Important Key Features of any Business Intelligence Solution

 

Business-Intelligence

Different organizations will invest in a Business Intelligence (BI) solution for different reasons depending on their specific circumstances and industry.

It’s like watching scary movies. Some of us put ourselves through the ordeal because we enjoy the thrill. Others will just participate because it’s what everyone else is doing. And some go along looking for an excuse to squeeze that special someone extra tight during those conveniently frequent moments of terror.

Regardless of individual agenda, here are six features you should insist upon in any BI solution, no matter the circumstances of its application:

Executive dashboards

Personalized Dashboards deliver relevant, easily understood real-time data to business leaders, enabling faster and better decision-making whilst lowering response times to internal and external events. Executives need access to personalized dashboards that deliver easy-to-understand KPIs and summary information on a regular, scheduled basis. Additionally, exception reporting should alert the executive to unexpected events and scenarios that require action. Personalized data delivery means executives are able to make decisions quickly, without any guesswork, and without having to wade through irrelevant information.

Location Intelligence

Location Intelligence is the ability to map and visualize data in geographical formats. Exploring and visualizing data sets based on spatial elements enables organizations to understand their business operations from new perspectives, such as sales per region.

“What if” analysis

“What if” analysis allows businesses to assess the potential effects of critical business decision before they’re actually made. Using existing data, users can formulate strategies to achieve business targets and avoid the default “hit and miss” approach. This helps management undertake accurate strategic planning.

Interactive reports

Interactive reports help users convert data into knowledge. They allow users to better understand the analysis within reports, and the underlying data those reports are based on, to support better decision-making. User should be able to:

  • Drill down through reports
  • Apply analysis such as moving averages and regression to highlight trends in data
  • Use time-series zooming to scan large data sets to understand anomalies in their data
  • Use conditional formatting to set data alerts which highlight data exceptions

Meta data layer

A meta data layer makes reporting easy and eliminates the need for coding and SQL, allowing users and report writers to see and access information in simple business language. Users solely interact with data at the meta data level without having to comprehend the complexities of the underlying data or database.

Ranking reports

This feature allows you to create reports that order specific categories of information, from across multiple dimensions, by selecting specific criteria. Ranking reports let you view the best and worst performing aspects of your business. For example, you could create a report that ranks your 10 best selling products, regions or sales people.

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Why Do I Need Business Advisory Services?

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Whether you are a small business or a large enterprise, business advisory services can help you solve problems, identify growth opportunities, manage risk, and unlock your potential for growth. If your company is not meeting goals in crucial areas, perhaps a fresh look at the situation by an experienced business advisory services team might be just what you need to get back on track.

Here are a few indications that you might need the services of a business advisory firm.

You are unable to keep up with the competition

Competition is fierce in today’s market. If you see that your customers are using your competitors more than you, or that you’re unable to keep up with the newer, more demanding customers who enter the market, you will need to take a fresh look at what you’re doing. A business advisor can help you see where you stand in comparison with the competition, and how your target audience sees you.

Your profits are dropping or stagnating

When a formerly profitable firm hits the doldrums, it may be time to get some outside assistance. A business advisor will look at how your firm is structured, help you see the big picture, identify opportunities in the market, and make appropriate strategic decisions to get your finances back in order.

You’re unable to keep pace with technology

With the rapid advances in technology, companies that are able to keep pace with the new innovations are at a significant advantage over others. If you cannot keep up with the evolving technology, you may end up losing customers to your competitors. Advisory firms can help you understand the latest technologies that are appropriate for you and tell you how to adopt them.

You’re unable to hire the right people

Perhaps your business is growing, but you’re unable to find the right people to grow along with you and serve your customers. This is a problem that small businesses usually face when they rapidly expand. They usually end up making a lot of mistakes in terms of hiring people with the right skill sets, as well as logistical issues. A business advisor will tell you beforehand how to go about the situation and prevent a number of mistakes.

You’re unable to plan for expansion

If you’re doing well and generating profits, you will want to expand your operations. Many businesses get overenthusiastic about their expansion plan and take the leap without properly planning for it. This could end up costing you. A business advisory firm can help you avoid these costly mistakes.

You’re bogged down by internal skirmishes

Internal conflicts are quite common especially in small businesses or family run enterprises. Sometimes, these personal matters can threaten to shut everything down. An outside perspective brought about by an experienced business advisory team can really help figure out the best way to move forward.

