Business Intelligence, or BI, is not just another intimidating IT buzzword. BI is a tool, an approach to help organizations manage their ever-increasing quantities of data. Business.com says BI is a collection of “best business practices, software, infrastructure, and any other tools to optimize decision making and enhance performance.”
At its fullest potential, BI can manage and organize huge amounts of data, integrate multiple source systems into a single, coherent, comprehensive view, and present useful information intuitively and effortlessly.
And while BI sounds like a massive organizational commitment full of risk, hidden costs, and uncertain outcomes, it doesn’t have to be. BI can start as simply as feeding a spreadsheet into a product like Microsoft’s Power BI.
At Pinnacle we advocate a low-risk three-step approach to embracing BI. The three steps are as simple as they are intuitive:
- Step 1 – Start Visualizing your Data
- Step 2 – Scale Upward
- Step 3 – Scale Outward
Step 1 - Start Visualizing Data
We all love spreadsheets. In fact, it has been estimated that 69% of small business continue to track critical business functions like invoice and spending in spreadsheets. The spreadsheet has become the de facto medium for providing information to clients, customers, or bosses. Now take that spreadsheet from the Sales department. What if instead of just a spreadsheet you provided an interactive graph or pie chart with filters and slicers? What if instead of asking your client, customer, or boss to scroll the rows and columns looking for the biggest sale, or the next untapped market, you provided a color chart where those items practically jump off the page. This is BI. And this is as simple as turning your Sales department spreadsheet into a powerful visualization tool using graphs.
Step 2 - Scale Upward
From there you can begin to scale both upward and outward. Upward scale means to add more data and more data sources from the initial department. More spreadsheets. Maybe a legacy database. Load historical data so you can track trends over time. Does your original spreadsheet track sales by a single market segment? Ask your IT support for data on all the market segments and feed those into your Power BI report. Now you can compare not only market-to-market, but also product-to-product within and between those markets. Now you’ve used BI to integrate your data. Now you’ve used BI to visualize your data.
Step 3 - Scale Outward
Outward scaling is to expand your BI initiative beyond the Sales department. Now you want to analyze the effectiveness of marketing, efficiency of manufacturing, the cost management within Purchasing, or maybe your Inventory carrying costs over time. And then look at relationships between those departments. Now you tap into your manufacturing system, accounting, purchasing, etc. Begin to explore the relationships between sales, purchasing, inventory, and manufacturing. Examine the entire life cycle of an order and use BI to highlight efficiencies and bottlenecks in your business processes.
By following these three simple steps – Visualize, Scale Upward and Scale Outward – you can easily elevate the quality of your data management to new levels, converting data into powerful intelligence. Gain heightened control over your business processes. Earn returns from your data investment.
You already have all the data. Now it’s time to start using BI to make it work for you.