errors, is not at all healthy for your business. A good BI system, on the other hand, organizes data from across the depth and breadth of your company into a single solution and ensures that everyone is working off of the same set of information as they respond to business opportunities and make the sorts of timely decisions that can grow your business.
- BI gives you intelligent graphs and charts. There’s a big difference between the graphs and charts on a spreadsheet and the graphs and charts in a BI system. While spreadsheets are useful, they can only provide limited insight into your operations and profitability. They can’t find connections between seemingly disconnected things, monitor key performance indicators, or give non-technical users the ability to create their own queries with varying levels of granularity.
- BI is easy to use. A decade or so ago, you needed technical-minded people with sophisticated statistical and programmatic skills if you had any hope of getting meaninful analytics out of your data. Today, BI solutions are easy to use right out of the gate, even for non-technical users, with drag-and-drop reporting and dashboard creation tools and easily customizable data querying and visualization that supports decision making across the organization.
- BI is self-serve and interactive. Everyone from marketing and sales up to the C-suite can take advantage of self-service dashboards and reports. Whether customizing a predefined dashboard or creating a new report from scratch to answer questions not covered by other reports, employees can access data when they need it, not when IT gets around to filling their request for it, and they can visualise the data in new ways, drilling down to see things in greater detail or exploring scenarios to find new answers in a way that simply isn’t possible with spreadsheets and bar graphs.
- BI is available anywhere you are. Now that mobile devices have come into their own, business has truly begun to break out of the office, and so has your business information. BI tools built with mobility in mind let you access your BI information wherever you happen to be via smart phone, tablet, or laptop. Instead of saying “let me check on that when I get back to the office,” you can pull out your smart phone and check it on the spot.
This is an exciting time in the world of business intelligence and analytics. Now more than ever, the technologies exist to help businesses of all sizes take advantage of the huge amounts of data generated by their business every day.
While the challenges of doing business haven’t changed much in the past few years, the way we understand and meet those challenges has undergone a revolution. Traditional highly specialized and highly centralized information analytics teams are being disrupted by technologies that expand access to analytics through self-serve BI. The result? Empowered employees across the organization, improved customer experiences, and previously undiscovered opportunities for profit.
In other words, yes, BI really does help you work smarter.