An experienced business consultant can make a significant difference in your profitability and efficiency of operations. If you face any of the above situations in your daily operations, consider hiring a business advisory firm.

When Your Company Need Advisory Consulting?

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There are many different indicators that your business could benefit from the advice and assistance of an advisory consulting firm. If it is failing or falling behind in any crucial area, there is a good chance that some outside help and a fresh perspective could be just what your team needs to get the business in order. Organizations tend to make some very common mistakes and often face similar issues that lead them to seek out advisory consulting services, and the extra help can be very beneficial in moving forward. These are some of the most common mistakes and issues that advisory consultants step in to assist clients with.

Profits are Dwindling

If your profits were soaring, but now they’re stagnating, it may be time to get some help from an advisory business consulting firm. They can look at your business structure and help with the big-picture ideas so you and your team can start getting your financial house in order and making more strategic decisions in the future.

Not Competing Like You Want to

Maybe you had a great share of the market starting out, but suddenly you’re seeing your customers go elsewhere or are struggling to keep up with new customers entering the market. This tends to be the case with businesses that have been successful for a long time. Businesses often require a fresh pair of eyes to see where they stand compared to the competition and how their target market perceives them.

Keeping Up With Staff Growth

It’s a great feeling when your business is growing and you’re able to hire new employees, but keeping up with the growth can often be tricky. Businesses that are going from a very small staff in a two or three-room office to an entire floor of a large building or even an entire building, for example, can make any number of mistakes and blunders as the staff grows and they fail to keep up with the logistical considerations. An advisory consulting expert will see all the mistakes, though, and know what works and what doesn’t when rapid growth necessitates increased employment.

Facing Technological Challenges

Technology is evolving at a rapid pace, and companies that fail to keep up will lose customers when they become obviously antiquated. Advisory business consulting firms often help businesses understand what the latest technology is and how to best harness it for the benefit of the company.

Internal Conflicts Keeping the Business from Being a Success

Sometimes consultants are brought in to help companies with more personal, internal issues. When businesses are struggling with internal conflicts, everything can begin to shut down. Sometimes, an advisory board is best qualified to analyze the conflicts from a neutral position and provide advice on potential solutions.

A Fresh Perspective

Sometimes, things are just off because the same voices have been heard for a long time without any fresh perspective. Companies often have close-knit management teams that have known one another for years, making it easy to get into a rut when they’re bouncing ideas off the same people all the time. In businesses that have been around a while, the management also might not get any fresh perspective from the long-term members of the team. After some time, when everyone’s been doing their job in a successful way for a very long time, the business can go into tunnel-vision mode. This is when an experienced business consultant’s advice can come in handy.

Expanding the Operation without Careful Planning

Advisory consulting services can help prevent some serious blunders when businesses try to expand. Business owners often get overzealous when they see profits soaring and decide to expand their operations without really formulating a plan of action. This is a big mistake. Careful planning must go into each step of the expansion, from hiring new employees and changing the payroll structure to leasing new office space and moving to a larger content management system. Time and time again, businesses make the mistake of going into these major decisions with only the excitement of success, and little in the way of planning. An advisory consultant can help.

How do Companies Identify Business Risk?

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In each stage of the business life cycle, companies face both internal and external risks that can have detrimental effects on operations. For startup businesses and established organizations, the ability to identify which risks pose a threat to successful operations is a key component of strategic business planning. Business risks are identified using a myriad of methods, but each identifying strategy relies on a comprehensive analysis of specific business activities that could present challenges to the company. Under most business models, organizations face preventable, strategic and external threats that can be managed through acceptance, transfer, reduction or elimination.

Preventable Risks

All organizations face certain internal risks that are preventable when identified correctly. Preventable risks include the unethical or illegal acts of company management or employees, also known as human risk, or a breakdown in operational systems or processes. Companies establish a tolerance level for each type of internal risk as errors are likely to occur at some point in the business life cycle. However, strong corporate governance policies and continuous monitoring of operational procedures assist in reducing or eliminating the occurrence of preventable risks within an organization.

