How business intelligence can boost your reporting skills
Business intelligence (BI) is the buzzword of the moment, but there’s substance behind the hype. We live in an age of data, and BI means drilling into all available information to understand your true performance. Good reporting allows you to step back from the day-to-day and see the bigger picture, making it an essential tool for all small business owners.
The aim of BI is to turn information into knowledge. The first step is finding what raw information is ready and available for you to use. Software programs, such as accounting and CRM, as well as other tools like social media should offer raw, accessible data that can be downloaded to use in Excel or other database programs.
From there, you can choose to invest in BI software, or put together a dashboard of your own. Divide into reporting categories – like finance, sales, compliance, marketing and operations – and brainstorm the key metrics that you need for a 360-degree view of your performance.
Consequences of poor BI
Your reporting needs can change over time, but bad intelligence is always a risk. Some ways to overcome common dangers include:
- Monitoring the market as it changes around you.
- Spotting opportunities and managing threats from competition.
- Ensuring problems don’t slip through the cracks and escalate over time.
Use tools such as permissions and locks to ensure the integrity of your data, and conduct regular sanity checks to make sure your intelligence is correct. Consider testing more than one idea (A/B testing) for new ideas so that the effect can be properly analysed.
How to make your BI work for you
Put your data to work for you with some of the following reporting tips and tricks:
- Improve your cash flow: Identify the net profit margins of different products and services, and track your workflow so you’re ready to invoice as soon as the job is done.
- Get on top of collections: Reporting can show you all outstanding payments, and sort by amounts and time overdue. This will let you put in place a strong collections strategy and manage your cash flow.
- Track sales trends: Understanding variation and seasonality will help you manage staff, marketing and resource budgets. It can also help identify new growth opportunities for slower periods.
- Analyse employee performance: Find out which employees generate the most revenue, and who are the most productive team members. You can also look at metrics such as time spent in the office compared to on the road to help effectively allocate resources.
- Know your competition: Track your performance and profit against competition and industry standards.
For help in designing your own dashboard with visualisation tools, check out these helpful guides from Microsoft and Atlassian, as well as Capterra’s list of the best free open-source BI software. You can also visit the Prospa small business resource hub for tracking tools like our cash flow calculator to help you source some of your data.
Once you turn your data into knowledge, you can think about taking your business to the next level. Call the small business experts at Prospa on 1300 882 867 or apply online for a small business loan.