There is evidence SMBs are ahead of the curve when it comes to performance management. A 2010 Aberdeen Group study found that mid-sized companies outperformed their larger counterparts during the most recent economic slow-down and are more likely to use performance metrics pervasively throughout the organization. If you’re one of these businesses – or would like to be – you can cultivate a culture of fact-based decision-making by making the move from manual tracking of KPIs to the widespread use of business intelligence. BI is not just for large enterprises anymore!
Deploying BI is a big decision for any company, but especially for SMBs with limited resources and budget constraints. These are the top 3 considerations for SMBs starting BI projects in the next 12 months:
1) Spreadsheets – continue using Excel or stop? Excel is still the most pervasive analytics tool in the world and also the most commonly used database – especially for planners – because it is relatively easy to use and inexpensive. The good news is that there is a way to marry the best part of Excel into a BI infrastructure. In such a system, Excel is used for analysis and is directly connected to the reporting database so you can automate your reporting in a familiar environment. (Want to learn more? Click here.)
2) Your vendor approach – best of breed or single vendor? In the best of breed approach, you would plug the best product for your specific task into your BI stack. Smaller niche vendors are eager to provide the best products and services at a more affordable price than megavendors. Going with a single stack can be expensive and locks you in, but it does offer you access to a suite of products that should work together if your needs change/grow in the future.
3) Deployment strategy – SaaS or hosted?
Is your budgeting, planning, and forecasting process no longer useful to your organization? Does it take too long, involve cumbersome spreadsheets, and result in obsolete information? You’re not alone. Many of our clients came to us with these same complaints. In fact, we work with a hospital in New Jersey that used to collect 200 spreadsheets at the beginning of every budget cycle, then ended up with multiple versions of each spreadsheet by the end of the process…though now that I think about it, I’m not sure their budget cycle ever actually ended. It just merged into next year’s!
That is an obvious example of a company that had outgrown its budgeting and planning process. But some situations aren’t so obvious. You know you and your planners suffer at the end of every fiscal year, but is it so much that you should consider graduating to the next level of planning?
Here’s 5 ways to know if you’re ready to move on to a more sophisticated method of budgeting and planning:
1) You’re beyond the 6/6 spreadsheet rule.
Spreadsheets are excellent tools for individual tasks and ad-hoc reporting, but are poorly suited to repetitive, collaborative, enterprise-wide functions such as budgeting and planning. One rule of thumb that says, “If more than 6 people will use it more than 6 times, you should consider an alternative.”
2) Time constraints are limiting the amount of re-planning you can accomplish.
The best time to gain an advantage in the market is during a downturn. While your competitors may have been cutting costs during the recent economic crisis, if you had more agile planning processes in place, you would have anticipated change better and been more nimble in adjusting your business.
We have a Fortune 500 client whose CFO is responsible for calculating and reporting on all executive compensation because it’s confidential information that only a limited number of people can see. So they had a highly skilled, highly valuable executive doing manual reports in Excel. Another client – a global company with thousands of direct sales reps – had a team of 8 FTEs dedicated to calculating sales compensation payments. So I ask you to consider this question: how much are your sales commission and incentive plans really costing your company?
There is a better way to manage incentive plans – Business Intelligence! If you’re already a BI user, you should have access to:
- A rules-based environment that replaces Excel spreadsheets and improves accuracy and consistency of commission or incentive payments
- A reporting engine that enables teams to look at data any way that is needed: by sales person, period, region, product, customer, etc.
- The ability to tap into multiple data sources and perform what-if scenarios
(Leave me a comment if your BI system isn’t this advanced and you’d like more information about how arcplan can help.)
In the end, your BI system can reduce error rates (overpayments), save you time, and get you real-time visibility into compensation. Take some time to figure out if your organization has a system in place that can improve your sales commission processes or if investing in this area would be wise!