November 16th, 2015

You have finally decided your small or medium-sized business is ready to utilize Business Intelligence (BI) software. This is a big step for your company and one that must be approached with diligence. If you are not careful the cost of BI software, not to mention training, could far outweigh the actual benefits you end up receiving. However, with thoughtful BI planning, you are likely to see results you would have never thought possible.

Quite a few business owners see other companies using BI software and tools successfully and hope to emulate those results. Unfortunately, BI goes far beyond installing a program on your employee’s computers and expecting them to churn out results because of it. In fact, without proper planning in place, you could end up losing money on your BI investment.

If you’re ready to bring BI software and tools to your small or medium-sized business but aren’t quite sure what your should be looking for, here are four things you need to consider during the planning process.

What data do you need to know

BI software is great at helping you obtain data and presenting it to you in all kinds of different ways. But it’s only helpful if you can actually use the information. Too many businesses jump on the BI software bandwagon because they hear about the great results other companies have achieved using these tools. However, if you don’t know what information you’re looking for or how to use that data to your advantage, BI software essentially becomes a toy for you and your staff to play with.

That’s why you need to fully understand what information and data your business needs before implementing any BI software. This will help you pick the best tool for your needs and then utilize it to great effect.

Create specific goals

When you are planning to implement BI software it is vital to have a specific endgame in mind. Increasing profits sounds great but it’s hard to utilize BI effectively when tackling a goal of that magnitude. Instead focus on performance metrics you can measure like higher closing rates or more online conversations. This will help make your planning easier and allow you to find the BI tools required to reach those goals as well as track your progress along the way.

Think about today and the future

It is important to not only think about BI software in correlation to your short term goals but your long term ones as well. You want to make sure your BI software is useful both now and in the future. Find something that can grow alongside your company over the long haul. You don’t want to constantly be changing or adding on to BI tools unless it is absolutely necessary. If possible, find BI solutions that are scalable and flexible so they can help over a longer period of time.

Keep it simple

Sometimes the desire to know more about your company can see you end up overloading your staff and employees with complex toolsets and data. The goal, especially for small and medium-sized businesses, should be data that is quickly accessible and easy to comprehend. This will allow you and your team to make speedy and informed decisions. Convoluting the process with unnecessary information or complicated process will only serve to negate what you are trying to do by installing BI software in the first place.

BI tools and software are designed to help you work smarter, not harder. When you plan to bring them to your company, this is something you will want to keep at the forefront of your decision making process.

If your company is looking to start utilizing BI tools, our team of experts can help. Together we can create a BI plan that works best for your business.

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October 5th, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Oct5_ABusiness intelligence (BI) tools are powerful platforms that allow organizations to gain significant insight into their business activities, clients, employees, infrastructure, and much more. But as data volume continues to grow exponentially, more and more business owners are realizing that traditional BI tools are becoming less effective - and so they turn towards a more modern, efficient, and self-service approach.

What is self-service business intelligence?

Self-service BI is a reporting and analytics platform that business users with limited IT knowledge and experience can use for themselves. Simply put, if an end user trying to find an answer to a business question can access, use, and generate reports without bothering the IT department or data analysts, then they’ve done self-service BI.

The end goal of self-service BI is to eliminate redundant processes where users have to request access and assistance from data analysts and technology experts. With self-service BI, users are able to gather information, analyze it, and share the reports with others, without having to know the technical protocols required to access the data.

Traditional vs. self-service

In traditional BI systems, analysts create reports based on input data, and deliver them to key decision makers. In the case where the decision makers need more detail or different data, or change their business questions, analysts have to adapt the report or create new ones.

Self-service BI is designed to eliminate this time-consuming reporting process, placing much of the responsibility for report creation on end users. It opens the door to data exploration and new possibilities. Instead of asking analysts to generate reports, end users have the ability and tools to find the answers to their own business questions whenever they want.

