Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Remain Competitive by Leveraging Business Data

Challenging economic times can encourage businesses to take a serious look at their processes, products and services to determine how they can grow most effectively. These times also provide a unique opportunity for the innovation and development of competitive advantages. Tapping into those opportunities requires insight into your internal processes in order to make your organization stronger, faster and more resilient.

One of the biggest issues today is that companies have vast quantities of business data making it impossible to identify and act on the information in a timely manner. With these insufficient resources important information is often identified and acted upon only after it is too late. By automating data and information, companies can identify, deliver and act on critical business information in real-time.

In 2009 we published an article explaining how the concept of Business Intelligence (BI) is a broad category of applications and technologies each used for gathering, storing, analyzing, and providing access to data in order to help enterprise users make better business decisions. BI applications include the activities of decision support systems, query and reporting, online analytical processing, statistical analysis, forecasting, and data mining.

While the benefits of BI tools are numerous, we wanted to provide a summary of the ones we think will have the most significant impact on improving ROI.

Increased sales.
  • BI Tools can automate new information as it is entered into the system, giving immediate enterprise-wide access to applicable data. When sales representatives have the right access to information, they are better equipped to serve prospects and clients quickly and professionally. For example, once a new order is placed, the BI application can send an email alert to the sales representative and automatically schedule follow-up. This furthers the sale in the process and ensures it does not fall through the cracks. The end-result is improved customer service and retention not to mention the opportunity for increased sales.
Improved inventory management.
  • Business Intelligence applications can be customized to react when a particular situation occurs. For example, if inventory items near re-order levels, an automatic PO can be issued. This can help avoid an out of stock and/or back order situation resulting in more effective inventory management.
Efficient and effective collections.
  • BI tools can assist companies in avoiding uncollected debt. For example, the system has the capability to note an invoice that is 90 days past due and subsequently send an email and/or a copy of the invoice to both the client as well as to the finance department, flagging the client to be put on hold for future purchases until payment has been received.
Reduced data entry.
  • When a new order is placed, your BI application can automatically send order confirmations and update financial databases – streamlining operations, and reducing repetitive data entry and the potential for errors.
System reminders.
  • As office machine leases near their expiration dates or when an order quantity is changed, alerts can be sent out to the appropriate people avoiding errors and downtime.
BI tools are useful in connecting team members to key business information and simplifying the process of collaboration and information sharing. In addition, they can help managers and executives gain better insight into the overall health of their business by analyzing the fundamental operations and improving the alignment of organizational goals with individual activities. Ultimately, companies are able to increase profitability based on revenue enhancements, expense reductions or both while improving customer and employee satisfaction. Not to mention, organizational risk is reduced as a result of stronger internal control structures caused by increased monitoring of data and results.

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