Strategic Risks

Unlike internal risks, strategy risks are not altogether undesirable. Financial institutions such as banks or credit unions take on strategy risk through lending to consumers, while pharmaceutical companies are exposed to strategy risk through research and development of a new drug. Each of these strategy-related risks are inherent to an organization’s business objectives. When structured efficiently, acceptance of strategy risks can create highly profitable operations.

Companies exposed to a great deal of strategy risk can mitigate the potential for negative consequences by creating and maintaining infrastructures that support high-risk projects. A system established to control the financial hardship that occurs when a risky venture fails often includes diversification of current projects, strong cash flow or the ability to finance new projects in an affordable way, and a comprehensive process to review and analyze potential ventures based on future return on investment.

External Risks

All businesses face risks over which they have little to no control. External risks include changes in domestic and international economic environments, shifts in political landscapes, and natural disasters. While some organizations are more exposed to certain external risks than others, all companies can create risk management strategies to reduce the negative consequences and long-term impact of external risks. Liability or property and casualty insurance are often used to transfer the financial burdens of external risks to a third party or an business insurance company.

Not all risk management plans are structured in the same fashion, but all businesses must be able to identify each of the internal, strategic and external risks associated with specific business activities. Companies can lessen the negative consequences of a risk materializing by creating and maintaining strategies to accept, transfer, reduce or eliminate organizational risk.

How To Retain Customers In Retail: Kindly Avoid These Mistakes

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Running a modern retail business is no small task. The bread and butter of merchants (and their employees) depend on customers- and their customers’ satisfaction. How often (and how soon) a customer comes back once they’ve left your store is vital for small business growth.

Even with all good intentions, store owners often fall into the trap of making a few blaring mistakes that can affect their retention levels. Make sure you’re not making these common customer loyalty mistakes.

Ignoring customer feedback

Customer voices are like nuggets of wisdom for your store. Being open to feedback is pivotal for your business. If a customer leaves feedback, always make sure to follow up with them so that they feel like they’re being listened too.

Don’t take customer feedback personally. Customers don’t leave feedback to personally attack you- they’re just not happy with a certain aspect of their overall experience. Often, their only concern is their own pain points and they just want to see improvement in service.

Attracting customers with an over-promise (and then under-delivering)

Always set customer expectations realistically. If people come to your store anticipating an average experience, you can attract them by surprising them with exceptional service. Try to get customers on board with an under-promise, and always strive to deliver beyond those expectations. Focus on creating moments of “customer delight” once they’re in your store. You’ll then see your loyal customer base expand dramatically. By becoming your brand’s biggest cheerleader, these customers will create more business opportunities.

Depending on heavy discounting

If you frequently rely on discounts for boosting sales, a large chunk of your customer base will comprise of the ‘bargain hunters’ over time. These people are always on the lookout for a good deal and the moment you can no longer afford to provide that, you’ll find these customers switching over to the competition – killing your business in the process.

Instead, focus on building an enviable collection of products and make sure that your visitors always find something they like at your store.

A basic bottleneck in terms of achieving higher customer retention rates is lack of actionable data, according to a Deloitte research report. The paper suggests that there’s a fundamental disconnect between the way a retailer interprets loyalty data and the actions that they perform based on that. Small business owners often don’t define proper retention metrics and even when they do, they fail to keep up with those metrics.

Why Do I Need a Business Intelligence Solution?

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Many small business owners and managers have been slow to adopt Business Intelligence (BI), mainly due to lack of knowledge of what exactly BI is, it can be time-consuming to review and there is a concern that it really has any benefit for them. The truth is, it should be an integral part of any operation.

A very short but fitting definition is: “Business Intelligence is essentially timely, accurate, high-value, and actionable business insights, and the work processes and technologies used to obtain them.”

Why should you care about BI?
It’s not only for enterprise companies – virtually every small, mid-sized and large business can benefit from BI. There are many upsides to BI solutions, and companies should be adopting them, here are seven reasons why.

1.Boost productivity. Through traditional data gathering methods, users need to compile and analyze data and write related reports. This can be incredibly time consuming, especially for small businesses that may not have the employees to do it. With a BI program, you can pull data and create the reports at the click of a button thus freeing up time and resources allowing employees to be more productive on their own tasks.

