Capturing business intelligence (BI) can be overwhelming for businesses that haven’t yet invested in a BI solution. In many companies, it’s difficult to get financial reporting by business unit, product line or department. Data is often stored in legacy systems and disconnected Excel spreadsheets, which are consistently out-of-date and require manual manipulation. Managers may have to wait for accounting or IT to run reports. Business leaders have no ability to analyze their data or easily get real-time information.
BI tools simplify the process of connecting business systems to enable quick, yet thorough, analyses of the data stored within them. Today’s business intelligence dashboard tools eliminate the otherwise monumental tasks of combining disparate data sets, creating useable outputs and effectively communicating the findings with other stakeholders.
Results of an effective BI solution include the production of data visualizations and the publication of reports and dashboards that enable business leaders to delve into the information that holds keys to improving their business. That data leads to better-informed decisions that drive increased profitability. Let’s take a look at the core elements necessary to reap the rewards of a comprehensive BI tool.
Connecting the aforementioned systems provides business leaders with a view into virtually every aspect of their business. It enables them to combine, compare and analyze historical and real-time data. Connecting these disparate systems creates a single source from which actionable decisions can be made with confidence, and greatly simplifies the daunting task of manipulating large volumes of complex data.
It’s essential that a BI tool can connect to hundreds of applications, databases and file types such as Excel, Salesforce, Google Analytics, Twitter, Oracle, MySQL and others. This flexibility enables businesses to quickly build an intuitive, cloud-based integrated data warehouse.
Combining data means connecting to two or more data sources and then managing the combined data to build a singular database where you can standardize, merge and transform data. The original data source remains intact while the newly formatted data is shown in a particular view in response to queries of the combined data. The ability to edit or create data sources directly within a BI tool is critical to its usefulness.
Managing the combined data through a business intelligence dashboard tool allows you to augment your data without altering the source data. You can do things like calculating columns from different sources, renaming columns or tables, changing text to numbers, removing or grouping rows, setting the first row as headers, etc.
The most productive BI tools provide easily consumable outputs like BI dashboard templates and reports. They should cause you to focus on the meaning of the data vs. focusing on the tool, mechanics, images or anything other than the information at hand. The goal is to provide the data analysis needed to take action and improve your business’ bottom line. The creation process should be as simple as creating a presentation by dragging and dropping charts, gauges, labels, maps or any of the dozens of available widgets.
Look for a collaborative workspace that easily enables users to share reports with other collaborators. Dashboards should automatically refresh and be re-shared when data is updated. This collaboration and sharing of a single source of truth enables more efficient decision-making among team members who otherwise would be working in silos, likely with different versions of data.
BI projects require effort but do not need to be overwhelming. They are most impactful when key stakeholders commit with zeal, combine what is meaningful, create a set of actionable KPIs, and transparently collaborate across the company to spur new decision-making.