How self-service BI can benefit your business

Self-service BI helps improve organizations in various key areas. Here are just some of the benefits it has for your business.
  • It saves time - most likely there are far more people asking business questions than there are IT experts creating reports to answer them. By removing the dependency on data analysts and technical staff, companies are able to improve the efficiency of their analytical process and save time, as end users can find the answers to their questions themselves.
  • It eliminates mistakes - the more decisions users have to make, the less likely they are to make the right ones. Self-service BI helps ease the decision-making process by delivering nearly instant reports and visualizations that are easy to understand. Users can analyze their data from any angle and deduce answers without having to consult specialists.
  • It reduces costs - since end users are able to utilize self-service BI with little to no training, training and support costs are significantly lower than other BI solutions. What’s more, self-service BI platforms can be accessed from anywhere and at any time, without the need to install expensive hardware and servers, allowing businesses to save money.
There are plenty of benefits of adopting self-service BI. As more employees are able to analyze and explore data by themselves, decisions can be made much faster and at a far lower cost. Want to learn more about business intelligence and how you can implement it in your organization? Give us a call today.
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August 26th, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Aug25_ADashboards have become an extremely useful tool for companies to make the most of their raw data. With proper implementation, a dashboard can display essential information in an easy-to-understand format, allowing business owners to take in the most important data about their company at a glance. But a dashboard can say a lot of things depending on its setup, and it’s important to choose one that can best serve your purpose. Here are three types of business dashboards to consider.

Strategic dashboards

Ideal for senior managers and executives, strategic dashboards are designed to help identify potential opportunities for business expansion and improvement. This type of dashboard doesn’t provide information in-depth enough to make complex decisions, and is typically is updated once a month or quarter.

Benefits of strategic dashboards As the name suggests, strategic dashboards are designed to provide strategic guidance. The dashboards give a bird’s-eye view of your business. They can contain anything from overall sales numbers to sales and revenue comparisons, or inventory levels, making it easy for executives to understand the overall health of the organization.

Analytical dashboards

This type of dashboard provides users with insights from a volume of data collected over time, enabling you to understand why certain things are happening, and what changes should be made in the future in order to accommodate them. The data presented in analytical dashboards tends to be complex, and usually requires advanced training to use. That’s why they are generally used by business analysts, instead of being widely deployed to other employees and across all departments.

Benefits of analytical dashboards When it comes to creating and implementing strong business strategies, understanding the trends and events in your data is crucial. Analytical dashboards provide detailed information that allows you to compare current against historic data. Implementing analytical dashboards allows you to enjoy in-depth analysis, identify patterns and opportunities in your data, and determine why processes are working in certain departments.

Operational dashboards

Operational dashboards are used to monitor the real-time operations of employees, allowing them to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of their work performance. This type of dashboard is commonly found in departments where it’s essential to respond to critical information quickly, such as those working in sales and marketing.

Benefits of operational dashboards Business owners rely on operational dashboards to track their employees’ progress, and to be notified of issues as they come up in order to respond quickly. What’s more, the dashboards provide up-to-date information, all bundled in one place, making it easy for employees to make quick decisions without having to dig through large amounts of data.

Dashboards concentrate all data, metrics, and parameters in one place, bringing a totally new dimension to business intelligence. Your company can significantly benefit from the right dashboard. If you’re looking to implement dashboards for the first time, or to enhance the functionality of your current dashboard, get in touch with us today.

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July 21st, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Jul21_AData visualizations are common in business presentations today. They can provide us an overview of information and results in a simple and easily digestible way. Good data visualization helps users to understand data in order to make informed decisions based on the findings. Bad data visualization, on the other hand, will provide little to no value for readers and make complex data even more difficult to comprehend. With that said, you can present data in a better way by avoiding these common mistakes.

Inconsistent visualizations

It’s important to be consistent when presenting your data, otherwise users will have to stop and figure out how to read each new picture before they can comprehend what it says, wasting time and defeating the purpose of data visualization. Luckily, there are some best practices you can follow. For instance, try choosing colors that go well together. Use only 2-3 colors at most throughout your visualization - any more and you’ll find that your pictures might be hard to read. Also, use the same iconography and typography in each picture so your audience can quickly understand the information.