2.To gain sales & market intelligence. Whether you are a sales person or a marketer, you probably like to keep track of your customers – probably using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution to help you. A CRM solution collects the data about your customers and tries to make sense of it, presents it to you in various tables and charts. That may include the entire sales cycle, from winning new customers, to servicing and tracking existing customers, to providing post-sales services.

3.Results closer to established goals. How many times have you established a set of seemingly reasonable goals for a project or other venture, only to end up with an outcome that is drastically different? With BI you can keep track of information, and have it accessible by parties that need it, when they need it. BI goes a long way in helping achieving what you aim for.

4.Return on Investment (ROI). Through better strategic awareness, faster reporting, decreased operating costs/lower overheads and access to better quality data and information, BI can positively influence a company’s ROI.

5.Gain insights into consumer behaviour. One of the main advantages of investing in BI and skilled personnel is the fact that it will boost your ability to analyze the current consumer buying trends. Once you understand what your consumers are buying, you can use this information to develop products that match the current consumption trends and consequently improve your profitability.

6.To improve visibility. If you want to improve your control over various important processes in your organization, BI will improve the visibility of these processes and make it possible to identify any areas that need improvement.

7.To turn data into actionable information. A BI system is an analytical tool that can give you the insight you need to make successful strategic plans for your organization. This is because such a system would be able to identify key trends and patterns in your organization’s data and consequently make it easier for you to make important connections between different areas of your business that may otherwise seem unrelated.

The Seven Principles of Effective Cost Management

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Effective cost management is the central measure of accountability for business leadership. Cost management includes effective strategy implementation as well as providing the resources and process discipline to enable and ensure the highest possible level of quality, reliability and productivity at the lowest overall cost. It is not about “cost” in the sense of “cutting cost.” Rather, cost management is the process of optimizing performance. It is as much strategic as it is operational.

Passionately embraced and implemented, the following seven principles provide both a robust business model and the essence of a cost management ethos. Together they provide a road map to business success.

Provide Clear, Consistent Performance Objectives

The first step in any undertaking is to ensure clear and aligned expectations. This is especially true in cost management, where many managers’ only cost experience is in “cost cutting,” such as staff reductions, product and facilities rationalization, and cutting capital budgets. While these actions are sometimes necessary, effective cost management lies in an everyday process discipline that continually addresses the root cause of excess staff, unprofitable and overexpanded product lines, and the justification and implementation of marginally effective control systems. Effective cost management deals with the underlying systems which create the need for such structural cost elements.

For example, in an industry where low cost is the primary driver of business success, there are four pivotal drivers or determinants of cost: production scheduling, maintenance effectiveness, product offerings and technical knowledge. Each can be either a tool of cost effectiveness or a “root cause” of low value cost. Understanding this distinction is the first step in effective cost management.

The second element, aligned expectations, is equally important. Even with clear revenue expectations, an aggressive, well-meaning sales and marketing organization can offset its hardwon top-line successes by adding products, packaging options and channels to market that, in fact, add far more cost than the projected benefit of increased sales.

Similarly, there are potential cost trade-offs between traditional procurement cost saving processes and manufacturing’s need for process stability and variation reduction. This is especially true in the pharmaceutical, alternative medicine, dietary supplements and food processing businesses where product integrity and consistency are the lifelines of business success. For effective cost management, performance expectation and objectives must be aligned so as not to offset one area’s accomplishments by increasing costs in another.

Provide Knowledge, Tools To Succeed

The meanings of the words “knowledge” and “tools” depends on one’s beliefs about the basic motivations behind human behavior. If an organization’s executive leadership believes most employees arrive at work with the willingness and desire to do their best, the job of employee motivation and performance is abundantly straightforward. Each individual’s level of knowledge and capability becomes the essential component of the employee’s ability to perform well.

For example, if an organization wants to optimize the trade-offs between volume, margin and manufacturing cost, the sales force—the very people responsible for revenue and margin—must have a solid understanding of manufacturing, standard cost, and the impact of their product and customer-related decisions on the broader organization. The same is true of the planning (scheduling) and production side of decision making. They, too, must have the relevant understanding of how each of their actions affects the customer, cost, inventory and product lead-times.

This same principle applies within the management ranks. To enable and ensure effective cost control, managers need to know the specific cost drivers of their business. They need to understand the difference between efficiency and structural cost. They need to technically understand the production and sales process as well as having detailed knowledge of the systems that drive the company’s day-to-day activities.

