Reporting and business intelligence provide valuable resources to business leaders. Business intelligence helps leaders understand the full landscape as well as details about specific areas of the business. The data gathered within enterprise resource planning systems can be overwhelming, but with the right reporting and business intelligence tools, leaders are able to better understand and interpret the data.
What Is Business Intelligence?
Business intelligence comprises the tools and reporting needed to manage and utilize business data.
Companies today gather an extraordinary amount of data. Depending on the type of business and the industry in which it operates, data may be gathered through one or more of the following sources:
- Accounting and financial systems
- Enterprise resource planning systems
- Warehouse and inventory management systems
- Customer relationship management tools, including data from social media platforms, call centers, email inquiries, chats, and more
- Field service management tools
- Fixed asset management tools
- Independent suppliers whose systems may be connected with your company’s systems
- Human resources
- Website data, such as Google analytics, email tracking platforms, and marketing automation systems
Consider the average e-commerce business. It may have hundreds or thousands of SKUs to manage in the warehouse. This is in addition to the general operations and overall financial management of the company, the daily human resources needs, the marketing and communications, and so on. The average company generates an astonishing amount of data in any given workday.
Now, add to that the complexities of the modern business. Communications have evolved from mail, phone, and in-person meetings to mail, phone, in person meetings, email, chat boxes, social media channels (of which there may be many), texting, and so on. As business has grown more complex, the need to capture and analyze and extensive amount and type of data has grown alongside it.
What Does Reporting and Business Intelligence Do?
Reporting and business intelligence take all this raw data and help make sense of it for the average user. It may fall into two general categories:
- Managed reporting, in which carefully planned and considered reports are run from the central business intelligence system on a regular basis, such as weekly or monthly. An example of managed reporting may be a weekly sales report generated for company managers and emailed to them automatically.
- Ad hoc reporting, in which users can set their own criteria and run reports as needed. An ad hoc report example may be a marketing manager who wishes to see how well a particular marketing campaign performs. She types in a date range and selects specific products that were promoted in the campaign, generating a report that displays sales figures for the date range and products to tell her whether her campaign helped sell more products during the campaign’s time period.
Within each of these categories, there is a wide variety of reports that can be run. And each report may be generated with specific data visualizations in mind—the displays that help transform raw numbers into pictures that can be easily understood.
For example, the marketing manager’s report may show raw numbers, but when she outputs it to a bar chart comparing the previous period to the sales period, it’s easy to see whether the sales period outperformed the previous period. If the colored bar is higher for the sales period, she may draw the conclusion that her marketing campaign influenced sales. It is much easier and faster to see this on a bar chart than it is in a column of numbers.
5 Uses for BI Tools
So far, we’ve provided a few small examples of how reporting and business intelligence tools can be used to manage vast amounts of data. Leaders in many industries have found other ways in which business intelligence and data visualization can help them do their jobs better. Here are a few creative ways leaders have used BI tools throughout their companies.
- Performance Reviews: Google asked the question “Do good managers matter?” and decided to use data to find out. In their so-called Google People Analytics experiment, Google examined multiple data factors to determine which managers may be more effective than others. They looked at employee and peer-reviews of managers and found the data supported the assertion that better reviews correlated to better job performance. Next, Google used data to examine the question “What makes a good manager?” by diving into data gathered on the best and worst managers. By examining performance data, performance reviews, and critical KPIs, they were able to develop eight criteria of good managers for their organization that could be measured through data and business intelligence.
- Retail and e-commerce: Examples abound of how leaders in both traditional retail and e-commerce use reporting and business intelligence to improve their businesses. Facebook, for example, offers a tool in which advertisers can track how well their ads prompt visits to their stores. The multifaceted data collection is used in business intelligence tools to provide detailed reports and results. Another e-commerce shoe store brand found that shoppers preferred a two-click checkout process over a simple one-click process. Customers wanted to look at their shopping carts before clicking “Pay.” These are just a few examples of how data, collected from various sources and analyzed using business intelligence tools, improved retail leaders’ ability to make decisions impacting sales.
- Helping customers choose products: Stitch Fix, a company offering personal clothing shopping services, uses a combination of a human stylist and a business intelligence-informed algorithm to help pick winning clothing combinations for customers. Business intelligence in this case is used for hyper-specialization, with data collected on customer preferences over time to refine clothing selections and reduce returns.
- Encouraging repeat sales: Starbucks, the ubiquitous coffee chain, used data it collected nationwide to enhance its app, resulting in repeat business. By using data collected from thousands of purchases nationwide, the company can encourage add-on purchases of muffins and baked goods by suggesting specific combinations and by encouraging frequent customers to buy more.
- Data-driven insights: NaviStar captures over 100 data points from each of its trucks as part of its fleet management program. The company tracks this data using business intelligence software to better manage mileage, performance, and maintenance schedules. Overall, the company has found that this use has helped reduce downtime and unexpected breakdowns, thus increasing profitability and on-time delivery.
The Right Reporting and Business Intelligence Tool Saves Time and Effort
Although many systems come with some form of business intelligence or reporting, the right software can save considerable time and effort. For companies juggling multiple data sources and dozens of data points, only a robust system can provide both useful managed and ad hoc reporting.
DataSelf works with both Sage and Acumatica-based enterprise resource planning systems to create informative, useful data visualizations that can help leaders in your company make better decisions. Whether you have an e-commerce company and seek to reduce shopping cart abandonment by analyzing data or a manufacturing company looking into what makes effective managers good at their jobs, using the data visualization tools from DataSelf’s business intelligence software can make a big impact on your productivity and efficiency.
For more information about DataSelf, Sage, and Acumatica products, speak with your Mindover Software Consultant today and see the impact that better reporting and business intelligence can make for your company.