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From calculating hour-by-hour operation costs of a national restaurant chain to analyzing a city’s emergency services response capacity, the value of business intelligence (BI) systems is noticeable. Almost any business could benefit from better organization, but it’s not always clear which tools are best suited for the job.
The key to figuring that out is, as usual, pretty contextual. Identifying the needs of a particular business can inform the organization process. In all cases, the ability to define and access significant metrics on demand is a crucial benefit. It’s best to start by asking a few questions to figure out what’s missing from your current organization strategy:
1. What’s missing?
One of the most common issues I see when evaluating a business is disparate data. Separate departments with separate systems, outdated programs trying to integrate with recent installs, etc. It spreads the collective data of your business too thin, and it’s easy to lose or overlook key pieces of data when it’s coming from several different places within your company.
2. What am I doing wrong?
Data-driven decisions tend to be more profitable. Following this logic, decisions made blindly or without the support of good information can lead to a loss in profits or productivity. Following the previous question, missing or disorganized data can lead to uninformed decisions. From investing in the wrong department to marketing to the wrong audience, there are a number of potential missteps that should be evaluated.
3. How can I grow?
It’s important to ask yourself what your programs are doing for you, and it’s all about value. In much the same way that you can use business intelligence to reduce spending or locate missing data, you can identify opportunities for growth. Readjusting your budget might turn up an excess of funds to invest in different areas, or perhaps it reveals that a new department is wildly successful and deserves more attention.
As a provider of leading BI solutions, we work with companies that ask these questions regularly. Having access to accurate and comprehensive data about your business and its operations over time is an incredibly valuable resource. And it’s all in how you use that information. Let’s consider an example:
One of my company’s most notable projects was working with a major U.S. city to organize its emergency service departments. They found that at certain times of the year, they were facing over 100% encumbrance, meaning that even though their entire fleet of emergency service vehicles was out responding to calls, they were still receiving calls without the means to respond.
We were able to work alongside the city manager and a neighboring city to implement a system that redirected overflow calls to the neighbor city as a means of handling the increased capacity. Without access to a clear view of the city’s year-over-year call volume and response capabilities, this project would have been noticeably more difficult to achieve.
How do you find the right tool(s) for the job?
High-level organization tools are an incredibly flexible means of problem-solving. But how do you know what makes a specific tool stand out? Generally speaking, it’s a matter of trial and error or going for a trusted brand, but there are some guidelines you can use to help determine which business intelligence tools are truly valuable.
Start by considering the questions from earlier: What’s missing? What am I doing wrong? How can I grow? Any new program you implement should answer these questions, and do more than that.
• Data Overload
A great BI tool should help consolidate data, but does it really make that data more legible? More actionable? When selecting a new system, think about how it curates the information being presented. Does it have a suite of executive dashboards? Can you customize how things are presented? If the system’s only function is to collect all the data, it’s a step in the right direction, but it falls short of solving the disorganization problem.
From an external perspective, it’s also important to consider the developers and parent company of any business intelligence system. Working in the data and tech field, people are probably familiar with the headache that comes from outdated software or programs that aren’t updated regularly. While BI can be an excellent solution for problems right now, consider how it will serve your business in the future, too. If the developer of the BI system doesn’t keep updating, improving and expanding on the features and integration capabilities of their system, it could be outdated and hard to use in just a few years.
• All Aboard
Now, not all integration issues come directly from the program itself. When updating or transitioning to a new system, whether it’s BI or any other new thing, there are multiple departments at every level of your company that have to adopt the change. To resolve the complications at this stage of adoption, try a realistic overview of how the system will streamline reporting and communication between departments.
Say a department is experiencing a great deal of growth or regularly exceeding their budget. That information can be communicated directly through the intelligence system. Instead of waiting on reports, long response times from separate departments, or a set amount of time, you can see and enact changes in real time.
BI applications are as varied as the businesses and organizations that use them. Almost anyone could benefit from the organization and usability that comprehensive business intelligence tools have to offer. So, ask yourself a couple of questions and see if your business could use a little more order.
April 15, 2019 at 08:09AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs