Business leaders have access to valuable information from reporting and business intelligence. The use of business intelligence helps leaders gain a full view of the business landscape as well as details about specific areas of the business. With the right reporting and business intelligence tools, leaders are able to better understand, interpret, and utilize the data collected by enterprise resource planning systems.

Defining Business Intelligence

Business intelligence is the collection of tools and reporting necessary for managing and utilizing business data.

Today, companies collect enormous amounts of data. Data may be collected from one or more of these sources, depending on the type of business and the industry it operates in:

  • Accounting and financial systems
  • Customer relationship management tools that include data from social media platforms, call centers, e-mail inquiries, chats, etc.
  • Data from website analytics platforms, marketing automation platforms, and email tracking platforms
  • Enterprise resource planning systems
  • Field service management tools
  • Fixed asset management tools
  • Human resources
  • Independent suppliers with systems that might be connected to your company’s systems
  • Warehouse and inventory management systems

Think about the typical e-commerce business. The warehouse may house hundreds of thousands of SKUs. On top of that, there are the general operations and financial management of the business, the daily human resources requirements, the marketing and communications. On any given day, the average company generates a staggering amount of data.

Then there are the complexities of modern business. Traditionally, we communicated by mail, phone, and in-person meetings. These days we communicate by mail, phone, in-person meetings, email, chat, social media, texting, and so on. As doing business has become more complex, so has the need to capture and analyze an increasing amount and kind of data.

The Purpose of Reporting and Business Intelligence

All this raw data is transformed into meaningful information through reporting and business intelligence. Generally speaking, it falls into two categories:

  • Managed reporting, in which timely and carefully crafted reports are generated on a regular basis from the central business intelligence system. A weekly sales report sent to company managers can be an example of managed reporting.
  • Ad hoc reporting, which allows users to set their own criteria and run reports as needed. One example of an ad hoc report is when a marketing manager wishes to see how well a particular marketing campaign is performing. She enters a date range and selects specific products on which to focus, generating a report showing the sales figures for the date range and products. This tells her whether the campaign helped sell more goods.

It is possible to run a wide variety of reports within each of these categories. Each report can be created with specific data visualizations in mind, such as graphics that provide an easy-to-understand transformation of raw numbers.

As an example, the marketing manager’s report may show raw figures, but when she plots it as a bar chart comparing previous to current periods, it makes it easy to determine whether the current period outperformed the past. A higher colored bar in the sales period may indicate that the marketing campaign contributed to sales. In a bar chart, this is much easier to see than in a column of numbers.

5 Uses for Reporting and Business Intelligence

Thus far, we have shown the uses of business intelligence and reporting tools to manage huge amounts of data. Leaders in many industries have discovered other ways to use data visualization and business intelligence to do their jobs more efficiently as well. The following are a few inventive ways leaders have used BI tools throughout their organizations.

1. Data-driven insights: NaviStar records over 100 data points from its trucks through its fleet management program. To better manage mileage, performance, and maintenance schedules, the company uses business intelligence software. This has improved the company’s profitability and delivery timing by reducing downtime and unexpected breakdowns.

2. Encouraging repeat sales: Starbucks, a ubiquitous coffee chain, enhanced its app with data it collected nationwide, resulting in repeat sales. Using data gathered from thousands of nationwide purchases, the company can suggest specific combinations for muffins and baked goods, as well as encourage frequent customers to buy more.

3. Helping customers choose products: Stitch Fix, a company offering personal clothing shopping services, uses a combination of a human stylist and a business intelligence-informed algorithm to help pick winning clothing combinations for customers. In this instance, business intelligence is being used to refine clothing selections and reduce returns based on customer preferences collected over time.

4. Performance reviews: Google posed the question, “Do good managers matter?” and decided to use data to answer this question. In their Google People Analytics experiment, Google looked at various factors to determine which managers were most effective. Data from employee and peer evaluations of managers supports the assertion that better reviews correlate with better job performance. Then, Google examined “What makes a good manager?” by comparing data on the best and worst managers. They developed eight criteria of good managers for their organization based on performance data, performance reviews, and key performance indicators. These criteria could be measured through data and business intelligence.

5. Retail and e-commerce: There are many examples of how business intelligence is used to improve performance in both traditional retail and e-commerce. Facebook, for instance, provides advertisers with a tool that tracks how well their ads drive traffic to their stores. A variety of data is collected for business intelligence tools to provide comprehensive reports. One e-commerce brand found that shoppers preferred a two-click checkout process over an easy one-click one. The customers wanted to check their shopping carts before clicking “Pay.” These examples show how business intelligence tools improved retail leaders’ ability to make decisions that affected sales through the use of data from multiple sources.

Save Time and Effort with the Right Reporting and Business Intelligence Tool

The right software is able to save you a great deal of time and effort while offering a variety of business intelligence and reporting services. Only a robust reporting solution can provide both managed and ad hoc reporting for companies with multiple data sources and dozens of data points.

Together, we can customize your system to help you meet your needs and reach your goals. Contact us today.