Displaying too much data

Overly complicated data visualizations are sure to turn off most audiences because they can’t figure out where and what to focus on. Your customers, colleagues, and employers want specific, relevant answers. The quicker you can deliver those answers, the better. Irrelevant data gives your presentation a cluttered look, making finding relevant information more difficult for readers. The solution? Find a compromise between showing too much data and not showing enough overall. Use good judgement.

Oversimplifying data

The purpose of data visualization is to present data in a way that’s easy to understand. While it’s all too easy to simplify data, if you go too far and leave out crucial parts, your audiences won’t be able to see or grasp the main point of the presentation. Instead of trying to oversimplify data, it’s better to include all important criteria and organize them into a structure so audiences can easily understand what’s being presented to them.

Choosing the wrong visualization

This is one of the most common mistakes made in data visualization. There are many different types of data out there, and each of those types require different analytics and tools to use. For example, if you want to present a sales growth comparison in the last 5 years, it’s better to use bar charts that can clearly show the difference at a glance. If you want to show a relationship between two metrics, on the other hand, you should use a scatter chart to show results.

The best way to avoid all these errors is to focus on your goals first. It’s likely that you’ll have to make changes along the way, which is actually a good thing, because it will make your presentation more accurate and effective.

Want to learn more about other business intelligence tools to implement in your company? Give us a call today.

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June 19th, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Jun9_ACompanies today are adopting business intelligence (BI) tools to represent data in a way that makes information comprehension and analysis simple. But all too often business owners make mistakes in selecting and implementing a BI software solution, resulting in unnecessarily high costs and ineffective execution. To help, we have put together the most common BI mistakes organizations make, and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Not defining business problems

One of the biggest mistakes in BI implementation is jumping to conclusions too soon without first identifying what your business wants to accomplish. When it comes to integrating BI into business operations, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Looking for a single BI tool to solve all analytics problems is one of the main reasons many BI projects fail.

You need to clearly define the business problem you’re trying to solve, and understand the specific tools required to solve those problems. Only then will you be able to select and purchase the BI tool that best suits your needs.

Mistake #2: Not getting buy-in from end users

Even the best BI tools are ineffective if they’re not properly utilized. Forcing your employees to use newly purchased BI technology without informing them or hearing their thoughts beforehand is a big mistake.

Instead of telling employees they have to use something, first focus on highlighting the benefits of the new BI system. Help employees understand why they’ll want to use it, and convince them by showing them what they stand to gain from the new BI technology.

Mistake #3: Rushing implementation

A rushed deployment of new technology is often times not a successful one. When it comes to deploying BI solutions, patience is key. If you hurry into BI implementation too quickly, your end users may not have enough time to develop the skills required to use the software effectively.

Take an incremental approach to implementing BI solutions. Make a list identifying business problems and, rather than expecting to solve every business problem all at once, try to prioritize specific outcomes you want to achieve. When you have solved the first issue, move on to the next one and so on until you have incrementally solved all the problems on the list.

Mistake #4: Insufficient training

New BI systems are complex structures that require a lot of training in order for users to make the most of them. If users lack the skills necessary to operate the software, then bottlenecks can occur. The product may be left dormant for long periods of time as users wait for experienced IT staff to resolve teething problems.

Spend wisely on providing ongoing training, so that users really understand how to use the system. Consider hosting weekly lunch sessions where a different aspect of the BI system is discussed. You could also provide online training videos that enable users to learn more about the new system at their own pace.

Mistake #5: Not making use of information and reports

BI tools are designed to analyze raw data and turn it into valuable information that can be used in business decision making. But some organizations fail to exploit the information fully - it is not shared, not analyzed, and not acted on. BI software can generate reports on various data points, identify risks, and predict trends. It’s important to leverage the information gathered and to apply it to your business’s objectives and goals.

