All things being equal, we like to do things for ourselves. Many retailers are suffering because we’re ordering more stuff online. And if you’re in a store that offers both self-checkout and cashier checkout, which one do you use?
Technology has fueled much of this self-service trend, which now extends to analytics. If you use QuickBooks on the online portal of your health savings account, you’re used to seeing dashboards of your spending presented as a pie chart or graph. A few clicks is all you need.
Dashboards and analytics help busy managers and executives get a glimpse of their business at a glance. The most important metrics are front and center, where they dominate the screen. Because every business and every manager is different, popular software packages feature self-service tools where users can customize their business intelligence (BI) views.
Self-service is great, but the question many business execs fail to ask themselves is this: Are they seeing everything they need to see to make mission-critical decisions?
The 2016 Wisdom of Crowds Business Intelligence Market Study illustrates a few interesting trends, noting a sharp growth in BI technologies. Reporting, dashboard and self-service tools were rated the most important BI technologies. The study noted that most organizations use up to three different BI tools.
When properly configured, self-service tools can get at needed information quickly and easily. Previously, you’d have to contact the IT department and either have staff run the numbers you wanted or write a customer interface to get at the data. Depending on the work backlog, a simple report could take days – or weeks.
So there’s no doubt that self-service tools are a great leap forward and no wonder that their popularity has been rising. But all of these tools are only as good as the data they pull. Your accounting software, for example, probably has dashboards that show sales, accounts receivable, accounts payable and other financial metrics.
But what if you really need to see how labor costs relate to output? Or how an order backlog affects future capacity needs? In these cases (and many, many more), you need to get at data across the enterprise, from often disparate information systems that don’t normally interact.
The questions you need to ask of any analytics tool depend on your company, your industry, your culture and your business goals but they aren’t likely contained in a single information system.
One of the ways Pyramid Consulting helps our clients is turning information across multiple platforms into actionable business intelligence. We have a comprehensive suite of BI solutions for storing, mining, analyzing and reporting data.
We’ve all heard the saying, “Garbage in, garbage out,” and self-service BI tools are only as good as the information they have access to. So don’t think you can dismiss the IT staff because you have a shiny new tool. Your systems need to be linked so you can have a complete picture of your department, your region or your company.
Self-service tools are great and dashboards can be pretty, but without access to the right data, these tools are worthless.