In today’s aggressively competitive business environment it is no longer good enough to focus solely on reporting and analysing historical data. Enabling finger-tip access to high-quality and timely data at all times is now your most critical business asset. In fact, unless you really have to run static reports, you should try to avoid it.
Instead, your BI or analytics tools should be fully integrated with the information housed in your ERP/business software system. But more importantly they should enable you transform data into actionable insights for on the spot decision making.
Staff armed with the right information tools mean less time spent digging for reports from cumbersome menus and more time focusing on sales or providing a superior level of customer service.
So what tools should you be taking advantage of right now?
Below we’ve highlighted the top 4 indispensable information tools every business should be utilising today.
KPIs – Front & Centre
Achieving revenue and profitability targets require constant awareness of the ‘big picture’. To get the ‘big picture’, you need easy access to live statistics or KPIs. Some business software/ERP providers offer this to varying degrees but it is always good to keep in mind how the latest technology is tackling this key management requirement.
For instance, a ‘control desk or personal workspace’ can provide a consolidated picture of all your vital statistics on-screen as soon as you log in. It is a single location where you can have different elements of your business all showing on-screen together and it can be tailored to each user to display only what they require or are permitted.
The control desk works with properties within your system to report on things like orders gone out this week or month, average value and total value. You can also make comparisons to previous months. You can keep an eye on receipts or look at the top 5 or 10 of any area of your business. You can do this for pretty much anything within the system relevant to your own role within the company so it can be a very useful information tool.
The best control desks available on the market today are those that do not require a consultant or developer to configure. You can set it up, change or move things around to suit yourself. You can even create your own custom menus or short-cut tabs for easy access e.g. keep an eye on your unbilled deliveries, or have scrolling news, weather reports, exchange rates or time zones showing.
Having this capability for your business can provide you with a true and accurate understanding of how your business is running and give you the confidence to make timely, actionable decisions.
Workflows – Have it Your Way
The business environment in which we all operate has changed fundamentally over the last decade. The need for organisations to employ some form of process automation is greater than ever. Businesses today are now looking to their business management/ERP software for new and improved ways to automate repetitive processes so they can greatly reduce the number of tasks they perform manually.
The use of dashboards within your system can help both in managing your workflow items and also in presenting the data you need when you need it. Management should be utilising workflow dashboards to help keep track of all their key performance indicators. You can customise it to exactly what you want to see e.g. customers on credit stop, whilst maintaining the capability to delve deeper if required. You can see all the sales orders that haven’t been processed yet, new customers, invoices overdue, timesheets that haven’t been approved yet etc. And it remains live at all times.
Workflows can be defined per user, based on their own preferences. Items requiring attention can be highlighted and listed in your on-screen dashboard or control desk. Headline information can be provided but you can also delve deeper when necessary or complete tasks direct from this screen.
If you’re hoping to take your business to the next level, no other business tool will present the information you need better than this. Dashboards showing your workflow items offer such a wealth of information. And when one or more of your key performance indicators underperforms, you can very quickly see what is happening and drill down to the root cause to take corrective action.
Reports — Delivered to You
While some businesses like to see their critical information as it happens, others depend on daily, weekly or monthly reports. The use of scheduled tasks or reports can be set up within your system so that when certain conditions are met, key performance measurements and tailored reports are periodically sent to your dashboard, email account or on-screen.
For instance, you may like to know your turnover, invoices and credit notes raised or report on cash receipts, debtor’s days and bank balance. These are all tasks that can be scheduled to be emailed to you or to the relevant person. They can even be assigned to a folder for viewing later.
The scheduling of tasks or reports is a great time saver and can bring unprecedented efficiency to your reporting. And, with real-time access to daily or weekly information your staff are instantly more productive, acting on the information as it happens.
Data Analysis — As You Like It
Different software packages offer different levels of business intelligence. Some businesses like a graphical representation of how their business is doing; others prefer a more linear view. But one thing is clear, business owners today need the capability to see key metrics when they want, how they want it and in a format they require. They also need to be able to delve deeper when further analysis is required.
Some ERP systems today now encourage ‘on-the-spot’ reporting allowing for mini reports to be created on screen very quickly and easily. This functionality is offered by some of the latest business software packages and is made possible through the use of multi-filtering on any screen within the system. You can certainly accomplish much more, much faster when you can quickly and easily get the information you need to make decisions on the spot. This instant reporting capability is very useful when reporting on sales orders, purchases or nominal ledger but it will also allow you to investigate deeper when situations need further analysis.
Up to date, accurate information is the backbone to your most important decisions. It shouldn’t be difficult to access, hard to use or inaccessible when you’re out of the office. The days of ‘making do’ are gone. If you aren’t getting what you need from your system then you are seriously missing out.
Highly effective business software systems can provide smarter, more usable information that can significantly improve your profitability, revenue growth, stock management and productivity.