Business intelligence software is a highly useful tool that, when used properly, can drive your business forward. Avoid these mistakes in order to make the most of your BI solutions. If you’re looking to implement BI tools to your company, contact our experienced consultants today and see how we can help.

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May 26th, 2015

164 A_Biz IntelFor businesses that want to track how much traffic their website is receiving, a Google Analytics account is a no-brainer. However, while it’s easy to use this powerful application to measure traffic, how do you know if those visitors are engaged with your website content or just bouncing the second they hit your homepage? Engagement is as important as traffic - follow the four steps below to learn how to track this metric.

How do you measure engagement?

Just because a page receives a large amount of traffic, doesn’t mean it has quality content on it that visitors value. Half of the visitors to your most trafficked blog post or service page can easily bounce within seconds. So to figure out which pages your customers like, you need to measure engagement. And the easiest way to do that is by looking at the amount of time a visitor spends on a page.

Generally speaking, if a visitor is on a page for five minutes or more, they’re likely reading, watching or listening to some form of content you posted. Of course there’s the off chance that maybe he or she took an extended bathroom break after landing on your page or forgot to close it and continued surfing the web in another window. But if a consistent number of visitors are spending several minutes on a given page, you can feel confident that most of them are engaging with the content.

Why does engagement matter?

Simple. The more your visitors engage with your content, the more likely they’ll visit your website again or - even better - become a loyal customer.

You can measure engagement by following these four steps in Google Analytics:

1. Track engagement over a long period of time

We’re not just talking a month or two, but more like years. This will show you which pages are performing best in the long run. To do this, open Google Analytics. Then in the top right corner of the screen, input your date range and then click Apply.

2. Measure all pages

You need to look at time spent on all your pages to see what’s performing best. In the navigation bar to the left of your screen, click on the following in the order below:
  1. Behavior
  2. Site Content
  3. All Pages

3. Compare the average time visitors spend on a page

Under the main graph that displays visitor numbers to your site, you'll see a search box with the word “advanced” next to it. To the right of that, you'll see five buttons. Click on the second button from the right - the Comparison button. To be sure you’re clicking on the correct one, hover your mouse over it and the word “comparison” will pop up.

Slightly below the comparison button and to the left, choose Average time on page as your secondary metric.

4. Mind the Green bars

After you’ve followed the above steps, green bars will appear to the right of some of the pages displayed. The higher the bar, the greater amount of time a visitor is spending on a page.

With this data at your disposal, now you can understand what content your customers find valuable - and then focus on creating more of it.

Want to know more about how to gain valuable insights from your business data? Give us a call today.

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May 12th, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_May12_AMost companies measure and gauge their performance and success by analyzing data. And the fact that we humans are visual creatures means our ability to interpret visual data tends to be far greater than with written words. This is the reason most businesses turn to dashboards as a business intelligence tool to present data in a way that’s easy to understand. Dashboards have become a critical part of any analytics process. Here are some common uses of dashboards across various business functions.

Marketing insights

The marketing department in an organization typically analyzes a significant amount of data from various channels. Whether the purpose is to forecast monthly sales, predict trends, or build marketing strategies, marketing officers need to compare, sort, and analyze raw data in order to present it in an understandable format using dashboards. Once raw data has been polished into meaningful information and presented to business executives, key decision makers are able to make choices based on that information.

Tracking sales opportunities

Sales dashboards are perfect for tracking various products and services throughout their lifecycle. With sales dashboards, you can identify sales opportunities by monitoring top-selling products and comparing the growth in revenue on a periodical basis. The implementation of sales dashboards eliminates the need to spend hours manually entering data and preparing sales reports, spreadsheets, charts, and manual data.

Social media management

There’s more to social media management than posting regularly on your business’s social media accounts. And in most cases, the default dashboard offered by your social media platform doesn’t give you a deep insight into your social media campaigns. What’s more, managing multiple social media accounts can quickly become a cumbersome process since you have to use several login credentials. That’s where dashboards come in. You can manage your accounts all at once through a comprehensive social media dashboard, saving you valuable time and effort.

