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Starting off with business intelligence is easier than you think

Do you ever wonder what it would be like to know how your order portfolio is doing on a daily basis, instead of only once a month or quarter? Or to always be aware of whether the balance sheet is looking positive or negative? Many businesses are currently in the dark about this matter or only find out the hard facts too late. While business intelligence & analytics (BI) solve many problems, many organizations are wary of the implementation process – although they need not be.

Many organizations are never up to date on financial facts

At the end of the period in question, a lot of searching currently needs to be done, entailing a laborious manual process. I observed this phenomenon in the financial records department of a major NGO, for example. Financial reports were drawn up every month on the basis of Excel spreadsheets, which were then emailed to fifty responsible parties. Like so many other organizations, this NGO was never up to date. Organizations draw up their financial reports once a month or once every quarter. It is only then that they find out whether they are in any financial difficulties. If they were to monitor matters on a daily or weekly basis, it would allow them to keep abreast and address any issues before they endanger the entire organization.

Drawing up accounts costs time and is prone to errors

Drawing up accounts on a weekly basis, let alone a daily one, takes too much time. Most people regard it as a major chore anyway, which is never changing. An item is added to the balance sheet, another disappears, while many figures are simply copied. The next step is to connect up the spreadsheets. These tables will all involve every sort of macros, leaving in doubt whether the underlying calculations are still correct. The responsible party enters all of the data by hand each month. Not only is this job boring and repetitive, but it is also one where typos are easily made.

The underlying logic is often obscure

Once the data has been retrieved and connected together, you are still far from done. You will now need to use the figures in order to create a clear presentation which everyone can easily comprehend and then email it to all the parties concerned. It truly becomes a problem when the calculations need to be adjusted, or the reporting party cannot be reached or is absent for a while. The knowledge underlying the calculations goes on a holiday along with them.

The major BI challenge is finding the time for it

Drawing up reports takes a lot of time, is prone to error, and is not always reliable. A BI tool allows you to avoid such pitfalls in one fell swoop, since all of the various actions are automated. It puts an end to manually gathering the spreadsheets and copying data at the risk of typos. Many organizations think that implementing BI is just as drastic as introducing a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system; they assume that it is time-consuming and pressing, leaving other routine work undone if you are not careful. While it is obviously not just a matter of flipping a switch and being done, it certainly is not as drastic as most seem to think.

A small investment quickly providing wide-ranging insights

The most difficult thing is the mental adjustment to making the change. Organizations are not used to it and it is new technology, which is exactly what makes it so nerve-racking. If an organization is willing to allocate the time, they will soon benefit from this investment. Organizations often have access to a BI tool, which means that no extra purchase costs are necessary. In addition, the foundations will be ready for implementation after a few brainstorming sessions, with calculations then involving little more than pressing a button.

A direct approach

This process will save hours of work each month, with everyone being able to make the calculations. It only takes a single press of a button and all parties involved will immediately know whether things are going well or not. What is more, they will also be able to see straight off where exactly things have gone wrong. Data is automatically loaded using previously determined standardized logic, which does away with typos. Adding items and new tables is also quite a bit simpler. The most important thing is that organizations are aware of how things stand on a daily basis and know whether action is required.

Minor investment result in much greater control

The handy dashboards with action-focused information ensure that everyone understands the data. In addition, automating finances provides greater insight than was previously the case, since you have more ways of finding connections. Staff will also gain experience with new technology which can be deployed in many other areas. Allow your organization to benefit from the advantages of BI, starting with financial affairs. It is a minor investment that pays off quickly.