Every business gathers data. Whether it’s customer or employee information, the data you’re collecting is valuable and can help you grow your business – providing you know what to do with it to transform it into actionable insight.
As UK organisations large and small begin to take the next steps on their Coronavirus recovery plans, we want to help you use the data you’re collecting to work smarter every single day.
Here, Rob Holmes, Managing Director and Co-Founder at RGS IT explains how business intelligence software can be designed to help you harness the data you may not even know you’re collecting, to enable you to work more efficiently – no matter what your business does.
1) What do you mean by business intelligence?
There is a world of difference between gathering data and taking advantage of the intelligence that it can provide. Reams of numbers in long lists can look meaningless and daunting, but when visualised in a chart or graph, those same numbers can convey meaning – perhaps a trend or a ratio that will change the way you approach a process. At a simple level, this is business intelligence.
2) Why is extracting the right data important for business growth?
Data is the lifeblood of a business as it tells an executive everything they need to know about what is happening within their organisation – both in terms of their employees and their customers.
Business growth can be complex and not all businesses can scale easily. Therefore, knowing what is going on within a business is crucial to ensuring that the growth you’re seeing is actually ‘good’ growth.
What do I mean by this? For example, if you grow too rapidly, with orders flooding in, and your business doesn’t scale because it is labour intensive, it may be tempting to open up overtime hours or night shifts to keep up with demand. However, these shifts usually pay a premium in people’s wages and this additional labour cost could make the business lose money, therefore rendering the growth ‘harmful’.
Having good, solid business intelligence will allow business leaders to encourage growth and control costs such that the new business continues to be profitable.
3) What do you do to ensure you understand exactly which data is important to each specific business?
This is where getting under the skin of a business is important: identifying what its limitations are, what its strengths are, where the costs lie etc.
There are often hidden costs that a business is not measuring – the individual energy demands of a specific machine, for example. The leadership may not know exactly how much it costs to produce one SKU (stock-keeping unit) of product in terms of energy, but this may be important to that business’ profits. By getting under the skin of the business and understanding the nuances, you can see where the insight is to be found and, therefore, which data to mine.
4) Why is working with an Agile methodology important for a successful business intelligence project?
The nature of a business intelligence project is that it represents a journey of discovery. At its heart is an initial lack of understanding.
Agile project management allows us all to work in a flexible manner, accepting that as we progress along the journey, new discoveries will emerge and this will potentially drive the project in new directions.
Imagining that you know everything about the project upfront fails to accept the expeditionary nature of such projects and will always limit the scope of the project to unveil everything there is to find.
5) Please provide an example of a business intelligence project you worked on where unused data was collected and transformed into actionable business insight.
Recently, we worked with a heavy industrial manufacturing operation. They had very little intelligence about their core operations, even to the extent that they didn’t know what percentage of every day their machinery was active. They were also unaware of how much energy their equipment used while operating and, therefore, they had holes in their job-costing data. On top of this, they hadn’t kept up with the latest developments in power provision, meaning that they couldn’t take advantage of the multi-band pricing contracts which would have allowed them to exploit considerable energy cost savings, by focussing their largest energy usage at low-cost times of the day.
We conducted a project with them which allowed us to identify how much energy each production line was using, thereby assigning an energy cost to their production jobs, completing the job cycle. We also introduced them to more advanced energy metering contracts, which meant that they could optimise their productions schedules to minimise their energy costs.
As part of this process, we identified significant savings that could be made by the use of smart metering and automated circuit switching, allowing high-demand equipment to be turned off at high-cost times of the day or when not in use.
Overall, the additional visibility and insight gained have allowed the client to improve efficiency, productivity, and profitability.
This is the power of business intelligence.
How we can help
Data is only meaningful if you can act upon it. If you have an inefficient process or holes of data you’re not collecting from your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch to explore how business intelligence software can help you gain profitable insight to increase efficiency and reduce costs.