Business Intelligence is a suite of software and analysis tools that transforms raw data into tremendous information and insights for any business. But for it to work effectively, it requires a culture of data-empowerment where data ownership is centralised and everybody is able to make use of the insights BI has to offer.
Traditionally, many organisations have placed data ownership into the hands of a single person or team, which can be a huge risk for data security and may even have wide-spread consequences for the business as a whole. For example, if the single BI keyholder happens to leave the business, certain data may not be able to be amended or added to, or worse, may not be able to be accessed at all. At worst this could lead to a huge security breach, but even if not, it majorly slows down processes and employee productivity.
Let’s take a deeper look at why creating a data-empowered workforce is so essential in getting the most from your business intelligence.
First of all, it’s important to remember that BI can and may be utilised by several teams and individuals throughout the business.
This means making sure that BI is accessible not just for different departments, but also customised for the different levels of users across the organisation.
The below are four typical examples of business intelligence users. Bear in mind that this list is in no way exhaustive, as users of BI can come in all types and forms.
1. Data Analyst
The data analyst is typically the one who drills deep down into the data. A robust BI platform enables them to do just this, so they can gather new insights and expand on business techniques.
2. IT user
The IT user plays a prominent role in maintaining and strengthening the BI platform’s infrastructure. In some organisations, they might also be the main BI keyholder, responsible for assisting other teams with data requests.
The owner or CEO will use BI to gain a relevant picture of how things are performing across the company, and take necessary steps to increase efficiency and boost revenue.
4. Business User
General business intelligence users will be distributed in various teams across the business. They can fall into one of two categories: the informal business user (who uses dashboards to analyse predetermined sets of data) and the power user (those capable of toiling complex data sets).
Many major BI systems such as Microsoft’s Power BI are cloud-based, making them not just incredibly versatile and intuitive, but highly secure too.
Non-custom built data management platforms, such as Excel, lack the security of a cloud-based system as they typically place the ownership or governance in the hands of one person or team. This not only makes it tough for other employees to get the data insights they need, but also places the security of your data at risk.
If the username and password of the person responsible for creating the Excel sheets (or those of a person with editing privileges) were stolen, that means the person who now has access to the sheets can do anything with the data – from deleting it to stealing confidential client details.
According to new research by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, nearly 90% of organisations say success depends on data-driven decisions made by frontline employees. However, only 7% of organisations are fully equipping their teams with the analytic tools and resources needed to drive decision-making and autonomy.
This lack of control over information impedes the ability of 70% of businesses to meet strategic objectives (Finextra, 2019). For 84% of these, information is typically processed by IT, who aren’t always able to juggle this responsibility with their numerous other priorities. This means that other teams may struggle to get hold of data they need to carry out certain tasks, and also won’t have full visibility of the organisation’s data management needs.
Part of implementing a transformative data strategy involves making data accessible to all those who need it. It’s also about empowering all employees across all departments to have a mentality whereby data underpins all business decisions. According to McKinsey Global Institute, companies who adopt a data-driven culture are 23 times more likely to acquire customers, six times more likely to retain and 19 times as likely to be profitable as a result.
There are, therefore, a few essential best practices in using business intelligence that can elevate its impact on your business.
It’s already been established that organisations with higher data literacy rates have greater enterprise value. It’s important to give all employees access to BI tools that are easy to learn and use, build confidence, increase adoption and empower every user – no matter their role or level.
More access and wider ownership doesn’t have to come at the expense of data security. Keep data and analytics secure through a system that lets administrators set rules based on users, actions and resources. This means that everybody has access to the data they need – and nothing that they don’t.
Are you ready to start bringing the power of data to your employees’ fingertips? At Bespoke, we enable you to create a data-empowered workforce with our range of business intelligence solutions.
Get in touch today to arrange a free consultation.
Most small businesses often start out using Excel for their accounting and data management needs. However, this strategy is only doable up to a point.
Although the popular spreadsheet application can do a large number of tasks and is easily available worldwide. It isn’t a long-term solution. This is because while the program itself is sturdy, the spreadsheets created using it aren’t. This often leads to problems later on – which we’ll go into shortly.
Eventually, there comes a time when businesses may need to look at alternative software for their developing needs. This usually involves a move to cloud-based software.
Before we get started, let’s first establish what we mean when we talk about ‘moving to the cloud’.
‘Cloud computing’ is a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted services over the internet. ‘The cloud’ refers to servers that are hosted in data management centres all over the world and accessed over the internet, as well as the software and databases that run on those servers. By using cloud computing, users and companies don’t have to manage physical servers themselves or run software applications on their own machines – freeing up a lot of space and resources.
