The Key to Success, Revealed: Leveraging Business Intelligence Tools in 2016

Business.com / Business Intelligence / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

If you’ve put off adopting business intelligence (BI) tools up until now, it’s time that you finally reconsider. Here's why.

Even with the proliferation of innovation in recent years, there are still business owners using Excel spreadsheets, pencil and paper, and manual logs to track business developments and record data. 

These business owners are so comfortable with their old ways of doing things that they’re afraid of making changes.

Sound familiar? If you’ve put off adopting business intelligence (BI) tools up until now, it’s time that you finally reconsider. 

Related Article: How Business Intelligence Software Will Improve Your Business

The Value of BI Solutions

There’s no clear or consistent definition for business intelligence, but some definitions are better than others.

According to datapine, a provider of one of the leading self-service BI tools, “Business intelligence tools are designed to help business people draw insights from past performance, predict future events and avoid obstacles even before they have taken place.” In other words, BI is about using past performance and data to predict future outcomes and conclusions. 

BI is viewed pretty highly in corporate circles. This means you aren’t going to meet many business owners who are firmly against these tools. Nobody will stand outside your building picketing and protesting the implementation of a BI solution. The issue is that some business owners don’t fully understand the value of these solutions.

Because a negative is sometimes more powerful than a positive, let’s take a look at some of the challenges businesses face when they choose to ignore BI solutions: 

  • Performance reviews and management only occurs once per month or once per year, meaning businesses are out of touch with the output of their employees.
  • Businesses are forced to look in the rearview mirror (past) as opposed to through the windshield (future).
  • Business owners are forced to rely on I.T. to develop custom reports and progress updates.
  •  More energy is spent on compiling data and building charts than analyzing data and making improvements.

In other words, businesses without BI solutions are stagnant and reactive, whereas organizations with BI solutions are progressive and proactive. While every business is unique, most owners would agree that words like “progressive” and “proactive” are better than “stagnant” and “reactive.”

6 Reasons Why You Need BI Tools

“Why should I pay for some complex tool when we’re already doing well?”

If you spend time listening to business owners and key decision makers, you’ll frequently hear variations of this question. In general, the following points are all valid reasons as to why businesses - even those that are currently profitable - need to consider implementing and leveraging BI solutions.

1. Comprehensive Overview of Business Health

A properly executed BI tool is the equivalent of a full body scan a patient would receive in the hospital. Just as a full body scan provides the doctor with insights and information on the patient’s entire body, a BI tool gives a business owner a top-down view of what’s happening in the organization.

This stands in stark contrast to individual reports and files. Whereas a doctor can order a dozen different tests and then piece them together to develop what’s essentially a “full body report,” the reality is that the doctor then has to connect the dots, make assumptions, and draw conclusions that may not be entirely accurate. In the business world, individual files and reports are cumbersome and confusing, too. Wouldn’t you rather have a one-page overview, as opposed to 12 spreadsheets of data? 

BI solutions are simple – that’s the bottom line. They provide a consolidated and comprehensive look at a business’ overall health so that business owners can focus on what’s really important.

2. Access to Real-Time Insights and Analytics

With the right BI tool, anyone within your organization can have access to real-time insights, data, and analytics. This makes the decision process more democratic and less like a privilege that’s reserved for an elite group of C-level executives.

While you can still obviously control who has access to what information, the ability to give anyone access to information brings your company closer by empowering employees at all levels to provide opinions and suggest new directions.

Related Article: How to Afford Business Intelligence on a Small Business Budget

3. Cost Savings

There’s obviously a lot of money to be saved with BI tools, otherwise, it would be challenging to justify the investment. According to a study by Nucleus Research, organizations earn a return of $13.01 for every dollar they spend on analytical applications. That number is up from $10.66 in 2011.

4. Time Savings

One very practical benefit of BI tools is the time savings they provide. By improving operational efficiencies and eliminating wasted tasks, businesses can decrease the amount of time they spend searching for and analyzing information.

According to a benchmark report from the Aberdeen Group, 93 percent of required information is available in real-time and on-demand in “best-in-class” organizations with BI solutions in place. Furthermore, these businesses achieve a 95 percent on-time customer response rate.

5. Minimizes Time-Consuming and Repetitive Tasks

Have you ever paused to think about how much time your employees waste performing repetitive manual tasks? The problem is that these tasks must be done, but yield very little benefit. The good news is that you can alleviate many of these burdens with the right BI solution.

Quality BI tools automate analytical tasks that were traditionally performed manually, which frees employees up to handle mission-critical responsibilities that directly impact the bottom-line of the business.

6. Levels the Playing Field

Ultimately, BI tools level the playing field. No longer is business a game of who can dedicate the most time and resources to studying spreadsheets and extracting value from numbers and trends. Instead, business becomes about leveraging the right information to make sound decisions and profitable pivots.

Traits to Look for in Quality BI Solutions

Before closing out, it’s important to note that all BI solutions are not created equal. Some are certainly better than others and it’s imperative that you know what you’re looking for. Here are some traits to keep an eye out for:

  • Easy to use. A BI tool is designed to simplify your business. Make sure it’s easy to use and implement, otherwise, you’ll experience the reverse outcome.
  • Domain expertise. In many cases, BI solutions are designed for specific industries. Look for industry-specific domain tools if you can, or find out what your competition is using.
  • High security. As you know, the importance of data security is at an all-time high. Before selecting a BI solution, learn about the security features and carefully read the terms of service.
  • Self-service. In the past, you’ve probably had to rely on your IT department and employees with very specific skill sets to properly leverage the data at your disposal. Now, the new trend involves self-service BI solutions that let executives get answers to their own questions. Find a self-service option if you can.

Related Article: Millennials Give Business Intelligence a Big Boost

Keep Pushing Forward

The goal for every business is to continually grow, increase profits, and produce products and services that satisfy customers. While BI tools may not directly lead to any of these things, they do indirectly benefit growth, profitability, and customer satisfaction when properly implemented and leveraged.

If you want your business to continually move forward in a positive direction, it’s time that you stop using Excel spreadsheets, pencil and paper, and manual logs to track your progress. As you prepare to enter 2016, sit down with key decision makers and think long and hard about the value BI tools could provide your organization in the future.

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