Business Intelligence is a Competitive Advantage

Business Intelligence is a Competitive Advantage

It’s the first day of the month, the finance and accounting teams are reconciling balance sheet accounts, recognizing revenue, accruing expenses, and recording financial transactions. Everybody is busy working against the clock to have the financial statements ready on time. Then, a request from the senior management team arrives. They want a series of sales reports so they can decide when to launch the new product line. This is a situation where a Business Intelligence (BI) solution would’ve been very handy. But let’s start with the basics.

What is Business Intelligence?

Business intelligence is the set of strategies, processes, applications, data, products, technologies and technical architectures which are used to support the collection, analysis, presentation and dissemination of business information.

Business Intelligence Systems

To implement BI, you need BI systems. These are solutions created to collect, store and analyze data for informed decision-making. These systems are particularly useful for evaluating customer or brand profitability, carrying out statistical analysis, undertaking inventory evaluation, and being part of a market research project.

Good BI solutions, at a minimum, include reporting with multidimensional aggregation and allocation, real-time information, reliable integration with the data sources and key performance indicators.

Challenges of BI Systems

Quite often, data is scattered in disparate systems such as accounting, forecasting, sales, customer relationship management (CRM), project management, inventory, etc. So, when a company decides it’s time to implement a BI tool, a big project must be launched. Not only because the new system needs to be implemented, but also because the IT department needs to create programs and processes to feed the BI tool with data extracted from all these systems.

Writing interface programs with instructions to extract data from a system requires extensive knowledge of the database. This means you need an experienced IT programmer in staff—or hire an expensive consultant—for each system that has data needed by the BI solution.

Then comes the problem of deciding how often to refresh the data in the BI system. Should it be weekly? Nightly? More than once per day? Unless you refresh the data in the BI database as soon as a transaction occurs in the originating systems, the BI information will never be real-time.

Related: A Beginner’s Guide to Cloud Computing

ERP Solution with Integrated BI functionality

These issues don’t exist in an integrated solution with business intelligence capabilities. Software like this acts as the trusted system of record and depository of most of the financial and operational data. It offers the whole spectrum of core financial modules and it can be extended with fully integrated Intacct modules such as project accounting, time and expense management, contract revenue management, contract and subscription billing, inventory management, and more.

And built in the solution, multiple software companies offers the business intelligence components required to make smart and informed decisions:

  • Multidimensional aggregation and allocation. Thus, you can tag transactions to as many dimensions as needed. These dimensions can then be used on reports as criteria to sort, filter and aggregate.
  • Real-time reporting. Being an integrated system, all modules update a single database. Once a transaction is entered in any module, it is available for viewing and reporting. No IT interface programs and no IT experts are required.
  • Reliable integration with the data sources. Most systems offers pieces of software (APIs) that allow easy integration of third party systems with the database and functions.
  • Key performance indicators optimization. Most software solutions integrates dashboards that provide real-time access to key information and indicators that can be customized to meet the needs of the business.

Is your company at a stage where BI solutions are being considered? If you’re interested in learning more, check out the free whitepaper below on how to successfully launch a BI initiative.

Learn Secrets to Drive A Successful BI Initiative

A 2014 report by Dresner Advisory Services, the Wisdom of Crowds® Business Intelligence Market Study, surveyed more than 1,200 IT and business professionals at companies of all sizes, from around the world, about their use of BI.

The study revealed that companies that achieve BI success follow five common best practices. We share these approaches to help you launch and drive a successful BI initiative at your organization — before your competitors crack the code first and pass you by.

Missing Metrics:  The Hole in Your Donut

Missing Metrics: The Hole in Your Donut

Good Decision-Making is About Having and Using The Right Information

If you are missing metrics you need when you need it, your business will experience difficulty reaching its full potential. So here are two important questions:

  1. Do you have the view you need of your business?
  2. Are you missing out on important metrics that could make the difference for you?

