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Fiona McGuinness07-Apr-2023 16:33:516 min read

4 Essential Analytic Tools for Smart Businesses

In today’s aggressively competitive business environment, it’s no longer enough to focus solely on reporting and analysing historical data. Enabling real-time finger-tip access to high-quality and timely data is now your most critical business asset.

Analytic tools in business are vital for creating effective and efficient business processes, alongside aiding decision-making. Your BI or analytics tools should seamlessly integrate with information in your ERP/business software system, but more importantly, they should enable you to transform data into actionable insights for on-the-spot decision making. This arms your staff with the right information tools, meaning less time is spent digging for reports from cumbersome menus and more time focusing on sales or providing a superior level of customer service.

The Essential Business Tools You Should Be Using

Below we’ve highlighted the top 4 indispensable information tools every business should be utilising today.

KPIs – Front & Centre

Achieving revenue and profitability targets requires constant awareness of the ‘big picture’. To get the ‘big picture’, you need easy access to live analytics or KPIs. Key performance indicators are important for measuring how well your business is achieving its key objectives. Some business software/ERP providers offer this to varying degrees, but it’s always good to consider 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. This feature can provide access to a single location displaying various elements of your business on-screen, in real-time. Control desks and personal workspaces can then be tailored to each user to display only what they require or are permitted.

A control desk works with properties within your system to report on aspects such as weekly or monthly orders, average value, and total value. You can also make comparisons to previous months to help evaluate the performance of your business and look at the top 5 or 10 of any area of your business. Control desks allow you to create analytics for pretty much anything within the system relevant to your own role in the company so it can be a very useful information tool for keeping track of wider business objectives and short-term goals alike.

The best control desks available on the market today are those that don’t require a consultant or developer to configure. You can set it up, change or move things around to suit your business needs. It’s also possible to create your own custom menus or short-cut tabs for easier access, such as keeping an eye on your unbilled deliveries, scrolling news, weather reports, exchange rates or showing time zones.

Having this capability for your business can provide you with a true and accurate understanding of how your business is performing, while also giving you the confidence to make timely, actionable decisions to help boost progress towards those goals.

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.

Workflows and business processes are a vital tool for businesses since they automatically create sequential tasks and activities to ensure work is completed in a way that makes the most sense. This business tool can highlight the most efficient, quickest, and most satisfying string of tasks and procedures for businesses to use.

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, 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, and more. 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. Manually running and pulling reports isn’t necessary, since your ERP system should be able to create automated, tailored reports. Scheduling 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. These features can help give you a better understanding of how your business is performing, and provide more control for the various departments, such as finance and HR. Instantaneous access to reporting can also help speed up decision-making within your business, as opposed to manually pulling the information which could slow these processes down.

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.

Business metrics are a resource management tool that can also offer a wide range of pre-configured metrics that can be placed anywhere within your system. For example, complementary category metrics can allow you to see when opportunities are being missed. This feature can provide analysis on products to see which are typically sold together and which customers aren’t buying these complementary items. Your sales team can then pick up on any opportunities to boost profitability.

Business Tools for Smart Businesses

Up-to-date, accurate information is the backbone of 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. 


Fiona McGuinness

I've been part of the Intact family for 16 rewarding years. After completing my Business Studies degree, I knew Marketing was a field I wanted to pursue. Prior to joining Intact, I primarily worked in the financial sector, focusing on marketing for credit unions. When I started at Intact, I handled all the marketing tasks by myself. Over time, as our team expanded, so did my role. Now, I specialise in crafting compelling content across various platforms, from blogs to video scripts. No two days are the same, and I thrive on the dynamic nature of my role. Whether it's diving into customer case studies or lead campaigns, I'm driven by the positive impact our solutions bring to businesses. In an age where AI plays a significant role, I remain a firm believer in the power of authentic content. When I'm not working, you'll find me enjoying quality time with my family, sewing, or watercolor paintings.