UK companies face an increasingly challenging business environment. While economic outlook continues to look strong according to the CBI and unemployment is at its lowest for seven years, the global position is more confusing and the UK inflation rate has turned negative again. Certainly the increasing volatility of the global economy raises issues not only for those selling internationally but also companies relying on overseas suppliers. From pricing to supplier stability, companies need to understand the implications on supply chain, costs, productivity and customer experience – and to do so in real or near real time.
Furthermore, the worsening skills crisis is becoming a major concern. According to the latest CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey, Inspiring Growth, two out of three businesses expect their need for staff with higher level skills to grow in the years ahead. The pressure is on to minimise mundane activity, maximise productivity and provide staff with a range of tools that transform day to day operational effectiveness.
There are huge efficiency gains to be achieved from enabling data driven decision making at every stage of the business by leveraging the latest generation of easy to deploy and intuitive to use BI tools. However, there are a number of key steps to take to support the successful evolution to better, faster access to essential information.
The first step has to be Data – good decision making depends on the quality and accuracy of the underlying data. It is a given that organisations must ensure ERP and CRM systems are up to date and accurate. Equally important is to build confidence in the data and make sure staff understand the value of up to date, accurate, in depth information – especially with customer data within the CRM.
It is only when a business has trust in its data that decisions can be made in confidence. With a solid data foundation, organisations can explore the value of BI tools that enable reporting to be tailored to specific business/role/user requirements. The latest generation of out of the box tools provided with core applications such as ERP and CRM provide fast access to standard reports that provide real time access to in depth information. Adding Visual Analytics tools to the mix will then improve collaboration, enable ‘what if’ analysis and enable reporting across diverse information resources to achieve a cross-business perspective.
The key is to avoid complexity and keep it simple. While today’s business environment increasingly demands split second decision making, no company can afford to base snap decisions on bad information. Combining data quality with the ease of use and power of the latest generation of BI tools can deliver that real time, cross business view now required to track trends, identify problems, make timely investment and, critically, anticipate new business opportunities.
Craig Buck, CRM and BI Sales Consultant
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