How Do You Take Your BI? 4 Simple Rules For Turning Your Data Into Executive Reports

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Businesses today are both blessed and challenged by an ever increasing volume of data available from multiple sources. So while most companies understand the potential value of sales performance data, many struggle to turn it into actionable insights, especially at the executive level.

That’s because too few organisations have the right mix of business intelligence tools and processes to uncover the hidden insights within their data. Even when they do, obstacles still get in the way of delivering the insights to management teams.

Too many executives still depend on manually produced excel spreadsheets for managing and tracking sales performance. But static spreadsheets can’t deliver the real-time, actionable intelligence that managers need in order to boost sales and revenue.

Improving executive reporting requires organisations to think differently about their information assets and how users interact with data.

To stay competitive and financially viable, companies must harness the power of data currently locked within their technology silos. And that requires an enterprise-wide commitment to move beyond standard reporting tools like spreadsheets. Here are four proven ways organisations can use existing business data intelligence to improve reporting at the executive level.

1. Be Visual: Simplify & Engage

Anyone who has ever ordered a coffee from Starbucks understands the complexity in choosing something as simple as a drink. Try choosing a coffee based on the chart below.

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Figure 1: How fast can you decide which drink to order using the above data?

Compare the utility of this chart with the graphic below. Immediately it becomes clear how visual representations of complex data can drastically simplify decision-making.

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Figure 2: Visual representations of complex data simplify rapid and informed decision making.

Reports filled with endless rows and columns of static, numerical data that take hours to sift through and weeks to assemble don’t enable decisions. Better to use the data to help executives visualise trends and see clear forecasts or predictions based on historical data. This increases understanding and allows for better informed decisions, quickly.

2. Be Concise: Get To The Point

Business Intelligence (BI) reports should not force management to wade through pages of data. Rather, these reports should be presented like a strategy plan or a news website, with concise headlines and summaries that help managers quickly find information. The goal is to present contextual meaning and actionable insight in an easily searchable format.

3. Be Timely: Distribute Real-Time Data Alerts

Data alerts are unique visual indicators based on a defined key performance indicator (an established, quantifiable measurement that evaluates a critical success factor for a business). Alerts generally present data as positive, neutral or negative against the thresholds you define. Most alerts are highly time-sensitive; if the information is delivered after any action can be taken, it has no value. The ability to deliver real-time data alerts is an important best practice for any sales organisation. Speed is of the essence.

4. Be Mobile: Deliver Insight On The Move

For BI to be truly useful, it has to be accessible. Delivering data to the point of action usually means delivering to a mobile device. Smartphone use continues to climb (there are over 30 million smartphone users in the UK alone) and tablet sales have increased exponentially — a trend with no signs of abating. For most companies today, it’s not a question of if they will enable a mobile workforce, it’s how. As a result, businesses without a mobile BI strategy will likely fall behind the curve in 2014. Mobile BI is simply a must-have for any organisation looking to improve business performance.

I’ll Have Mine With…

To be successful, companies today need to mine relevant business data and deliver timely, actionable insight to key decision-makers on their devices of choice. Companies that generate and deliver BI that is visual, concise, timely and mobile are positioning themselves to achieve new levels of sales performance and competitive advantage.

Candice Arnold

Candice Arnold is the EMEA Sales Director at OpenSymmetry. Under Candice’s watchful eye, the firm has seen its presence and revenue grow across the region including the successful introduction of the OpenSymmetry Africa office in Johannesburg. An entrepreneur with more than a decade of excellence working with Information Technology companies such as Sun Microsystems, Candice brings a unique perspective to the Sales Performance Management community sparked by her desire to share knowledge, uplift and educate.