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Business intelligence tips and tools

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15th Jul 2010
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Sage’s Andrew Stevens looks at how accounting firms can use businesses intelligence to enhance the decision making process.

An accountancy firm’s ability to compete ultimately comes from its potential to generate profit, make more intelligent business decisions and act more strategically using the information that they have available to them. By providing one joined-up view of an organisation, business intelligence (BI) can deliver that level of insight; therefore the more people it extends to, the more people pull in the same direction. While historically BI may have provided information at a management level only, the current economic climate means that extending the reach of BI is more important than ever, and it is now a service that underpins the success of organisations of all sizes.

BI now incorporates tools for everything from more incisive marketing campaigns to improving financial performance and profitability, but the purpose of this technology remains the same – to provide actionable information to end users. It can help businesses identify where particular strengths or gaps in employee skill-sets exist, track the effect of marketing campaigns on sales performance and even identify the most profitable departments within a business.

However, for firms to realise the full potential of BI systems, the technology must be viewed as far more than an additional IT layer. Instead, BI should be seen as a means to unlock data held within a business and transform that data into information that can be used by accountants and advisors to drive decisions and change. This will not only help organisations to leverage their existing investments in operational systems such as CRM, HR and payroll, but also to move their business forward in a way that adds value.

Shift in focus

During the downturn, business intelligence did not experience a decline in spending, but there was a noticeable shift in the main motives for investing in BI, from opportunity identification and growth priorities, towards a focus on identifying costs, attracting new clients and using BI to drive efficiencies in operational processes. In the past, customers simply wanted to automate common business tasks, but they are now placing greater emphasis on extracting information from the data they have and using it to build a clear picture of the health of their business – where the threats and opportunities may lie.

A recent study by Aberdeen Research found that from 530 SMEs that achieved “best in class” performance, the majority had typically adopted BI. Indeed, its ability to enhance decision making is proving invaluable to thousands of companies worldwide; but if organisations are to maximise the success of any BI investment, it’s critical to ensure that the right information is delivered in the right context to the right person at the right time. By seeking the support and expert guidance of business software support teams, firms can ensure that they manage the uptake of this software effectively in order to maximise its value over the long term.

Andrew Stevens is enterprise development manager at Sage UK.

 

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