4 pieces of advice about business intelligence

business intelligenceReturn on investment, gross margin, and labor costs are business metrics that every small business owner and C-suite executive understands. But new technologies have opened access to an exponentially larger number of data points, and business leaders are using this new information to grow sales and attract new customers.

Though the phrase big data has officially entered the business lexicon, some small and medium-sized business leaders may believe using advanced business intelligence (BI) metrics that track shopper preferences and employee productivity is an unachievable task. However, new business intelligence programs can help businesses of all sizes sort through collected data, and identify customer trends and the ebbs and flows of their business.

If you’re interested in what these BI solutions have to offer, there’s plenty to learn about new BI gathering and methods. Here are four pieces of advice for every organization interested in adopting a BI solution.

1. Make your data accessible: Every modern organization needs access to data. More important, though, is access to the right data and access to understanding it. The best BI solutions will give organizations full data sets and produce insights in an easy-to-digest manner, like charts or graphics.

Organizations with no BI solution face the problem of choosing the correct collection of data, or data set to craft a visual display that presents the information accurately and is easily digestible. While enterprise organizations may have in-house data analysts that can pull out the important data sets from larger collections, a small business likely lacks the resources to hire or contract out a data expert.

A BI solution should parse information, organizing that data into graphics that are easily understood. By using a BI solution, small- or medium-sized organizations can visualize and process important data without hiring a costly number-crunching analyst.

2. Measure the important metrics, and more: A men’s clothing outfitter may keep plenty of metrics on its in-store customers — average sizes, popular colors, what pant cuts aren’t selling. But is that the most telling data for the long-term health of the business?

Organizations should consider what data sets it should be measuring above the traditional business metrics, such as return on investment and cash in/cash out. For example, a baker may consider the price of flour as the most important data point for the business, but it should also examine daily traffic and conduct surveys about customer preferences.

One problem all organizations face is identifying the real trends in the data. The best BI solutions transform numbers into relevant data that pops off the page, and can configure data sets that show the connection between business goals and customer needs.

3. Create buckets of data: Think of the roles of a CEO and an IT manager. While a CEO needs high-level data on short- and long-term goals, as well as day-to-day performance, an IT manager needs much more specific data sets, such as metrics showing the state of the company’s network.

A BI solution that classifies data correctly will be able to sort it into useful piles. Organizations should consider a BI application that can strip away excess or unrelated data points, because examining too much data can be blinding as you search for the right solution to a problem or plan future strategy.

4. Track actionable data on your devices: One of the advances made through BI solutions is real-time data tracking. Consider this example of a customer I recently worked with.

The organization was saddled with a network that constantly ran slow and would be overwhelmed and crash with every software update. When IT began tracking its network data, they were able to come up with an inexpensive caching solution that minimized Internet traffic while leveraging its more-than-capable internal infrastructure. Measuring the right thing allowed the company to take action, and to solve the problem.
This type of up-to-the-minute data and actionable insight is available on a wide range of devices, including mobile. The ability to track data on a phone or tablet can shift priorities and allow business leaders to make adjustments, which can boost worker productivity and sales.

Don’t ignore BI, embrace it

In the past, data analytics was the realm of the enterprise and its teams of experts were able to uncover the specific insights. But a marketplace of multiple BI solutions has democratized the process of data collection and analysis.

Organizations of all sizes should be examining the business metrics and data that reveal the impact of their daily operations. By collecting data, and making sense of it, businesses can shine a light on their customers, partners, and own inner workings to build a more efficient, effective, and profitable business.

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