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Although most companies have process mechanisms and some tools to help them make strategic business decisions, many of them struggle in delivering insightful information to the management team. One of the commonly identified challenges in most organisations is the ability to turn available data into actionable insights at the executive level.

We are in 2016 and yet an overwhelming number of organisations and government departments still depend on myriads of manually produced spreadsheets for managing and tracking performance. We could speculate a number of reasons as to why, but the fact remains that spreadsheet reporting is still very much alive. If you could apportion a dollar value to the human resources behind the spreadsheets and the time consumed to generate insightful information, which translates into strategic business decisions, then one would soon realise that investing in a Business Intelligence tool is not a bad option after all. Within a few months, potential cost savings and increased profits can be quite clearly visible.

However, I strongly doubt if organisations that depend largely on spreadsheets realise that it is costing them to “not have” a BI tool implemented.

Recently I was working with an organisation that uses a fairly decent and established ERP software for their back end. The ERP system records every possible information from all of their nationwide subsidiaries. Standard reports are usually not a problem. However, when one of their management executives wanted to compare the key performance indicators of two randomly selected subsidiaries and analyse their variances, it took the analyst 4 days to export related information to multiple spreadsheets and then consolidate them to get the desired report. The BI tool could produce the same report in under 20 minutes through a simple drag and drop function and with zero coding or complex formulas.

A few simple ways organisations can leverage existing business intelligence to improve reporting at the executive level:

  • Be Visual: Reports that are filled with endless rows and columns of numerical data that usually take hours to even comprehend don’t usually enable sharp business decisions. They end up being factual information for someone to record and file. And it probably took a week or more to generate the consolidated report on multiple spreadsheets. By contrast, using the same data to see cues and visualize trends and key performance indicators on one dashboard increases understanding and promotes timely decision making.
  • Get to the point: Business Intelligence reports should not force management executives to manoeuvre through pages of data. Instead, they should be presented as a storyboard with the goal of presenting contextual understanding and actionable insights in an easy searchable format. The BI tool provides the flexibility to drill down to detail specific areas of interest if required.
  • Real Time Data: Providing unique visual indicators just at the right time is an important best practice for any organisation. Ensure there are key data alerts within your “visual” report to quickly identify critical changes and run an automated background procedure if necessary.
  • Mobile: For Business Intelligence to be really useful and effective, it has to be delivered to the decision maker on time every time irrespective of their location, which usually means via a mobile device. Mobile BI is simply a given in this day and age.

Organisations that can generate visual business intelligence on time every time and disseminate it to key decision makers irrespective of their location can most definitely achieve new levels of success and profitability along with the highest possible competitive advantage.


Santosh Chandran is the Business Development Manager for Business Intelligence at Olympic Software. He regularly blogs about business intelligence and corporate performance management. You can follow him on Twitter  or on LinkedIn.  Please contact him directly if you would like to find out how BI360 can improve your business results through better decision making, phone 09 980 3964 or email: santoshc@olympic.co.nz