Guest view: The next step toward business intelligence enlightenment

If there was ever a time to start a new year with fresh thinking about ways to more effectively grow business, satisfy customers, and increase profitability, this is the time. An emphasis should be on Business Intelligence (BI) investments that help businesses make smarter decisions.

With insights and predictive analytics, BI can transform unconnected companies into enterprises that make decisions based on data. It’s game-changing. Compare it to the way electronics transformed automobiles – from the humble Ford Model T with manual crank and no diagnostics to the fully electric Tesla with self-driving capabilities.

For a company to determine its next steps to BI enlightenment, it should determine which of the following four groups it fits into and incorporate practical next steps to 2019 plans.

1. Scarce and scattered data collection

Businesses in this first group are the least savvy with data, similar to the Ford Model T’s use of electronics. Starting at the ground level for data collection can be intimidating; but sometimes it’s easier to start fresh than undergo complicated data integration with legacy systems. These companies:

  • Collect no data or some data, and have little to no data processes in place.
  • Log into multiple systems to generate reports—all in different formats.
  • Don’t know where all the data lives or how to access the information.

Next Steps: Determine all business data generated and create or refine internal processes to collect data. Also, create a standardized reporting format.

2. Collected, not centralized data

Many businesses may find themselves in this group, where the groundwork for better data management is complete, but the company gets stuck on how to properly analyze its data. Companies in this group:

  • Collect data from key departments.
  • Have standardized reporting and data formats.
  • May use analytic solutions.
  • Have no central repository for data.

Next Step: Integrate all business data into one central repository.

3. Centralized data collection, and limited analysis and decision-making

While these companies generate and use integrated data, they don’t have the tools necessary to get a clear picture of their whole business yet. These companies:

  • Collect data from all departments.
  • Use some form of analytic software/solution.
  • Have a limited ability to make high-level decisions based on data.

Next Step: Implement a BI solution with dashboards that report on core KPIs and actionable insights.

4. Centralized data collection and enterprise-wide decision-making

Say hello to the rarest of companies, where BI fully harnesses data to transform the way the business works. These companies are as advanced among their peers as Tesla is to cars relying completely on the driver. Companies in this group:

  • Have centralized data collection enterprise-wide.
  • Use a full BI solution with sophisticated diagnostics.
  • Make high-level business decisions based on data.
  • Have dashboards available to all levels of employees.

Next Steps: Analyze the business growth potential with better visibility and access to centralized information for employees across the organization. Continue to optimize reporting and data processes.

Regardless of which group a company fits in, BI lends the path to drive better business results. It helps companies evaluate real-time information and make predictive assessments. The potential of BI is transformative – like the automotive industry’s evolution from a Ford Model T to the sophisticated performance of a new Tesla.

With full access to see the big picture accurately, executives using BI strategies can plan how to make data work in meaningful and deliberate ways against their key performance indicators. The results can transform business operations, manage growth, and sustain a profitable model.

Ray Melcher is executive vice president of financial strategy with Anderson Group, based in Sinking Spring, Berks County. He can be reached at raymelcher@thinkanderson.com.

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