Use Business Intelligence to Make Profitable Decisions
As the saying goes, "knowledge is power." To derive valuable knowledge from your company's operating data requires the development of an effective business intelligence (BI) program.
Simply put, BI is a technology-driven process for analyzing data and presenting actionable information to help corporate executives, managers and others make more informed decisions. For example, if you're clear about which customers spend the most money and what they buy, you can develop marketing campaigns and promotions focused on selling to these high-value customers.
Not surprisingly, a well-designed BI program can provide your business with a significant competitive advantage. Consider the following advantages of a BI program:
Locating relevant data. Depending upon the size and complexity of your company's business model, data may reside in multiple systems. Sometimes, even your employees don't know exactly where key data is located. Your goal is to increase the probability of locating relevant data. Specifically, you need to develop data maps that identify how information flows throughout your organization. These maps can then be used to capture all of the data elements needed to form the foundation of your BI program.
Gathering data for analysis. In addition to locating data, you need to organize and store it in a logical manner. Various software tools are designed to store and then analyze large and complex sets of data.
Analyzing data. Accountants are highly adept at analyzing large sets of data. They can analyze not only your company's data, they also can compare it to similar-sized companies in your industry. And, if asked to do so, they may be able to uncover instances of both internal and external fraud — especially if the data includes information on individual transactions.
Reporting. Identifying the appropriate metrics to track and report as part of the BI program presents a considerable challenge. Occasionally, "analysis paralysis" can result when companies have too much information available for the decision-making process. Your accountant will have extensive experience finding, gathering and reporting the relevant data. After all, that is essentially what the preparation of financial statements involves.
Ongoing monitoring. Once after the appropriate BI framework is created, your accountant can continue to refine and improve the program with their his or her improved understanding of your company's operations and best practices from other companies.
Engaging your accounting firm in the development of a robust BI program increases its overall effectiveness and can help the accountant to improve the overall quality of traditional services such as fraud detection, auditing and tax preparation, etc. Further, leveraging your accountant's abilities allows company personnel to focus on making decisions versus gathering the information needed to make those decisions.
How Business Intelligence Is Gathered
Here are some of the tools that are used to collect information about your business operations:
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