Right now, we're creating enough data every day to fill 10 million Blu-Ray discs. While that statistic is useful for answering trivia questions, it doesn't mean much else.
That's because data on its own is meaningless; it's the information and insights you can glean from data that make it worthwhile. And the tools to help you do that fall under the umbrella of Business Intelligence (BI).
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What is Business Intelligence?
Business intelligence tools put data to work, grabbing it from multiple sources and creating a number crunching hub which spits out insights in visual form. People have always collected insights on their businesses (local store owners always knew what they needed to stock), but these days software solutions can help you do it more quickly and more accurately. The video below gives a brief overview of business intelligence:
BI Benefits for Businesses
A good BI solution offers a number of advantages for business owners. One key benefit is the decentralization of information. Instead of having information in silos for different business areas (marketing, sales, production and so on), all the areas can feed data into your business intelligence solution so that everyone involved gets a more holistic view of what's happening inside the business.
There are often crossovers between business areas; using this kind of solution makes it easier to identify them. A Panorama case study shows how one company used their Necto solution to quickly analyze and report on data originating from a wide range of sources and to easily share information across the company, saving time and improving insights.
According to Desk.com in Demystifying Data: How Small Businesses Can Leverage Big Data for Business Growth:
"Companies in the top third of their industry in the use of data-driven decision making were, on average, five percent more productive and six percent more profitable than their competitors."
Eventually, your competitors are going to discover how powerful BI solutions are and use them to take business away from you unless you implement these tools effectively first.
Metrics, Forecasting, and Planning
The right tool also helps you generate reports on key metrics for the people who need to have that information. Custom reporting is a key business intelligence feature. Many solutions let individual users create their own dashboards and reports, drawing from the overall data pool.
In 7 Great Ways Your Small Business Can Compete with Big Brands, Due.com points out:
"Business intelligence solutions are not just for enterprise businesses anymore. There are marketing systems priced from $30 to $1,200 a month. Drag-and-drop tools that sync multiple databases to easily visualize data in different ways are available for under $300 a month. Small business owners and managers can now easily analyze business data without needing an IT staff to do it."
You can also make it easier for people to collaborate across the organization, leading to a business that works more efficiently and effectively. Fiverr found that using a BI tool helped them unify their data, gain insights into their users' behavior and create and run reports quickly.
A business intelligence solution is also a key forecasting and planning tool, helping you make reasoned decisions about resource allocation, product and service development, business forecasting and much more. With a richer data set to draw on, your strategic planning process is better informed.
Stop relying on gut feelings for business planning; analyze the data to back up your decisions and strategies. For example, a London brokerage firm used business intelligence software to better understand the true cost of platform development, as well as how individual brokers were contributing to revenue.
Related Article: 3 Ways to Optimize Your Business Plan with Business Intelligence
How BI Helps Your Customers
All of these benefits take place within the organization, but your customers benefit as well. If you have the right information at your fingertips, and the ability to monitor customer issues in real time, then you can connect with customers in a new way, and instantly respond to make them happy. In a wider sense, you can learn more about customer behavior which will help with product and service development and marketing.
No matter what industry, business intelligence is sure to improve it. For example, the New York Mets are using BI software to understand their fans on a more personal level so they can better engage them. And Netflix uses business intelligence to understand what viewers really want to watch so it can give better recommendations and screen more popular shows.
Getting Started with Business Intelligence
Here are some points to consider before you implement a BI solution in your business:
- Perform an audit of the different sources of data you will be using and where that data comes from (customer database, CRM, marketing system, web analytics, software tools, social media, manual input, etc.).
- Investigate some of the top BI solutions and verify which will work well with your input sources.
- Ensure that your chosen solution is customizable for your business.
- Do a trial run with exported data to see what insights you could gain.
- Make sure your BI solution provider offers training in the solution.
After this, you should be ready to make your final selection and implement your chosen solution fully.
Related Article: How Business Intelligence Software Will Improve Your Business