Originally published January 23, 2020. Updated July 11, 2023
The best BI project starts with the right questions, s
o you've got all needed data sources incorporated into a business intelligence platform. But which questions to ask?
Decision makers in any organization want to know if the company is meeting the overall goals, such as revenue growth, higher margins, earning per employee, lower costs, and so on.
When goals are not fulfilled, for example if revenue is dropping, a hard question pops up:Why?And no one likes to be on the other end of that question. Like the sales department, for example, that is then tasked with creating a report and an action plan ASAP.
Now imagine if getting the answer to that question was as easy as clicking a mouse. Or, in many cases,automatically delivered to your inbox. Heck, in that case the "why" might never have even popped up in the first place because you'd constantly have a detailed overview and predictive capabilities of all company actions.
That's what BI is all about if used optimally.
A proactive sales team knows in advance when there is a risk of missing goals by mapping all the leading indicators andKPI'sinto a personalized sales dashboard and setting up supporting analyses for drilling down into specific details. Any sales department should be able to instantly get down to the details and set up alerts that address the responsible people with actions to take when the situation changes or differs unexpectedly.
Examples of important elements to measure
Are our prices consistent across all locations? Should they be? Should average income in the area influence pricing or product range?
How are my locations doing with cash on hand? Are they roughly even across all locations, or are some locations running low regularly? Why?
Are there other suppliers that can get us our products cheaper, thereby increasing our margins?
Are salespeople hitting targets for particular product lines? Who is doing great and who is not? Why? Are the ones doing great just working longer or giving discounts, etc.?
Are discounts making a significant enough difference in buying patterns to be worth it?
How well do we know our customers? Are they loyal? Are there particular products that only sell to particular buyer types?
Has a change in locations' layouts affected the way customers receive products?
Have recent marketing efforts affected web or foot traffic?
Are product affinity strategies performing differently across locations?
Supply chain management
Are your distributors meeting their delivery deadlines?
Do your vendors and distributors complicate or make impossible your online order fulfillment process?
How long does your inventory hang around the store room?
Is each employee generating enough revenue to justify their salary?
Is anyone taking time off you can't afford to lose?
Which locations are the busiest?
Data-driven organizations find ways to use data to support every facet of the business, from sales to marketing to HR and back again. Everything comes down to what questions are asked, and every department in the business will have different questions they want answered. With BI there's no reason to limit it. The right data answers hard questions. Ask away!