computer report

It’s time to recognize that business intelligence is so much more than data crammed into reports and dashboards | Source: Pexels

Discovering what business intelligence can truly do for you

IF you’re capturing data from various companies and plugging those into some software that churns out charts, tables, and dashboards to help you make “informed decisions”, we have good news and some very good news for you.

The good news is that you’re making great progress with business intelligence (BI); the very good news is that there’s plenty more you can do to immediately get a leg up on the competition.

Today, we’ll discuss five things you can do to “upgrade” your BI and get more out of your investment into data and analytics:

Inject a dose of BI into customer-facing solutions

Your customers are the reason why your business survives despite the market cycles, competition, and pressures.

Using BI to help make your customer-facing solutions, therefore, is a great idea. Imagine your customer would like to know how long it’ll take for you to source, manufacture, and send over a certain spare part that is critical to his business but not in your inventory at the moment.

You’ll win them over if you can empower them – and help them see, in your order management tool, how long you “predict” it will take and then let them decide whether they should order from you or consider an alternative.

Or maybe develop your BI tools enough to alert you to purchase patterns of your customer, identify when they should be placing their next order, and help you make sure you’re prepared to delight them when they arrive to place an order.

Use unstructured data to turbocharge your BI

There’s a lot of hidden gems in data that isn’t neatly sorted into rows and columns. Learn to discover unstructured data to help your business find and solve problems that you wouldn’t otherwise find out about.

Social networks are a prime source of unstructured data for most businesses. Developing social listening skills and linking them up with your BI tools, therefore, can help significantly boost the quality of your analysis.

customers, business intelligence

Your customers are the reason why your business survives despite the market cycles, competition and pressures. Source: Shutterstock

So, the next time your data says product returns for a new launch are going beyond a certain set rate, you can tap into unstructured data to find out what went wrong, what they didn’t like, and get clued into what they think you could’ve done better.

Tell customer service to take cues from your BI tools

Don’t you feel special when you call the customer care line and they already know who you are, what products you have, and when and what you last called about? Well, take the experience one step further for your customers with BI tools.

So, for example, if you’ve got your customers calling about a certain issue with a new product, something that’s fairly easy to solve maybe.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you used some unstructured data to confirm how widespread the problem was and then maybe dropped all your new customers a line about how to fix it?

That would be the smart thing to do, and guess what, being proactive might earn you some brownie points on social media that you could measure by tapping into unstructured data again.

Transform your budgeting and forecasting processes

Well, looking at past data can help you form a basis for the budgets and forecasts for the next year.

However, how cool would it be if you could use all that data from different sources, mix it up with snippets from social media and news articles to make informed decisions about how far your budgets might stretch, when demand for a particular product might rise, or where in the world would you need to focus your efforts to maximize growth?

Well, if you use your BI tools smartly, you could do all this. Just make sure you ask the right questions – because you already have all the data you need.

So, the next time you see that dashboard you rely on to make business decisions, stop yourself and ask, what’re the questions I’m not asking – and what is it that my systems know that I’ve not yet discovered?

Focus on generating insights, not analysis

Last but not the last, think about this: does your BI report facts or predict the future? It can do either of the two, just as easily, and it all depends on what you ask of it.

Try to get your spreadsheets and BI tools to distill down the data from your BI, connect things that don’t seem like they go together at first glance, and come up with insights that not only make sense but give you an edge over the competition.

Here’s an example for you to think about:

What’s the connection between your sales and the monsoon? Maybe nothing, but maybe there is something to it. Even if you’re not in the business of selling umbrellas, your sales could be affected.

How? Well, it’s raining outside, your customers listen to guided meditation sound-files on their phones when they go for a walk, but they’re not going to be going for that walk, and hence, might not purchase as much.

Time to tell your customers to try meditating at home to get to the next level, maybe? It’s up to you, but you’ll only be able to do this if your BI speaks to you and gives you insights instead of just data.