You may have heard lots about Business Intelligence – what it is, in a basic sense, and the ideal benefits it could offer you. But do you really know how it works? Beyond what it’s supposed to do, do you know what benefit it serves?

What’s the point of Business Intelligence?

How have other businesses found success in using Business Intelligence? How can you apply Business Intelligence in your organization? What don’t you know about what Business Intelligence has to offer?

Too often, when the latest technologies are marketed to the business world, they are introduced in a less than clear manner. Especially when the nature of the technology is, admittedly, difficult to reduce to a sound bite or slogan.

For example, think about the first time you heard about the cloud – how was it framed in relation to you and your work?

It’s not likely that, from the very start, you had a clear understanding of what the cloud is. Marketing and other consumer-facing content is often more centered around immediately listing the benefits of the product.

That is, “don’t worry about what the cloud is or how it works. All you need to know is that it makes accessing your data easier than ever before”.

And while that is certainly true, and vital for users to know, it’s not the whole story, is it?

In addition to other benefits offered by the cloud, understanding the nature of how the cloud works (i.e., a network of technologies that allows access to computing resources) is vital to making the most of what it has to offer.

Unfortunately, mass understanding of a concept like that took some time – it’s been the same with Business Intelligence.

What is Business Intelligence?

Before exploring the applications of and purposes for Business Intelligence, let’s lay a foundation of basic understanding.

Business Intelligence is the collection and analysis of data collected such as department productivity, overall growth, sales trends, and customer behavior. Applications of this data can range from something as simple as Spreadsheets for the organization, and storage of data to Online Analytical Processing or Reporting and Querying software. Each has a specific use and offers various benefits to your small business.

Reporting and querying software extracts, sorts, summarizes, and presents selected data. This data could range from sale reports of specific items to a measurement of the efficiency of marketing plans.

In fewer words, Business Intelligence will help you manage your business more effectively. Still, many small businesses don’t take advantage of the tools that they have available to them. Small business owners know that they should be analyzing their data but often fail to do so.

Should you be using Business Intelligence?

There is a common misconception that Business Intelligence is mainly for large businesses and grand corporations. While analytics and other Business Intelligence applications are helpful to large businesses, they also work well for small businesses.

Online analytical processing (OLAP) is part of the broader category of Business Intelligence, which also encompasses relational database, report writing, and data mining.

This is beneficial to your business as it saves you time and money by constantly retrieving data and reporting its findings to you and your analyst in clear ways that help you improve your business.

Digital dashboards give you a dashboard view of your data and sources. This is important when you need to view numerous reports and data sources, or when you need to present these findings in one location to numerous employees.

This provides a clear representation of the data findings of your business, to anyone from the top level to the temporary receptionist, ensuring that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same data-driven goals.

Some of the most important Business Intelligence strategies concern recognizing and taking advantage of patterns. If your company is losing money, it’s best to know why, and where, so that you can stop it. The same concept works in reverse. If your business is doing well, you’ll want to know specifically how and why in order to continue to do so.

What’s the purpose of Business Intelligence?

Now that we’ve covered the basics and the broad strokes, let’s continue with direct applications (and therefore, purposes) for the utilization of Business Intelligence.

Improve Decision Making
This idea is fairly simple – the more well informed you are, the more well informed your decisions will be. However, it’s important to note that information and intelligence are not the same thing.

While you may be tracking data on each and every task your staff performs, it won’t mean much if you can’t interpret the patterns. That’s where Business Intelligence comes into play.

By collecting your data (generally from Customer Relationship Management solutions and similar software) into a single centralized repository, it can be properly analyzed, identifying productivity and efficiency drains, performance spikes, and other notable events in your organization’s actions.

When executed properly, Business Intelligence is meant to convert your collected information into structured, analyzable insight. This means detailed reporting you can bring to a project team or board of directors’ meeting. It means less guesswork and more confident action.

Meet and Overcome Sales and Marketing Goals.
One of the most popular and direct ways of applying Business Intelligence is to sales and marketing efforts. A majority of both of these aspects of your business can be categorized into discrete actions with measurable results.

For sales, this could mean tracking the circumstances surrounding a successful up- or cross-sell. On the other hand, in marketing, it could mean tracking a series of different emails sent to prospects and noting the open, click, and engagement rates, allowing you to determine which subject format, which type of offer, or otherwise, gets the best results.

Improve Customer Experience.
The more you know about each and every customer you deal with, the better you can serve them

That just makes sense, right?

That’s why it’s such a common purpose for Business Intelligence. Businesses can greatly improve the customer experience by keeping up to date records on a number of factors, unique to each specific customer – ongoing service cases, previous purchases, where they fall in the sales cycle, their reasons for getting in touch with support, etc.

With this information on hand at a glance, a staff member responding to a customer inquiry can tailor the experience directly to them, which is an invaluable aspect of service.

Support Compliance Efforts.
In the process of implementing a Business Intelligence solution, it’s simply a byproduct that you’d likely move to a position of more confident compliance – not a bad side effect, right?

Outside of Business Intelligence, a lot of businesses will have a poorly organized data set-up – where their data is, who has access to it, etc., can often be unknown or unverified.

However, in order to properly launch a Business Intelligence initiative, all your data would need to be centralized, properly controlled, and kept up to date – all of which lines up with data storage and integrity requirements of many compliance systems.

Business Intelligence provides greater transparency for business data, allowing those in charge to spot and eliminate inaccuracies, gaps, and a lack of control that could also contribute to non-compliance.

Shorten Gap Between Investment and Return.
As a result of all the above applications and purposes, a business that implements Business Intelligence should also see a vast improvement in how quickly they see a return on investment.

Whether it’s a matter of your day-to-day efficiency, the conversion metrics on the sales team, or the development of plans for your business’ future, all of this can be done more accurately and effectively with Business Intelligence.

What should Business Intelligence mean to you?

This is a lot to take in all at once – so, to distill all of this into a clearer idea…

Business Intelligence Tools are meant to eliminate guesswork while helping to monitor critical metrics. They provide you with valuable insight into your business’s activity and your customer behavior. There is no longer the need for whole teams of analysts and scientists to explain the data in layman’s terms.

Now, programs and tools such as these will work as a middleman, giving even the most inexperienced employee access to powerful game-changing data. These programs also increase your business’s profit, both now and in the future through the use of analytics and science-based predictors.

Business Intelligence will help to increase your productivity within your business, as well as improving your efficient reach of a larger audience. Then with your improved business, it makes sure that you are able to secure and protect your business and the data in which it holds.

In a nutshell, the purpose of Business Intelligence is to let you make better-informed decisions, better understand what’s happening in your day to day business and increase the effectivity of any task your staff undertakes.

In other words – “work smarter, not harder”.

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