Financial reports

Presenting financial data is so complex that, if not handled by competent employees, will often lead to misinterpretation and misunderstanding of critical data. Dashboards make creating financial reports much easier, and financial analysts can take advantage of dashboards to display sensitive data in a comprehensible graphical format - be it customer invoices, progress toward revenue goals, or business expenses.

Project collaboration

Businesses of all sizes require their employees to collaborate on projects, whether it’s on-site or online. Project supervisors need to get their teams together, in order to give them an insight of the projects’ requirements, deadlines and responsibilities, and to learn about the projects’ progress. With the help of project collaboration dashboards, members will see the complete workflow of the project, allowing for a more efficient and collaborative working environment.

Dashboards can truly take away the complications of presenting complex business data. If you’re looking to implement business intelligence tools to simplify your company’s data analysis process, drop us a line today and we can help.

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April 28th, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Apr28_AEveryone knows that business intelligence is of vital importance to ensure that a company grows and develops, but the business intelligence of today differs greatly from that which was talked about in the past. Much has changed in the world of business intelligence in recent years, and if you are stuck in your old ways then you are not doing all you can to advance your organization forwards. Be on the lookout for these woefully outdated mistruths in your approach to business intelligence - and then be prepared to kick them into touch - so as to propel your company to the next level.

Business intelligence should be simple

For too long now, business owners have been fed the idea by business intelligence tool providers that the means by which we understand our organization’s success should be as easy to digest as possible. That has led companies to take an overly simplified view of business intelligence. It is one that just doesn’t deliver the same depth of useful analytical detail that we need if we are going to really understand what’s behind growth (or lack of it). Nor does it allow us to genuinely develop a sense for the direction our companies need to be moving in - and how to get them there.

While simple business intelligence tools will work just fine for some organizations, the majority of us need to be demanding more complex, sophisticated tools to manipulate and generate value from the wealth of data that is at our fingertips. We are in an era where there is still value to be gained, but you have to dig a little deeper for it - and if you’re using outdated software that just isn’t up to the job, you’re going to struggle.

Big data is the be-all, end-all

We have no problem with big data - large-scale changes in industry practices, and our understanding of the ways our businesses work and grow, depend on it. But there’s a mammoth difference between using big data for the sake of it - because we’ve got into the mentality that its ability to deliver industry-wide improvements means it’s the magic cure for our organizations - and putting in place solutions that enable our front-line staff to actually use it.

After all, what’s the point in generating terabytes and terabytes of information if our outdated business intelligence tools aren’t capable of empowering non-technical staff to gain true insights into customer behavior, sales patterns and the like? Recent business intelligence sector developments mean that our companies can benefit from quality tools to visualize simple data collections, but the ability to do the same on a larger scale is still lacking. The lesson? If you’re looking to reap the rewards of large-scale data collection, equip your team with the tools that allow them to perform quality analysis.

The cloud alone is the answer

“The cloud” is the IT industry’s latest buzzword, but too often it gets touted around as an all-round solution that will solve each of our woes, without us really understanding its true purpose or how we can get the most from it. This is particularly the case in relation to business intelligence, where company owners are frequently led to believe that they can instantly enhance their business intelligence capabilities simply by moving everything upstairs to the cloud.

We’re big fans of the cloud and believe that with proper understanding and implementation it can pay real dividends. But the truth is that simply repeating your usual business intelligence routine - but doing so in the cloud - isn’t going to change much. If your business intelligence tools are too conventional and don’t offer enough flexibility, that will still be the case even if you put cloud technology over the top of them. It’s important to address the underlying issues before you contemplate a move to the cloud, so that you can truly reap the advantages of both changes.

If you’re guilty of being stuck with an outdated, or just off-center, view of business intelligence, give us a call to see how we can update you and help you to get the most out of it.

