Although plenty of successful business owners will be supporters of going with their gut when making decisions, it's perhaps not the best tactic for leaders looking for something more logical. Instead, leaning on data-driven insights may be a more suitable approach for the risk-averse.
As analytical software and data collection capabilities improve, so too does the information business owners can use to drive data-backed decision making. Through all manner of metrics and numbers, the ways in which we can make informed, valuable decisions have increased accordingly.
For businesses looking to improve their decisiveness, business intelligence is a huge boon. Here, we'll take a look at business intelligence in greater detail, including the different types and the ways in which it can benefit your business.
What is business intelligence?
Business intelligence is the use of software and services to transform data into actionable insights that inform an organisation's strategic and tactical decisions. It provides a platform on which to access and analyse data sets, presenting analytical findings by way of reports, dashboards, graphs, charts and maps to provide users with detailed information and intelligence about the business' current state of play.
The different types of business intelligence sources
Finding the data may be easy, but can you dig into what the numbers mean? With the right reporting tools, it's possible to understand the insights weaved within the numbers, before using this knowledge to make better decisions for the company.
For instance, a business can save more money through business intelligence reporting tools, evaluating their spending patterns to see where they may be spending more than the industry average.
Presenting data in a clean, easy to understand way is important. Dashboards can identify the relevant information and frame data in the clearest possible manner.
For business owners and executives who are used to spending hours working on spreadsheets, dashboard tools can speed up the decision-making process by pointing to the most salient, valuable data points. This frees up time so that leaders can focus on the bigger picture instead of getting bogged down by the nitty-gritty.
As a business, it pays to be able to anticipate change and make the right moves before the rest of the market has time to respond. Predictive analytics does just that, using projection models to test out theories before implementing the right strategy across the business.
Such models allow businesses to minimise their exposure to risks before making an actual move. This provides companies with a level of confidence and foresight that can be hugely empowering.
Data exploration tools give businesses the chance to model and examine their data in more detail. And what's more, certain tools mean businesses don't have to hire data analysts – freeing up resource while enjoying the benefits of augmented business intelligence.
Take Looker, for instance. Intuitive and user-friendly, practically anyone can use its in-browser tools and self-service portals, allowing them to drill down into important data sets.
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Speaking of data sets, data-cleansing tools prepare these sets for analysis, eliminating false, incomplete, outdated or questionable data points, before systematically examining data for such flaws using rules, algorithms and look-up tables. They can even fill in incomplete entries.
Say, for instance, you have some addresses without their postcodes; data cleaning tools can add the correct postcodes to those lacking. And since going through a stack of data is a time-consuming task that's likely to result in an error, data-cleaning tools can be an absolute necessity in analytics-driven businesses.
What are the benefits of using business intelligence?
As a business owner, having a handle on your organisational data is important. And just because you have information, it’s of limited value if it's in disarray, scattered amongst departments, teams and employees.
Business intelligence gets your organisational information ducks in a row, keeping them structured and analysable. Therefore, a system that ensures your data is in an up-to-date, centralised location can lead to better business decisions overall – without leaving things to chance.
A business' success can often depend on its level of customer satisfaction. If your customers are happy, they'll return to you, make further purchases, and let those in their sphere know about you, both on- and offline.
Business intelligence can source and compile the data of the customers that keep coming back to you. This makes it easier to create strategies to bring your current customer base back for more, providing a data-driven experience that differentiates your business from competitors.
Business intelligence can refine business processes, automate time-consuming daily tasks, and prioritise issues without the need for manual input. Such things allow employees more time to do the tasks required for their role.
With better customer data, for instance, salespeople's selling time can be used more effectively.
The organisation of data helps improve analysis too. Instead of data being siloed, modern business intelligence platforms can combine all these internal databases with external data sources, like customer, social and weather data sets.
Thus, departments from across a business can access the same data at one time when answering their reporting queries.
Companies can be more competitive when they know the market and their performance within it. Business intelligence lets companies keep up with industry changes, monitor seasonal changes in the market, and anticipate customer needs.
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