Business data and analytics need to be one of your top priorities — especially in uncertain economic times. In this post on the role of business intelligence in decision-making during a crisis we’ll cover:
- Why businesses need BI
- Why BI is especially important during a crisis
- How you can make the most out of your BI tools
Reveal opportunities, track performance and more with a BI tool.
Why does every business need BI?
We’re living in a data-driven world where companies are overloaded with information — we produced more data in 2017 than the previous 5,000 years of human history. Any company interested in working more efficiently is investing in ways to control and understand their data.
But firstly, what is Business intelligence? Essentially Business intelligence (BI) is any software or service that transforms data into actionable insights to inform a business’ strategic decisions. BI tools access and analyse data sets and present analytical findings in easy-to-understand reports and charts, dashboards, graphs and maps. Ultimately, BI helps business users determine the state of their business.
How a company uses a BI tool depends on what they are trying to achieve: some want to gain insight into customer behaviour, others want to optimise their inventory management. However you want to use it, access to good business intelligence is critical. In practical terms, BI delivers value by helping you:
- Make fact-based decisions
- Identify and eliminate waste
- Increase operational efficiency
- Identify market trends and opportunities
- Analyse customer behaviour
- Measure yourself against competitors
- Track performance
- Predict success
SMEs and big data
Many growing businesses wrongly believe they are too small for big data. Fortunately, data is now easy to collect and cheap to host, making big data tools and technology more accessible to growing businesses in terms of cost and ease-of-use.
The importance and value of big data should not be overlooked by smaller businesses. Here’s more on why and how SMEs should collect data.
BI can be transformative for your business
Why prioritise business intelligence in a crisis?
The coronavirus pandemic is having a profound effect on global economies and operational efficiency and cashflow are at the forefront of business leaders’ minds. Businesses, both big and small, need to quickly identify inefficiencies, increase cost efficiency and protect their assets. This is where business intelligence shines.
Informed decision-making is paramount
Covid-19 moves fast, forcing leaders to make quick decisions to stay one step ahead. As the illness spreads in America, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine is drawing praise for his early moves against the virus, at a time when President Donald Trump was downplaying the threat of the virus. And it was access to reliable data that helped Governor DeWine make speedy decisions that curbed the spread of Covid-19 in his State.
“Mistakes that I have made throughout my career have generally been because I didn’t have enough facts…so, I made up my mind I was going to have the best information, the best data available,” Mr DeWine told the BBC.
Like politicians, business leaders also need to make informed decisions and act quickly during the pandemic. Their business success depends on it.
With staff around the world now working remotely, company operations are a little more complex, making it difficult for a business to manage employee productivity as well as organisational efficiency and business productivity. This lack of insight and diminished control can directly impact a business’ bottom line — and affect how they recover afterwards.
In times like this, business intelligence can help an organisation make informed strategic decisions on what opportunities they should pursue, where their weaknesses are, identify waste and more. Even if you need to take quick action, business intelligence ensures that you’re making the choices that are backed up by data, instead of being founded on assumptions or guesswork.
Use the opportunity to invest in technology
Analytics is not a crystal ball that predicts a recession, but it can help you prepare for one. Data gives businesses a greater chance of surviving through a recession and becoming leaders once the economy recovers.
In a recession, finding ways to still do business while being more cost-efficient become paramount. You might be thinking it’s contradictory to spend more during a recession. But investing in good technology is exactly what you need — and doing so during a recession comes at a lower opportunity cost.
Manufacturers used to have to choose between being cheapest in the market or staying nimble and enduring high costs. However, technologies like business intelligence tools allow more flexibility around product changes, making manufacturers more agile in their supply chain. Companies that have already made an investment in digital technology and business intelligence are in a better position to identify threats and respond quickly.
If your business hasn’t yet implemented a BI tool, use this Covid-19 downturn to conduct a digital transformation before the worst of the recession hits and become proactive, rather than reactive in your decision-making.
3 ways to get more from your BI tool
Why limit BI data to one department? Implement business intelligence throughout the business so that everyone can benefit. For businesses looking to implement a new BI tool or get more out of their existing one, here are three ways a BI tool will help.
Improve employee performance
Imagine you manage a team of people in a warehouse. At a glance, you want to know who your top performers are so you can reward them – which is exactly what Lipari Foods did. Their BI tool pulled data from the warehouse management system and time clock, and ranked their team of order fulfillers based on performance. This allowed the management team to reward top performers without the hassle of pulling reports together from different sources.
Cut time wasted on data gruntwork
When it comes to the end of the quarter or the end of a financial year, you might find yourself up all hours of the night collating spreadsheets and writing reports.
Audio equipment maker Skullcandy did just that – spending hours assembling data and validating it, which meant they were only able to track customer and product profitability once a month. Realising that working with stale data can jeopardise decision-making they started using an analytics tool, and now their data prep time has been eliminated. They can quickly track profitability and identify positive or negative trends in real-time.
A tip here: your BI tool is only as good as the data it’s working with, so take time to ensure you’ve got good quality data — take a look at seven ways you can improve data quality.
Improve customer service
A good BI tool lets you access all your customer information in one location. This means you can improve segmentation and customer targeting to better serve your best customers – and that’s crucial in the current Covid crisis: whether B2C or B2B, the brands that survive will be those that show exceptional customer service, generating rave reviews and customer loyalty.
For further tips, check out CIO’s article on more ways to get more value from business intelligence.
Business Intelligence in a nutshell
Right now, business success depends on making informed decisions while staying nimble. Businesses that prioritise BI tools in a crisis are well-positioned to reap benefits across employee performance, customer satisfaction and business efficiency.
Follow Unleashed Software on LinkedIn for more business advice and strategies to get through Covid-19
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.