The deeper the executive knowledge of their organization’s cost drivers, the greater the opportunity for effective cost management versus cost cutting.

Understand True Costs

Standard cost is the basic component in a vast majority of business decision-making, from budget preparation, pricing and variance reporting, to strategy formulation and performance-based incentive plans. Standard cost data drives most new product pricing, advertising, marketing and capital investment decision making. The importance of accurate standard cost data cannot be overstated.

It is well-known and -accepted that when average applied overhead systems of standard costing are used, high volume product costs are overstated and low volume product costs are understated. What is less recognized, or at least acknowledged, is that the low volume product costs in such systems are often undercharged by as much as five to 10 times. To understand and accept the need for accurate product costing has always been a challenging management task.

It is extremely difficult to accept that the base data used for many years of decision making may be the root cause of many business shortfalls. This is especially true in product costing and pricing and in new product justification and introduction.

In study after study, the average applied overhead analysis targeted at the lower 50 percent (in volume) of all products offered account for less than 5 percent of sales volume and productive labor, are therefore assigned less than 5 percent of all overheads, yet account for 20 percent to 30 percent of all non-material cost. In other words, over 50 percent of products are sold at a loss. Until this cost distortion is acknowledged and corrected, major management decision systems—including long-term strategy formulation—remain extremely difficult to validate. Accepting such reality has been all but impossible for many of our finest executives.

Excellence: The Only Acceptable Performance Target

Organizations once based performance improvements on a simple comparison of past and current performance, what most call continuous improvement. Today, customers do not expect nor do they accept performance defects; they expect performance excellence.

One of the most important keys to effective cost management is to set the bar at excellence: minimum 1.33 Cpk quality; zero injury safety; zero late delivery; year-over-year product cost reduction; and predictable, regular technical up-skilling.

Technical knowledge, well-understood and aligned performance systems and absolute data integrity are all adding up to a performance culture, a cost management behavior ethos.

Reduce Organizational Complexity

Yesterday’s luxuries are today’s burdens. Today, the term “high-value” can be used to describe only the most basic of essential activities. In many industries, most organizations can afford only the highest contributing activities.

Organizations with the most effective cost management are constantly and boldly applying the test of relevance and value to every daily activity. They question everything. What does this activity do to create and maintain sales or improve margins? What additional costs will this activity add? What does this investment do to improve quality or provide added production flexibility? Products, customers, etc., that do not meet these standards must go.

For instance, if a sophisticated maintenance management system is not working, it is often better to shut it down and go back to the basics than to add the ongoing cost of fixing and maintaining a low value system.

Looking back at standard cost, if the 50 percent of product variety accounts for less than 5 percent of total sales, yet creates 20 percent to 30 percent of non-material variable cost, then product by product, they too must pass the test of contribution value.

Commit to Broad-Based, Knowledge-Driven Involvement

There are two very important reasons to focus on knowledge and involvement. The first is the simple truth that people who are not involved will not easily give their commitment. The second is that the ability to truly lead is not positional. It is earned through knowledge and respect. These two success elements, leadership and commitment, are central keys to cost-effective excellence.

As we review the seven principles of effective cost management, it becomes clear that excellence in each depends on what business strategist W. Edwards Deming called “profound knowledge.” The central factor of employee involvement or empowerment has always been the perceived quality of the decisions made and the problems solved.

Standard cost, complexity reduction, and maintaining a valued and credible performance system are all driven by the common denominator of knowledge-driven involvement. Only employees with the knowledge and opportunity to be successful decision-makers can pave the way for future business success.

Management Decisions Impact Organizational Cost

The most important principle of effective cost management is leadership’s understanding and acceptance of the reality that the majority of all organizational cost is structural. That is, costs are built into an organization by management systems and management decisions.

Decisions about the number of products, the customers they serve and the way the business is run all drive cost. It is “What We Do” versus “How Well We Do It” that determines the vast majority of an organization’s cost.

Therefore, the second part of this reality lies in management’s ability to accept change, to challenge their own past decisions and to aggressively embrace the power and potential of their employees. It lies in the ability to accept the fact that most organizational cost has been created and supported by past leadership decision making.

In the end, effective, process-driven cost management is founded in the culture of the company. It is a way of life. In many cases it is also the only path to organizational survival.