Data-driven decision making in business isn’t anything new. For years we’ve had Excel spreadsheets out the wazoo, complete with complex custom VB scripts to transform our data cells into pretty graphs and charts. But it always meant someone in the office with the skills to be able to accurately weaponise that data for sharing in a format that anyone could understand. One wrong keystroke and a chart is giving the wrong business intelligence.
Thankfully, we’ve entered a new era in data-driven decision making, with the advent of Business Intelligence (BI) tools.
This article is part of our special series on productivity in the workplace.
What are Business Intelligence tools?
BI tools are used “to retrieve, analyze, and transform data into useful business insights. Examples of business intelligence tools include data visualization, data warehousing, dashboards, and reporting.” (via Technology Advice)
In short, they’re a set of tools that can be used to do away with complex data manipulation and display in Excel. You still need good underlying data for these tools to work with, such as daily sales figures (by person, product, etc.), that can be organised via dashboards and then transformed into graphs and charts at the click of the mouse.
Every business needs BI tools (and good underlying data!)
BI tools eliminate hours of manual work to produce readable data insights. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a small business or large enterprise, being able to quickly visualise business figures in a human-readable format is invaluable.
At A1 Technologies, we recommend Microsoft Power BI to our SMB customers. Why? Because most businesses will already be working with the Microsoft suite, making it an instantly compatible product for current systems.
Power BI has a user-friendly dashboard, can draw from multiple data sources at once, utilizes AI to gain insights, comes with security compliance across the board, and makes amazing looking reports easily – and these are just some of the benefits of this product.
If you’re working with other systems, perhaps the AWS suite, then Amazon Quicksight might be more your speed.
There are also Business Intelligence insights to be gained from various ‘standalone’ products, such as Salesforce.
How to choose the right Business Intelligence products for your organisation
Your underlying data
The first thing to remember about Business Intelligence products is that they are nothing without good underlying datasets. If you have a wealth of historical data, that’s great. You’ll need to clean it (remove incorrect, double up, outdated data points), and ensure it’s in a machine readable format. What is a machine readable format? It depends on the BI product you use. CSV and XML are fairly standard data formats which usually aren’t that difficult to convert to from other data sources.
Your underlying systems
If you’re using the Microsoft or Amazon suite of products, for instance, it can be very easy to tack on one of their BI products to help gain insights on your data. Which you can choose a different vendor, it may require more configuration to make your data work with the new software. This can involve converting data sources, building custom data flows, and other nuances.
Get in a consultancy expert
While choosing BI products and implementing these new systems in house is certainly doable, it often comes with a lot of trial and error to get things right, with the right fit, and at the right price point. That’s why engaging the services of a consultant like A1 Technologies can save a lot of time, headache, and potentially money, too. Consultancies can look at your data silos, see what needs to be done to make them BI useable, then make recommendations about the best product and plan for your needs.
Let’s talk BI
Make your business more productive with innovative BI solutions. They’re out there – all you need to do is find the right configuration to help make gains within your company. Chat to A1 Technologies to learn how to do away with error-prone spreadsheets and let BI do the heavy lifting – all with easy to read reports for business audiences of all levels, from shareholders through to your frontline employees.
Look out for next week’s issue on another important avenue to raise productivity levels within your organisation.
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