While it might seem like every company on earth is using business intelligence tools to glean insight from their corporate data, surveys say that nearly 10% of companies do not yet have BI in place. Even though 91% of companies may have it deployed somewhere in their organization, anecdotally BI vendors like to trot out the statistic that only 20% of potential users have access to business intelligence. The more companies we talk to, the more this seems true.
If you run a company or a department that doesn’t have access to BI tools, you might wonder how you can use them. Boris Evelson from Forrester Research compiled a list of analysis types that may apply to your situation:
- Historical (what happened)
- Operational (what is happening now)
- Analytical (why did it happen)
- Predictive (what might happen)
- Prescriptive (what should I do about it)
- Exploratory (what's out there that I don't know about)
When you’re first starting out with BI, you’ll likely be most interested in historical and operational analytics, though we often work with finance teams who want to dive right into predictive analytics. Let’s look at a few practical BI use cases in various departments of an organization.
Finance Department: Historical, Operational, Analytical, and Predictive Analysis
It’s no secret that finance leaders often lack visibility into business performance beyond what falls within their data silo and spend many hours tracking down and consolidating the data they need to create financial reports. Creating plans and forecasts are also difficult if 95% of the team’s time is spent collecting data, and only 5% is spent doing the more important task of analyzing it. BI tools can alleviate reporting, budgeting and planning frustrations by consolidating data from different sources, increasing visibility into business data across the organization and equipping finance leaders with tools to streamline the workflow of the reporting, planning and forecasting processes. Furthermore, a BI tool allows finance leaders to up the ante on analysis capabilities by enabling them to create what-if (predictive) scenarios that help them determine the best course of action for the future. They can also access complex visualizations like Pareto charts to determine their (historically) most-to-least profitable customers and operational visualizations that enable them to monitor accounts receivables data. BI relieves the time-consuming manual tasks the finance team often encounters, giving them more time for analysis and strategic planning.
Sales Department: Historical, Operational and Predictive Analysis
Sales managers may use BI dashboards and reports to keep track of their pipelines and forecasts. Historical analysis can help sales teams understand the drivers of won vs. lost deals, which can then be used to make more accurate (predictive) sales forecasts. Operational analysis may include product line performance by geographic region. BI tools can help sales leaders guide their team’s activities toward achieving quarterly and annual objectives. With insight into all of their metrics, sales leaders can be proactive in ramping up pipelines or pushing more profitable products to hit their revenue targets.
Marketing Department: Historical Analysis
The marketing department is often seen as a major cost center. BI helps marketers understand how successful their campaigns were, keeping them on a path of generating revenue for the organization. Funds spent on lead generation programs, booths at trade shows, and website advertisements add up very quickly, and rightly so leaders want to see revenue returns on these investments. As marketing gets more focused on proving ROI, they can use BI tools to answer the question, “what campaigns have been successful and how successful have they been?” Marketers can use BI to track campaign statistics (most often historically rather than real-time for B2B businesses with long sales cycles), including the number of business opportunities gained as a result of a specific marketing campaign, the monetary value of those opportunities, and how many of those opportunities resulting from the campaign were closed/won. Using analytics to measure success rates can guide marketing decision-making in selecting campaigns that work well for the business, and reallocating resources from campaigns that are not as successful.
Business intelligence has infinite potential uses at your organization. Luckily there are a myriad of BI solutions to choose from. Nearly every vendor offers a free trial of their software so you can test it out with your own data and explore some of the use cases mentioned above. Check out arcplan’s free trial and contact us if you need tech or sales support. We’ll be happy to talk through examples of how customers similar to you use arcplan to drive better business performance.