The in­sight­ful busi­ness

Businesses that are not mak­ing de­ci­sions based on data are run­ning the risk of fly­ing blind writes David Jack­man.

Business First - - CONTENTS - by 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.


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.

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