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April 21st, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Apr14_AMicrosoft just upped the ante on the business intelligence front once again by acquiring the three-year-old business intelligence and data visualization platform Datazen. The purchase increases Microsoft’s hold on the business intelligence market, an area on which it is clearly already focused its free Power BI product for mobiles was released earlier this year. Every smart entrepreneur knows that business intelligence systems are critical to understanding and executing growth so, whether you are already a Datazen user or are contemplating the switch, here’s what you need to know about Microsoft’s latest move.

Datazen stands out from the business intelligence crowd in that the tool is built with mobile users in mind. The goal with the conception of Datazen, which was previously known as ComponentArt, was to create a user-friendly business intelligence product that balanced power, simplicity and a pleasant experience for the end user. The software is compatible with iOS, Android and Windows devices, and last year the firm released an update allowing offline use across all platforms.

The move means that Datazen now provides mobility to its users, allowing them to continue working with their business intelligence data wherever they are based and no matter whether they have an internet connection. Connected to the launch of offline capabilities, the same release also improved the synchronization process between the Datazen app and live data sources. This allows users to work with up to 100,000 records locally on any device, and enjoy immediate data retrieval.

In addition to Microsoft’s wider push on business intelligence tools, the company is focused on specifically doing so with the cloud and mobile in mind. This forms part of the corporation-wide priority for innovation in mobile-first, cloud-first IT solutions, identified by CEO Satya Nadella last year. Microsoft says that Datazen’s offering will complement that of Power BI and that, over time, the IT giant aims to integrate the two in order to bridge the gap between on-site and cloud-based business intelligence tools. Datazen is already optimized for Microsoft’s SQL Server Analysis Services.

According to Datazen, its current users can continue to access and use all of its products in their current form. Microsoft has also announced that SQL Server Enterprise Edition customers with at least version 2008 can now access Datazen software at no additional cost. The company claims the move will bring Datazen’s mobile data visualization and interaction possibilities to millions of business users globally.

Learn more about how to implement business intelligence to grow your company - call us today.

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March 31st, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Mar31_ARegardless of the size of your company, chances are you’ve heard of data warehouses, but perhaps are unsure exactly what they are and how your organization can benefit from them. Successful companies all have one thing in common - they make the best decisions based on the data at hand, which usually lead to good business results. A data warehouse is a business intelligence tool designed to manage huge volumes of data from multiple sources. Here’s what you need to know about data warehouses and the advantages they offer for your business.

Data warehouses defined

A data warehouse is a centralized store of all data generated by the departments of a large organization. It is specially designed for data analysis, generating reports, and for other ad-hoc queries. A data warehouse extracts the huge streams of data from a company’s operational and external databases and turns them into meaningful data, so business decisions can be made based on this information.

Differences between data warehouses and databases

The purpose of a database is to record and store current data from users. A database is suitable for the traditional type of data storage method. For instance, a bank ATM uses a database to record their customers’ money transactions in real-time. A data warehouse, on the other hand, is a type of database but specifically designed for data analysis. It is used to store and summarize large volumes of historical data.

Benefits of data warehouses

A goal common to all businesses is to make better business decisions than their competitors. Once a data warehouse is implemented into your business intelligence plans, your company can benefit from it in many ways.
  • Better decision-making - Corporate decision makers will no longer have to make important business decisions based on limited data and hunches. Data warehouses store credible facts and statistics, and decision makers will be able to retrieve that information from the data warehouse based on their personal needs. In addition to making strategic decisions, a data warehouse can also assist in marketing segmentation, inventory management, financial management, and sales.
  • Quick and easy access to data - Speed is an important factor that sets you above your competitors. Business users can quickly access data from multiple sources from a data warehouse, meaning that precious time won’t be wasted on retrieving data from multiple sources. This allows you to make quick and accurate decisions, with little or no support from your IT department.
  • Data quality and consistency - Since data warehouses gather information from different sources and convert it into a single and widely used format, departments will produce results that are in line and consistent with each other. When data is standardized, you can have confidence in its accuracy, and accurate data is what makes for strong business decisions.
A data warehouse is essential for any business that wants to profit from sound business decisions. If you’re looking to implement a data warehouse into your business, give us a call today.
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