A ‘move to the cloud’ (also known as cloud migration) is the process of moving digital assets such as data, workloads, IT resources, or applications to cloud infrastructure. This might mean moving tools and data from old, legacy infrastructure or an ‘on-premises’ data management centre to the cloud.
Although Excel is an excellent spreadsheet application, it is just that: a spreadsheet application. Many businesses unknowingly try to use the platform for purposes other than what it was designed for or overwhelm it with data and processes it was not meant to handle. This can lead to a myriad of problems, from the small and inconvenient to the large and disastrous.
Here are just a few examples:
Excel lacks the security of a cloud-based system. Imagine the username and password of the person responsible for creating the Excel sheets (or those of a person with editing privileges) were stolen. That means the person who now has access to the sheets can do anything with the data – from deleting to stealing confidential client details.
As the size of data in a spreadsheet grows, the application’s performance plummets. When simultaneous access is added to the mix, things can come to a grinding halt – if the users can open the sheet at all. Many users run into these performance issues when they work with large amounts of data or combine lots of worksheets.
Excel also doesn’t integrate easily with other business applications, which can cause problems with data duplication or overlap.
So long as manual data entry, copy-paste techniques and formula errors are a reality, there is always a risk to the accuracy of data, and spreadsheets can be riddled with mistakes.
As people work with Excel sheets, they may make changes to the main file such as hiding columns or tabs, of which others may not be aware if changes are not communicated, leading to incorrect or incomplete reports. Another problem is that some people may prefer to work on a local version of the file in case there is an error, meaning multiple copies of the same workbook can be passed around the office, inevitably leading to a version mix-up.
Because Excel files don’t have an audit trail, it’s almost impossible to track who did what after a file has been edited a few times by multiple people. This can have a real impact on accountability and data recovery. After all, if you don’t know what was updated, by whom, and on what date how will you be able to restore the original data?
Setting up an Excel spreadsheet that meets all of your financial or data collection needs requires a lot of forethought and planning. It often takes time to set up formulas and reporting and requires manual tracking. You may find your business constantly adding or changing the information on the spreadsheet, which can be a poor use of employee time.
Creating forms to manage data input can also be time-consuming and difficult. Even when done correctly, the forms won’t have enough methods to control and validate inputs from the users, meaning there is always the chance of erroneous data capturing.
Cloud-based software is a definite step up from Excel in a number of ways. As well as being scalable, cost-effective and tailored to your business needs, it also guarantees maximum up-time and does highly secure backups on the regular, meaning you never have to think or worry about your data’s integrity.
Unlimited users are allowed, each with their own access levels so that employees only see what they need to see, and sensitive data isn’t out in the wild. Cloud storage also alleviates the pressure (and costs) of providing data storage on the premises.
Let’s look into the benefits of cloud-based software in a little more detail.
Cloud computing can scale up to support larger workloads and greater numbers of users far more easily than on-premises infrastructure. The latter option requires businesses to purchase and set up additional physical servers, networking equipment, or software licenses – all of which can be very costly (see below).
Companies often find that moving to the cloud vastly reduces the amount they spend on IT operations since their cloud providers handle maintenance and upgrades. Rather than think about keeping things running, businesses can focus more on their actual business goals and getting ahead in their chosen market.
If an application or website is hosted in cloud data management centres instead of in various on-premise servers, then data will not have to travel as far to reach the users. This enables many businesses to significantly improve service performance and the overall user experience for their customers.
Both employees and customers can access the cloud services they need from anywhere. This opens up various business opportunities such as expanding into new territories and allowing their employees to work remotely.
Cloud-based users will also be able to take advantage of other apps that sync with their existing data. This means processes like inventory management, invoicing and client data collection will become a whole lot easier, saving time and reducing costs.
Most cloud-based systems come with an easy-to-use dashboard which you don’t have to set up yourself, giving your employees confidence from the get-go. When a business has a clear financial view from the very start, it can make better strategic decisions.
All real-time financial (and other) data is kept in one central place – online, in the cloud. There’s no need to wait until the month-end to see how things are going – with just a few clicks, real-time reports and budgets are easy to view and share.
Historical data is also always available at your fingertips, and a proper audit trail ensures your data cannot be compromised.
Cloud-based software allows you to create the information any of your customers or stakeholders might need at a moment’s notice, and with more automation and less manual data entry, mistakes and errors are exceptionally rare.
It’s worth bearing in mind that Excel is highly adaptable and basically free. If your business is just starting out and your data is relatively straightforward, an Excel workbook with one administrator could be the best choice. However, even small businesses eventually tend to outgrow their spreadsheets and have to make the move to a cloud-based system.
A move to the cloud can be stressful, but it is often the best choice for organisations that require data confidentiality, access by multiple users, and ease in reporting.
Get in touch if you think there is something Bespoke could help your business with.