Business Intelligence reporting is the process of preparing and analysing data using BI tools to find trends, identify opportunities and provide business leaders with actionable insights. As we'll look at later in this article, the benefits of BI reporting are numerous, but most significantly, it empowers improved decision-making and, ultimately, increased business performance. This article will explain how BI reporting works, why it's needed, and who can benefit before sharing how we at Yammayap are helping businesses leverage these powerful tools.
Types of Business Intelligence reports
As we explained in our recent article What is a bespoke business management system? the first thing we look for in a client is that they are thriving; meaning they are an established, successful company that has grown organically over several years. Of course, other types of business would benefit from a system such as those we create, but ultimately your business needs to be of a certain size and complexity to see all of the benefits one can bring. Our ideal client has between 20-50 employees and is usually fairly local to us in Bournemouth, so it makes it easy to get together as and when a face-to-face discussion is needed to iron out any fine details.
- Dashboards and data visualisation are used to help people digest and analyse data visually. Graphs and charts are much easier to understand than a mass of data tables, and when you add in some interactivity, you allow users to adjust their viewpoint and better dissect and analyse information.
- Scheduled reports are used to deliver timely prompts to stakeholders on a regular basis. Users can set up custom reports that’ll then be emailed out to recipients on a schedule of their choosing.
- Self-service BI allows non-technical people to easily create reports and analyse data without needing to write code. In our opinion, this is what most businesses should be aiming for. Yes, you may well need technical assistance getting set up, making significant changes, or creating complicated dashboards, but users should be able to explore data with minimal technical expertise.
- Embedded BI integrates all of the capabilities we're talking about into an organisation’s existing applications, portals and processes. This lets those who need the data and insight see it when they need it in their existing workflow. By embedding BI into a workflow, you save time and give people the pertinent information they need at the time they need it.
- Mobile BI is simply the ability to access and share BI reporting capabilities on any device. While travelling to and from the office and seeing customers reduced during the pandemic, there is no doubt that we will revert to more face-to-face interactions shortly. So with that, our data needs to be mobile.
Hang on a minute; all of my applications already do reports, so why do I need BI as well?
Most of the software we use today (and hardware) has some form of inbuilt reporting and alerting capabilities; however, they are typically disconnected from one and other. The finance team have reports generated by Xero, Sage, Access or Quickbooks; the sales team pull their reports and forecasts from Salesforce, Hubspot, Zoho or Keap, the marketing team have their reports and analytics and let's not forget the service or manufacturing teams, who have their reports too. While for tiny businesses, this may be ok, what it leads to in larger companies with lots of data is missed opportunities, slower decision-making, and disconnected thinking.
BI reporting can connect to all of your data sources, be that systems like we mention above, or even simple spreadsheets or legacy databases. The power of BI is that it can take all of your disconnected information and turn it into one powerful suite of interactive reports.
The benefits of business intelligence
As we've explained, business intelligence helps you to access and analyse data, but what are the key benefits of embracing this technology?
- Increased efficiency - BI reporting systems are designed to process significant volumes of data, pulling it in from various sources and combining it into meaningful reports and dashboards. Many businesses already produce reports and collate data, but often there's a large amount of manual work required by humans. BI reporting tools can do what would take humans hours or days, in seconds.
- Faster analysis - alongside the improvement in efficiency is the ability to analyse data much faster. Insightful reports are in the hands of decision-makers far quicker than they were, and by creating well thought through dashboards, the actual analysis time is reduced.
- Close to real-time data - as soon as you start to look at data, it is out of date, with more being created all the time. With traditional information collection methods sometimes taking people hours or days, data can be outdated and misleading by the time it gets to decision-makers. By embracing BI technology, you ensure that the data you're looking at is as close to real-time as possible.
- Data-driven decision making - many of the best and biggest businesses in the world understand the power and value of data in their decision-making process, leading to it being coined the new oil. But it isn't only multinationals that have a treasure trove of data; even the smallest of companies can leverage it to their advantage. Using BI reporting tools, internal and external discussions and decisions can be based on facts rather than hearsay and guestimates.
- Improved customer experience - everything we've mentioned so far helps you as a business and your team perform to the best of your abilities, but customers stand to benefit too. They get faster and more accurate information, better service and overall an enhanced experience. You may even decide to open up some of your BI reporting to your customers, giving them their own dashboards they can access at any time.
- Improved employee satisfaction - BI reporting can reduce internal friction and improve satisfaction among your workforce by giving everyone a window of "truth" into the performance of the business. Too often, employees and leaders have conflicting views and even data, so by bringing it all together, people are all on the same page from the start of a conversation. Not only that but there is a new generation of workers entering the workplace, one that has grown up with tech and expects systems to work without issue. By implementing systems such as BI reporting, you demonstrate your commitment to innovation and hopefully retain the best and brightest.
- Increased competitive advantage - finally, and probably most importantly, BI reporting gives you an edge over your competition. You will power up your capabilities and stand out from the crowd for all of the reasons above.
Business Intelligence Reporting Tools
Today, there are many BI reporting tools available, each with its benefits and use cases. These include:
- Microsoft PowerBI
- Amazon QuickSight
- Google Charts
- Qlik Sense
- SAP Analytics Cloud
- Zoho Analytics
- IBM Cognos Analytics
This isn't an exhaustive list, but these are the tools that we consider to be the best in the market currently.
How to create BI reports
It should go without saying that the exact process of creating BI reports will depend on the reporting tool you choose and your systems, i.e. where your data is. Still, there are some general best practices you should look to follow regardless of the above.
- Identify your users and their needs - start by speaking to key stakeholders and listening to their requirements. What do they want to know, what information do they often request from others in different departments, etc.? To ensure maximum value for all involved, you need to establish which key performance indicators (KPIs) will be most impactful for them and then prioritise delivering those.
- Decide where data processing takes place - many of the tools above will give you a choice between on-premise (desktop) data processing and cloud. If, for instance, you have lots of sensitive personal information stored on your servers, you may not want to see it transferred to the cloud. Equally, if you have a massive amount of data, you may not have the physical hardware onsite needed to process it.
- Prepare your data - you need to get access to all of the required data sources and ensure that they will talk to your chosen BI reporting platform without issue.
- Build dashboards and reports - start to build the dashboards and reports your users have asked for, going back to them where required to ensure they give them what they need.
- Review and evolve - BI reporting should evolve as technology and your business change.
- Empower self-service - help your users to make changes and build their own reports. BI reporting is most powerful when people can access the insightful information they need on the fly.
- Look at integration opportunities - now that you've got your BI reporting up and running, are there any opportunities to embed reports or dashboards into existing workflows?
Yammayap's approach to BI Reporting
It should go without saying that a crucial part of the business management systems we develop is BI Reporting. What perhaps isn't apparent is that you don't need to have us develop some software to set up this capability. Our experienced in-house solutions architect can work with you to connect existing IT systems, build dashboards, and create reports for those who need them. Not only that, but we can spend time training your team so that they can go on to make their own reports and adjust their dashboards as needed.
Sound good? Get in touch.