The insightful business
Businesses that are not making decisions based on data are running the risk of flying blind writes David Jackman.
Without the knowledge of past, current and predicted activity within the business, it is difficult to make informed decisions. This is why so many enterprises are moving toward a data-driven approach to managing their operations in real time and increasing visibility throughout the business.
Organisations that are moving in this direction realise that different roles and responsibilities within a business require very different information to perform their job to the best of their abilities. A Business Intelligence (BI) system can deliver the right information to every person within the enterprise, no matter their role or level of seniority, to make decisions based on real-time insights – I like to call this smart data.
Let’s take a look at the different information requirements of varied functions within a business. • Team members If you’re working as part of a team, what you really need in order to make decisions throughout your daily regime is access to reports and dashboards that can show you how you’re tracking against key performance indicators. Importantly, you need to be able to access all this information quickly and easily, without needing to think too much about creating reports – it should all be at your fingertips and from whatever device they use, mobile or in the office. Let’s take a retail store floor for example. If you’re part of the team, you need to know information such as stock levels, sales targets and real-time sales results. With a BI system in place, you have access to such data which should be pulled into digestible reports in an automated and instant manner and encompass up-to-the minute information. Traditionally, BI has not been deployed in any significant numbers to these users, but the trend is shifting as businesses recognise the value-add staff can bring when empowered with the right data at the right time. • Line managers People working at a line managerial level will need quite different information compared to the people who work for them. What people in these roles are looking for to be able to really shine is information on trends across the organisation, as well as a system that can easily pinpoint anomalies, to ensure the organisation is working towards its strategic goals. A great example is a warehouse manager. Someone in this role needs access to an accurate picture of stock-in-hand, often across multiple facilities, and have the capacity to categorise this by supplier and product group. This breadth of information may not be easily accessible without BI. So if, for example, there has been an issue with late shipments, the manager will be able to pinpoint the reason behind this. For instance, by examining and exploring data available within an intuitive BI system, the warehouse manager may find late shipments are due to low stock levels, and he can then remediate the situation, quickly and appropriately. • Financial analysts The financial analysts in the business are those in the enterprise charged with keeping on top of business performance across its entire operations. So their information needs will be more holistic than team members and line managers. They will have a very sophisticated grasp of analytical information, so they need a system that can deliver that level of detail. People in this role will need to have access to data to help them make decisions about whether going into a new business is a good idea, based on an analysis of the capacity and capabilities of the operation. Their work revolves around information, so they need the support of BI technology that can be customised to their very specific needs.
IMPLEMENTING A SYSTEM THAT WORKS
Although various roles in a business have very different and unique information needs, there’s still significant commonality across all facets of an organisation:
1. Everyone in the organisation needs easily-accessible information. With a 24-hour business cycle among us, key decision makers need to be able to find the right information to support their work in an instant, not an hour. 2. Staff members shouldn’t waste their time on labour intensive tasks that can be automated, such as setting up reports or data gathering systems. Those reports should be available to them via a BI system that has been built and customised to the unique requirements of the company. 3. Team members should not have to wade through reams of unnecessary data to find the information that’s relevant to their work. The insights they need should be right in front of them and easy to digest.
So, what’s the best way to ensure everyone in the business has access to the information they need, quickly and easily?
Organisations should find a BI partner who will be able to listen to people at different levels of the enterprise to gain a thorough understanding of the intricacies of the entire business’ information needs. This partner needs to be able to develop a deep understanding of the specifics of the enterprise and its industry, to adapt a custom-built system that ensures the organisation operates at its peak, makes decisions based on fact not guess work, and empowers people at all levels to work at an optimal level.
Businesses that do this will not only be able to better manage their resources, they will also increase productivity and staff engagement. It’s one of the best ways of generating real competitive advantage because when smart technology is being adopted by an agile organisation, it can disrupt large established players that are slow to implement change.
David Jackman is the managing director of Pronto Software. pronto.net