Small businesses manage a continuous stream of financial data, a resource that is invaluable. The challenge lies in harnessing this data in a way that is both meaningful and efficient, rather than becoming a time-consuming task.
This is where the power of business intelligence comes into play. Business intelligence is all about taking your data and making it work for you.
In this article, we will explore how these business intelligence tools can benefit your small business and help you leverage data to achieve your goals.
One selling point of business intelligence lies in its ability to visualize your live data, typically through reports or dashboards that represent the data graphically. People tend to grasp information more effectively when it’s presented visually rather than as raw numbers, making this approach the most reliable.
Consider the common practice of creating a graph within a spreadsheet application. You select a few columns of data, click on the graph icon in the toolbar, and, voila, you have an instant bar graph or pie chart illustrating those figures.
Business intelligence operates on a similar principle. With just a few clicks, you can transform your profit and loss ledger into a dashboard featuring a variety of tables, charts, and standout figures. Since the data is sourced from your accounting software, it is always up to date.
Visualizing data offers several practical advantages:
It provides you with a quick and comprehensive view of your business finances that is easy to comprehend, requiring minimal mental effort. The dashboard is readily accessible with just a click or tap, ensuring financial insights are always within reach.
A departmental dashboard is useful for colleagues who wish to grasp the headline figures of another department without delving into the underlying data. For instance, the sales team can quickly assess the manufacturing department’s performance to gauge upcoming production quantities.
A distinctive feature of business intelligence dashboards is their interactivity. They are not static; they are designed to capture a point in time. Clicking on a specific area in a graph or chart can make it the focal point, revealing additional, more detailed information about the contributing factors, or triggering the dashboard to adjust accordingly.
For instance, if your business operates in multiple regions, selecting the sales figures for one region can prompt the dashboard to focus on the sales and expenses specific to that area.
This interactive functionality streamlines data exploration and allows for fresh insights and perspectives on your business. It simplifies the identification of areas of weakness and highlights areas where your business is performing exceptionally well.
Ultimately, it grants you greater control and understanding without the burden of having to grapple with overwhelming volumes of data simultaneously.
The significant advantage of business intelligence tools extends beyond real-time data visualization; it also translates to time savings.
Starting a new business often comes with the shock of a lot of paperwork and busy work. Recent research by Sage indicates that businesses worldwide estimate spending 146 working days per year on administrative tasks, with 35% of these tasks related to accounting.
Anything that can help reclaim time from administrative tasks is a smart investment. Business intelligence tools eliminate the manual aspects of data analysis, allowing you to use your time more productively and strategically.
In short, business intelligence frees you to focus on what you love—running your business with the insight necessary to make informed decisions. Imagine being able to access your top five expenses instantly in the midst of month-end activities.