Feature Story

More feature stories by year:


Return to: 2013 Feature Stories


Sept. 24, 2013: Yahoo! New Zealand Business & Finance

How Much Do You Know About Your Business?

No one will disagree that you can't run your business properly without data. Information on business transactions and everything else business-related is vital to track how you're doing. With the explosion of data in the last couple of years, managing information has become even more vital. What is the point of having all this precious business information available to you if you can't sort through it and analyse it?

Enter Business Intelligence. Far from being a tool only available to big corporations, Business Intelligence software, which is becoming more accessible to everyone, allows you to analyse all the different types of data you get about your business (and regardless of what industry you're in, there is a lot of data to sort through). Analysing data will help you make better, more informed business decisions.

More than just spreadsheets

Do you know in what area of the country your business is performing best? What's selling the most? At what time of the year? These are only some of the most basic questions that BI solutions can give you answers to.

According to Ray Major, CEO of BI software provider Halo BI, companies can no longer afford not to have a business intelligence solution in place. The BI market has now reached its mature stage and has a number of options to cater for businesses of all sizes. Major, who recently visited Auckland to meet with partners and customers, used the example of the movie Castaway, where Tom Hanks' character tries to figure out how to get out of the desert island. "He has all this information but doesn't know what to do with it so he starts collecting metrics, counting the days," says Major, adding that humans are, by nature, metrics-driven.

So why do we need metrics? According to Major, these are vital for any business owner looking to know "where you've been, where you're going and what to do when something goes wrong", among other things. The questions are virtually endless and using BI to analyse company data can provide answers to them all. "Metrics help make decisions," he adds. "Tying all the data together is the key of metrics, of all corporate goals (key success factors)." According to the CEO, it's only when businesses start translating all that data they are collecting into something that the real impact is felt in the business goals. "Just getting data alone doesn't do anything for a business unit - in fact, it just slows them down by giving them more to look at."

Look to the past to plan the future

According of Major, one of the most attractive benefits of BI is the ability to use past and current data to look into the future and set more realistic company targets. "It is a great way to ensure that everyone in the company is pulling in the same direction," he adds.

Additionally, BI adds the entire ecosystem your company is part of. "Your company doesn't exist alone in a vacuum. Partners, suppliers, customers all need data and they are all critical to you," says Major. BI software solutions allow you to pull different types of data and compile different types of reports to suit the needs of those different groups. "Everyone within your organisation has the need for data but they all use it differently," he adds. Rather than giving everyone the same Excel spreadsheet full of information they don't need, you can tailor the analytics to suit each business unit's purpose. BI software can pull data from different systems (such as sales, finance, supply chain management), analyse it and present it in visual appealing ways that even the less IT-savvy can understand, mostly through graphs and dashboards.

Tips to get the most out of your BI solution

  1. Know what questions you need answers to and make sure you get reports that answer them.
  2. Set a budget and realistic expectations for the types of reporting you need.
  3. There is no point in investing in a BI solution if you're not getting the benefits so make sure you look at the analytics often and reassess business to align with what the data tells you.
  4. Make sure it's easy to use. Everyone in the company needs to be able to see what data says about the company, not just the IT-savvy people.

Return to: 2013 Feature Stories