The term “business intelligence” is commonplace these days, but what does it mean? And, more importantly, what can it do for your business?
Back in the 1950s, large corporations began using the term business intelligence. At that time, only the largest companies could afford the teams and technology necessary for business intelligence.
Today, even the smallest companies can benefit from BI. With affordable SaaS technology, cloud-based systems, and integrated BI for many ERP systems, nearly all businesses can implement a BI solution that’s scaled for their needs.
What Exactly Is Business Intelligence?
First, however, let’s define the term business intelligence. Business intelligence, or BI as it’s often called, is the technical infrastructure that collects and organizes business data into useful outputs. It may include data mining, performance benchmarking, and process analysis, with outputs as data visualizations. Combined, it forms a hub of information that transforms raw data into useful information that can be viewed, shared, analyzed, and used to improve business performance.
Common BI Uses
There are perhaps as many uses for business intelligence data as companies using it. But there are a few common areas where BI makes a big impact. These include:
- Monitoring cash flow: BI systems make it easier to monitor and manage cash flow. Visual representations of sales to expenses make it clear whether your company is literally “in the red,” or not.
- Sales trend analysis: A sales trend analysis demonstrates whether sales are moving up or down and can help you pinpoint seasonal shifts and other sales patterns quickly.
- Business snapshot: The business snapshot view helps managers see immediately whether the company is increasing revenue, or not, and how it is trending.
Remember, these are just a few of the many ways in which BI can be used. Sage Business Intelligence offers many system-generated reports and there are ways you can customize information and reports, too.
Data Visualization Offers Better Insights
Among the many tasks that BI performs, data visualization is the one that grabs the most attention. Data visualization takes many types of business information and makes it into pictures that tell stories. These pictures can be in the form of various graphs—line graphs, bar charts, pie graphs, and more.
Nearly everyone has used spreadsheets to create graphs, so what’s the big deal with BI? The big deal is that BI can create the same graphs but using live data, or data that’s currently flowing through your system. It is a big deal for many companies who rely upon accurate, timely information to make sound business decisions.
Consider an e-commerce company that’s analyzing data on trending products. With an old-fashioned, static spreadsheet, the data must be downloaded, inputted into the spreadsheet program, and outputted into a graph. By that time, sales may have shifted to another product or product group. A BI program can instantly update the dashboard or graphs on the system so managers can immediately tell what is selling and what is not. This can help them make better inventory and marketing decisions.
A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words
The key to BI success is the use of pictures or graphical impressions of data. People naturally gravitate towards stories and images. Many find raw numbers frustrating to analyze. But give them those same numbers in a graph and they can tell immediately what is going on, whether trends are up or down, positive, or negative.
BI also offers another benefit—it’s interactive! The data you see on a business intelligence graph isn’t static, like data on a spreadsheet. Instead, it’s clickable. You can click anywhere on the graph and drill down further into the system to see details that are often hidden in spreadsheets or raw numbers.
This method of preparing and presenting data makes it so much easier for people to use. It’s a time-saver and a valuable asset to many businesses. Isn’t it time to make BI part of your strategy?
Emerald TC provides software and consulting for manufacturing companies. We can help you choose the right accounting software, ERP system, payroll, or other software for your needs. Contact us or call 678-456-6919 for more information.