Where to Turn When Spreadsheets Aren’t Enough

Relying upon the institutional knowledge of individuals and referring to the standard operating procedures manual crafted over time carries a company only so far. The sheer volume of data needed to keep materials coming in one door as finished goods go out another or to measure work performed in a service industry may never grow too large to track, but business intelligence tools are increasingly vital in converting information into insight.

Business intelligence software retrieves, transforms and reports data so that the appropriate individuals have timely access to the information that keeps the company moving. The best time to begin employing these tools would have been five years ago; the next best time is today.

Here are some fundamental steps toward selecting and deploying business intelligence tools:

Determine the Primary Goals

Numerous products can handle the financials or track inventory for a company. It’s up to the principals to determine how to take that data farther.

Perhaps that’s in the form of tracking ordering by individual clients or categories of customers in order to project the supply chain needs two quarters down the road.  Or maybe the objective is to identify the common denominator behind a loss of customers or their migration to different products.

Also, it’s the time to ask what information might already be available but isn’t currently being compiled. That could be the difference between having to replace the entire fleet of a dozen service vehicles over three years or being able to spread that process out over six.

Ask a Consultant for an Expert Assessment

A fresh set of eyes sometimes gets the most out of the vast expanse of data that gets generated. The resident chief data manager may know the origin of each bit of data but not how to marry it to other information that could lead to valuable insight.

A consultant can both recommend the optimal business intelligence tools and assist in developing the plan for migrating to a new environment. That environment may be new stand-alone software or an add-on to an existing system.

Establish the Essential Metrics and Benchmarks

Refer back to the primary goals to set your ambitions and expectations. If the objective was to reel in expenses, what’s an acceptable improvement? If the intention was to better synchronize the supply chain, how should that be reflected in the time required to fill orders?

Remember Nothing Happens Overnight

By definition, a plan consists of a logical sequence of steps toward an outcome. Just as it isn’t wise to rush toward choosing, racing to implement new tools isn’t the route to go.  Focus the stakeholders, write the plan, do the research and proceed methodically to maximize the value of the resulting fresh insight.