If you answered “No’ to the first question and “Yes” to the second question, it is likely time to upgrade your firm’s accounting and reporting software.

Accounting Software Solutions Are Often Limited

They may be fine for a certain select range of functions, but they won’t deliver a complete, 360 degree view of your business. And the comprehensive view is essential for optimized decision-making. For example, operational data, which includes everything from energy usage to inventory and beyond, is a critical part of your business. But does your accounting reporting incorporate this data? Can you see operational data side-by-side with your financials in your reports? If this information isn’t incorporated in a visible, intuitive manner, you won’t have the complete picture when making strategic business decisions.

The same is true when it comes to financial depth. After all, there are many layers of financial data that need to be analyzed. Do you have access to real-time up-to-date business performance metrics from any venue? Can you slice and dice your accounting information to make comparisons and tracking even more effective? Or is your accounting software static? Do your reports have limited metrics? Can you only see a sneak peek of your company’s performance, instead of the whole story?

The more flexible and comprehensive your accounting and financial reporting software is, the better. In fact, you can gain a serious advantage over your competitors if you upgrade to a more adaptable, in-depth solution while they’re stuck with rigid, unrefined tools – or, even worse, still using spreadsheets for their accounting. So what software solution should you choose?

Related: Cloud Accounting Software: Ultimate Guide

Intacct Dimensions

One of the software solutions that we employ for our clients is Intacct Dimensions, a cloud-based application that delivers best practice accounting and reporting solutions for companies of any size. Intacct’s accounting and reporting software is based on the notion of dimensions. Multiple dimensions of data provide a deeper and far more accurate picture of your company’s financial situation. With Intacct, you can look at all transactions through eight distinct filters:

  • Department
  • Location
  • Customer
  • Vendor
  • Employee
  • Item
  • Class
  • Project

Integrating all of this information into unified reporting ensures that business leaders have the ability to examine their financial operations from many different angles. Reports can be modified to incorporate any or all of these different dimensions, depending upon what the user is trying to discover. And because of the high degree of integration, examining this wide range of metrics is a simple matter. Business leaders become more agile, more informed and more confident in all of their decision-making.

This isn’t just an accounting issue. There should never be any blind spots or mysteries when it comes to your company’s performance, finances or operations. Choosing the right software solution – such as Intacct Dimension- ensures that you will know what you need to know when you need to know it. 

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Data-Driven Approaches Guide Businesses

Data-Driven Approaches Guide Businesses

Data-Driven Decision Management

The data-driven approach is gaining popularity as the amount of available data increases with market pressures. The success of the data-driven approach relies on the quality of the data, its analysis and interpretation. However; errors can creep into data analytics processes at any stage and serious issues can result when they do. Therefore, it is important to have the right tools and procedures in place to lessen the risk of errors.

Related: How Do CFOs Keep Up With Technology Changes?

How CFOs Value and Use Data

The following points from a recent Adaptive’s Insights research study provide insight into how CFOs value and use data to set strategic direction.

  • 84% feel the most important skill they have is to think and act strategically
  • 69% want to leverage data to make more insightful analytics-based decisions in 2015
  • 40% consider the ability to leverage analytics to make data-driven decisions as one of their most required skills
  • 47% want their analysis to be based on predictive data, and 48 percent based on historical data
  • 76% are facing an increase in KPI demand from the executive team
  • Financial KPIs are the most effective types for management decision making

It wasn’t long ago that only large enterprises had the budget and resources to be able to utilize data-driven tools. However, as companies are leaning more towards the data-driven approaches, companies of all sizes are now using dashboards and other visualization tools to track KPIs, metrics, and other key data points relevant to their business. Data visualizations, most noteworthy, simplify complex data sets to provide users with at a glance awareness of current performance.

To learn more about how finance leaders are addressing and planner for quicker and more agile finance, check out the CFO Indicator Report: Q1 2017 from our partner Adaptive Insights below.