If you’re just starting your research and you’re wondering what business analytics software can do (also called BI for business intelligence), you’ve come to the right place.
This guide provides straightforward, non-technical answers to important questions including:
- What is business analytics?
- Why is it used?
- What should I know before I start?
What is business analytics?
Business analytics is a group of methods and tools used to analyze data and gain business insight.
The main tools include:
- Structured data
- Analytics platform
- Digital dashboards, reports and visualisations
Structured data resides in fixed fields within a record or file, like in a relational database. Some sources of structured data may be your CRM, ERP, customer support, project management system or your own databases or data marts.
The analytics platform is the motor for gathering, structuring and processing data from one or more sources. As data is updated at the source, it is updated automatically in the analytics tool.
Like all business systems, the capabilities of one business analysis tool vary from another. Most tools make it easy to choose date ranges, sort, group, filter and segment data. More advanced tools will allow you to perform complex calculations, build models and use statistical methods.
Dashboards, reports and visualisations
Dashboards help people access and understand digital information. They are the window into the data world. Because people process pictures much faster than words, dashboards display data visually on charts, graphs, tables, gauges or other graphic elements.
Dashboards can contain several reports or enable you to scan through data in search of answers. Each one is designed to provide maximum benefit for a specific audience and purpose.
Above: Example of a sales dashboard.
In B2B organisations, dashboards provide at-a-glance views of key metrics, KPIs (key performance indicators), trends, and activities or occurrences. These may be related to a particular business objective, function or process.
Business leaders, for example, use dashboards to monitor progress, benchmark performance, understand customer behavior, and get early warnings if there is an issue or problem. Sales leaders use analytics to understand how they can help sellers attract buyers and win more deals effectively.
A key advantage of analytics software is users can easily navigate multiple hierarchies of data using ‘drill-downs’ and ‘roll-ups.’ A drill-down refers to the process of viewing data at a level of increased detail, while roll-up refers to the process of viewing data with decreasing detail.
Dashboards are role-based. A system administrator decides which role a person has and what kind of reports or data they can access based on their role.
Roles vary from organisation to organisation, but are often based on organisational hierarchy. Top leaders, for example, can often browse all levels of data in order to gain maximum insight.
Why use business analytics?
Business analytic offter companies many advantages compared to spreadsheets.
- Always up-to-date – Dashboards are updated as new data is gathered.
- Easy navigation – Quick and interactive.
- Consistency – There is only one version of dashboard reports.
- Easy to share – Dashboards provide users with access to relevant information from any device.
Another key reasons to organisations use analytics is to improve performance.
A recent survey of more than 1,000 sales organisations found that 53 percent of those that are “high performing” rate themselves as effective users of analytics.
5 things you should know before you start
How can you get started with business analytics? How can you extract more value from your data without investing a lot of time or resources?
There isn’t any one answer, but keep these tips in mind:
- Select one or two of your most important goals and identify which activities drive those goals.
- Identify where data related to the goal is stored. If your goal is revenues or profitability, then your CRM system will likely be the starting point.
- Check which business analytics tools connect to your data sources.
- Be prepared to put some time and resources into improving data quality in order to get put value.
- Start small with a few users and a basic workshop. You can build as you go.
Once you get used to having insights at your fingertips, you will wonder how you managed without.