Business Intelligent; better than sex?

Do you struggle to get the numbers you need to manage your business? Many others do too!

Dashboard reports aimage.pngre great value to have on hand and show the here and the foward looking now. When they come to life, with up to date information and the ability to rotate perspectives and drill to detail in moments, it gives a buzz that, for some, is better than sex.

Our firm recently, we rolled out the preliminary design in a working prototype BI tool for a large sales force based organization.

Impressive, beyond our expectation, excellent and just what we need were some of the comments, along with it can do this that and the next thing on analysis.

It made us feel good. The truth is, all we did was assemble their homogenized data so it presented well in our BI web tool.

This early adopter stage, with warts and all and unfinished screens, initially had people just pleased to see their data presented in a meaningfully way in familiar organization structures. Despite the effort still needed to clean up the data, being able to get to it and see the issues they knew was what mattered.

They were also excited to see top-level summaries that they could drill down immediately. This meant there was no need to go elsewhere for information. Canned reports quickly got canned as people focused on cleaning up as they already knew that would give them what they needed to run their operations.

With much of the hard work done, as the BI tool got more populated on a daily basis it never got past the design stage. Why so? Because it is already driving the business change which became a constant. Then as the business learned and matured how to manage in a very different real-time, so did its BI tool. No issue there, as reflecting the most up to date view of both the data and the organizations is what BI tools do well. Things like new products, then appear in context, as the numbers come in without any need to change reports.

Over time, in any business, everyone knows the dynamics that created a report in the first place will mature as the base level data evolves. This often leads to static legacy reporting being no longer focused properly or even being relevant.  As for the myriad of reports that initially listed for the BI rollout, the need was also being questioned.

To understand these dynamics , consider that on any given day in the month, a business typically needs to see a single value of its sales compared to its target.  Equally vital is ensuring that sales are profitable, with gross profits visible real-time all at the same levels.  That drill down is important from varied perspectives focus on products, customers, business channels and even the salesperson. Being able to see the invoice detail may be useful too. Summary canned reports, typically at the end of the month, are now far too late to be useful to manage any real-time attrition.

In a BI system, integrating vital cost information is easily done too, and can evolve as elements get added. Components, suppliers, department activity that goes into production, all add to the total picture. In spreadsheets getting these into traditional reports is a nightmare .  Even Blind Freddy knows canned reports just tell us what is at high levels but gives no answers. A BI tool does all that at all levels and goes looking for answers too and all in a snap.

Slow to produce and clumsy to use canned reports now simply fail to deliver at the levels needed to run a business. Using traditional reports are often as unwieldy as the middleware process that prepares them. In larger organizations, this is typically the cause of much of the frustration where the dynamics of matrix cross functions see lags dilute focus and time to take action.

So why do so many organizations persist with traditional dashboards and summary reports that just focus on fixed or functional areas?

And why do they persist in spending valuable time to dig for the detail, by going to another report or a listing of the raw data, to do further analysis?

At the grass-roots, getting sales information may be quite easy, just by listing the invoice detail. And if your supply chain and costing people are on the ball, costing sheets will be there as well to show supplier and department activity and costs for each product.

The tools have been there for decades but are often lost in the functional Sales Hype or in IT speak.  You will still find many managers using sales invoice and sales order lists to get sales information! A system to roll it all up and group it. like a personal spreadsheet will likely be  doing  the job and it will also serve for analysis.

With  this information, even in such tools as an Excel  pivot table, it can show total sales for the day month or year for any business channel, customer, salesman, and so on. linking product sales and cost information will also mean they can calculate gross profit on each product sold, as it occurs. And by adding a dimension for budgets and agreeing on targets, they can track that way too.  But it is tough in Excel, whereas a BI  tool lets you integrate all your data to disseminate and managed everything  in one place.

Bigger guys have more resources to use their database directly with enterprise “business intelligence” applied directly to the raw data. But the process is no more or no less the same. They use the raw information to first roll-up then drill down and analyze in detail so they can ask questions that allow them to take actions to correct matters of concern.

But as the small guys  grow they quickly find they are hamstrung by their disparate excel systems and processes, which sees them with a quandary. Organizations who have flattened to cut out middle managers who once did the analysis, see direct access to detail no longer a choice but an imperative. Small guys need it too as middle managers have always been a luxury so they do it the hard way.

These days with efficient and well-organized transaction systems, adding a simple tool on the top allows all business owners and managers big or small to see the big picture then get straight to the detail.

Here are a couple of examples

Sales Activity

By collating sales activity, lead generation and conversion measured weekly, with numbers of leads, calls made, meetings booked, and prospects qualified, sales closed, and sales completed added to tracking information. The performance focus ia not only helping sales people, but also their back office.

This is vital to meet sales targets numbers.Small teams and large widely spread sales forces also use this to keep track of commission they will get.

Sales Development Impact

For cross functional activity measuring  the value of sales force development and customer service impact is vital to know where to focus to grow the business. By tracking these activities to a salesperson’s results makes it easier to focus on  areas that need development to improve.

Pre and post training evaluations are also very easy to see once you connect the development activity to the sales person’s results.

Large or small, without good business intelligence, lack of good access to data  means  “the high risk seat-of-the-pants” or intuitive management will persist. A plethora of static reports that continue in large organizations with thousands of players, means for them reactive response management is now all too slow.

In the past, as we focused on speeding up reporting processes, our aim was  to spend more time on analysis and less on the preparation. Business intelligence transparency has since matured in organizations, so managers get to the heart of their issues on a day-to-day basis faster. This means they spend less time in analysis more time in action.

The need for a BI tool is a “No Brainer” If don’t have one we can get our comfortable walking shoes on and help you find the one to suit and help you get it into the right place to manage and grow your business.



 Sherwood Group Consulting

Performance Management matters

Since 1993. Sherwood Group Consulting has been advising business on best practice in reporting and business performance management. 


First Published on: Dec 5, 2009

One thought on “Business Intelligent; better than sex?

Leave a Reply