Business intelligence is no use if it’s not shared.
Information is the lifeblood of any business, yet too many companies treat it like a secret to be known to only a few – they lock it away, as though sharing it somehow devalues it. In doing so, they’re selling themselves and their customers short, according to Chris Miller, Managing Director of Greentree partner Endeavour Solutions (www.endeavour.co.nz).
“Financial controllers live day to day with a lot of information,” he says. “If it were properly channelled to the right people, they would have the ability to perform their job a lot better.” Sharing of information in a way that benefits the recipient is key to transforming business intelligence into operational intelligence.
Salespeople in the field, for example, should know everything possible about a customer they’re about to visit: what they’ve purchased recently (and how much), whether they’ve stopped buying a particular product, or whether they haven’t bought anything at all for a while. This sort of knowledge can translate into new sales opportunities, or can even reveal a problem in relations with that customer that needs to be put right.
The trouble is, some businesses tend to put the gathering of such information in the ‘too hard’ basket, or they tag it as ‘eyes only’ for senior management.
Keeping it close
The people who control financial information tend to be precious about it for several reasons. For a start, they think that retrieving information from a wide range of financial data is going to take time, and therefore cost money. If they can’t see an instant return on that cost, they’re unlikely to authorise an information-gathering exercise.
Also, let’s not forget the old adage that “information is power”. Those who hold information may believe that dispensing it is their prerogative, and that if anyone can access it, their role is somehow diminished. Some also believe that analysis should be entrusted only to those qualified to do so.
“There’s probably some justification behind that view,” Chris says, “but the lack of that information being distributed throughout the business holds it back, frankly.” Some financial data is also strategically very sensitive. Good business intelligence software delivers specific sets of data which can help a particular person do their job better; they are told only what they need to know.
“Reports often create more questions than they answer, and the ability to take a set of data and start answering those questions as you look at it, is extremely important,” Chris explains. “So business intelligence is delivering a set of data with a tool that can allow you to see that data, but also dig deeper into that data.”
Greentree IQ* is interactive business intelligence software that reads data and delivers it however the user wants it. Dashboard displays can be customised to show monthly, quarterly or annual statistics and compare them month-on-month or year-on-year, for example. Sales and inventory analysis, supply chain, job costing, budgeting and forecasting can all be loaded and shared, and experienced users can even tailor the system to deliver special sets of figures.
Intelligent use of business data means you can not only see where things may be going wrong, but also look closer at things that are doing well, and discover why. Maybe a sales representative who’s performing better than their colleagues has some insights to share. If a product with a long history of popularity starts to decline, perhaps the market has moved on to something new. You need to spot new trends quickly, or risk being left behind.
Listen, and share
Business intelligence software has to be configured to be sure it’s delivering the information you want. To get this right, the people who’ll be using it need to feel involved in the process; otherwise they may try to do their own analysis. Chris Miller has seen cases of people re-keying their data into separate spreadsheets to try to get information or results they need.
“That’s just an absolute waste of time within an organisation where that’s already been collected once,” he says. “People will often do it because they’re frustrated they can’t get the answers out of the system.
“There is a lot of really good information within organisations that just gets put in and sometimes gets reported but hardly ever gets analysed,” Chris concludes. “The fear, I guess, is that money spent on those processes is not directly related to return of better sales, but if an organisation can spend less time getting the job done, they will become more efficient.”
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CASE STUDY: Data sharing boosts Vynco’s sales team
Providing his sales team with current information is a major priority for Simon Vale, General Manager of electrical manufacturer and distributor Vynco Industries (N.Z.) Ltd. They’ve been using Greentree IQ* for more than five years and he calls it “a fantastic tool” for its ease of use and ability to drill down into data.
“We’ve built quite a lot into it,” he says, “like the ability to analyse our sales call numbers, so we link that in from CRM call lists. I can now see how many calls we make each month and each year, what sort of customers we call on, average call levels amongst our sales team; which gives us support credibility with our customers.”
Vynco’s salespeople around the country have access to Greentree’s Workflow software, giving snapshots of all their quotes and projects in their region.
“We’ve adapted a few of the CRM areas for our own use,” says Simon. “Our internal team is using it to relay information to the sales team, such as ‘these are the projects we’ve assigned in your area, these are the customers we want you to call on, and these are the action points we want you to complete’.”
As well as tracking the performance of each salesperson, the system triggers alerts, for instance if a job has been closed below a certain costing margin or a customer call has not been made.
“We definitely look at the margins a lot closer, and we act on those more readily and more easily,” says Simon. To give them even quicker access to vital information, Vynco’s sales staff are now being equipped with iPads. Connecting through Greentree WebView, they will also be able to feed back their latest information – probably through a tick-box template. The benefits, says Simon Vale, are going to be “massive”.
For more information visit www.vynco.co.nz
About Chris Miller
Chris has been working with Business Software development and application since the late 70s, working for businesses such as NZ Post, BP and Paxus.
Born in Wellington, New Zealand, Chris has spent most of his working life in Auckland supporting clients from around New Zealand and Australia. Chris, his wife and two grown-up children love to travel and recently spent six weeks in Europe soaking up the wonders of France, Italy and Spain.
Chris is Managing Director of Endeavour Solutions, a Greentree Partner.