Business intelligence (BI) tools can help businesses of any size capture, organize and analyze data, including sales, marketing, branding, and logistics.
When my business adopted BI tools, it changed how we thought about our work almost overnight. We could use the data we were already collecting, and it helped change how the team thought about our approach to decision-making.
This is how BI helped me change how my company works — and how it can help yours.
Collecting the Data That Matters
One of the most valuable benefits of a BI tool is how it can help you collect and organize data.
For example, your company may be like mine — a tech business with a website and an online storefront, powered by one of the big e-commerce platforms.
In addition to your e-commerce tools, you may be juggling many other analytics platforms — social media, website, logistics, sales, and customer service can all be equally important data streams. For many businesses, that may not even be the full list of key information sources.
business intelligence tools are a way to gather up all of this information and keep it organized in one place. This can help you quickly compare data across sources — letting you see how logistics influences customer satisfaction or how your website may be affecting total conversions.
For example, you may find that most of your leads are lost at one particular step in the sales funnel — when looking for info on your company’s services. Cross-referencing this info with site analytics can help you find out how web design may lead to lost leads.
Finding the right audience is key to business success. BI tools help you get hard numbers on how your current audience responds to your marketing and offerings.
Most importantly, having a central data storage tool can help you make sure information isn’t siloed off on one computer or filed away in a forgotten folder in your company network. It’s easy to make this data accessible to your team members — letting you quickly clue them in on a new insight or letting them make their own discoveries.
This opened up collaboration possibilities for my company. Rather than seeing business intelligence as something that only those with the right skills could do, the team started to see it as an ongoing, more openly collaborative process.
BI tools meant just about anyone could uncover new insights and help make business processes more effective.
Using BI to Visualize Patterns in the Data
Over the past few years, BI tool developers have been integrating cutting-edge tech to make them more user-friendly than ever.
As a result, even if you have no data analysis experience, your BI tool can help. For example, AI-powered natural language processing tools make it possible to ask the program a question in plain English and almost instantly get an answer — plus visualization of the underlying data.
In one instance, I might ask to see a breakdown of our top-selling products from Q3 last year, excluding ones from certain verticals. While the NLP tech doesn’t get it right every time, it’s pretty good at handling basic to slightly complex questions.
This means that even if you don’t have experience with SQL or data visualization tools, you can still create powerful insights directly from your data.
For example, if you’re using business maps to plot out the competition, a well-placed graph can help you show which of your competitors are doing well and which may be underserving their audience.
More importantly, the default visualization tools generate some pretty effective visuals. This means that if you have 10 minutes to a major meeting and don’t have any graphs to back up your claims, you’re not out of luck. You can quickly open your BI tool and ask a question. Within minutes, you can generate a usable chart or graphic that can help you make a point.
With additional time, you can create even more complex and powerful visualizations.
For example, while starting a tech business from the ground up is tough, the right business strategy can help a lot. Visualizations of market data can help you show where needs aren’t being met — and how a new startup could disrupt the market.
Tips and Tricks for Adopting BI Tools
- If you’re looking to convince an executive or administrative team to adopt BI tools, the power of visualization features can go a long way.
- quickly generating a graph or chart that breaks down a complex question or shows off potential insights is a great way to demonstrate BI tech’s value.
- Once you adopt BI tools, you must provide training to team members who will use them. Even if they have strong analysis experience, the specific product you choose may not be perfectly intuitive right away.
- As with any new tech, it’s also a good idea to plan for a phase-in period. Not every business sees results right away. Often, it takes time for the team to get used to the software and learn how certain features can work in their particular niche.
- While you may get results sooner than later, it may be a few weeks before anyone is really up to speed on how to best use your BI tool of choice to create powerful data visualizations and analyze business data.
Using BI Tools to Transform a Business
BI tools are one of the most powerful assets you can have when it comes to extracting insights from business data.
With a modern Business Intelligence platform, it’s often easy to quickly break down information and create powerful visualizations that can uncover blindspots or identify potential areas for expansion or optimization.
When adopting a BI platform, be prepared for a phase-in period and make sure to provide training. Otherwise, get ready to use a tool that will help your business succeed.
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philly with her husband and pup, Bear.