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How business intelligence can enhance your practice’s performance and client services

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If you’re a practice manager who’s aware of the intrinsic value of business data, it’s likely you know about the hoo-ha surrounding business intelligence.

You can most probably recite the promises of greater business visibility and the reassurances that a better view into your practice data will help it thrive.

But by the time you’ve finished reading this, you’ll be able to go beyond the generic business visibility line.

You’ll understand why business intelligence is such a buzz term, where it can truly make an impact in your practice, and how you can overcome the challenges many encounter in adopting it.

Ready to get to the nitty gritty of business intelligence? Let’s get right into it.

What’s the big deal with business intelligence?

Over the past decade or so, ‘business intelligence’ has become synonymous with data-driven business management.

It’s a term that most software providers and retailers use to draw people in, with promises of valuable insight and visibility into your practice.

But why are these insights so necessary nowadays, and why is it so important to have that visibility you’re constantly told you need?

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An increased need for faster, better decisions

Clients are becoming increasingly demanding. According to Sage research, 87% of accountants believe clients expect more flexibility and better service levels, without an increase in their rates.[1]

Your practice’s survival depends on it being agile enough to deliver the service level clients expect.

This includes rapidly identifying and addressing problems within your practice, as well as taking advantage of any opportunities that come up.

Therefore, the need for better, faster and more fact-based decisions is more relevant than ever before.

In the midst of these increasingly competitive market conditions, business intelligence promises to provide you with the depth of insight you need to carry out these decisions.

According to a survey by professional services firm Accenture, 89% of business leaders believe business intelligence and the big data associated with it will revolutionise business operations much like the internet did a few decades ago.

What’s more, just over 70% of those leaders also believe businesses that are slow to adopt the technology may struggle to compete in the years ahead.

Availability of data and affordability of new technology

Thanks to a flood of ever more affordable technological advances over the past decade, many practices are constantly collecting and processing enormous amounts of data in small amounts of time.

The huge strides made by these new technologies (from both a hardware and software perspective) are also reflected in their pricing models, leading to a continuously reduced cost in the ownership and use of such systems.

In addition to all-out ownership models that often involve large, upfront costs and fees, there are also software as a service (SaaS) vendors that offer the opportunity to rent business intelligence solutions through the cloud for a more affordable, regular fee.

Three reasons why your practice may not have jumped on board

Despite the advantages of adopting business intelligence, you still might be hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. Here, we address a few concerns you may have:

1. A resistance to the management culture shift

Evolving from a traditional management style that had to rely more on intuition to a more contemporary one backed up by newly available data-based evidence can be a disruptive process.

It may also be difficult for you to relinquish your personal control over making decisions without potentially being challenged by data or information that contradicts what you feel.

However, as you begin to adopt data-driven decision-making and realise the benefits, the cultural shift will naturally begin to take shape.

2. The integrity of big data

The data that practices collect today is not just big, it’s also unstructured and messy. And as the amount of it increases, the traditional means of collecting and processing it become more difficult (think about a spreadsheet, for example).

It quickly gets to a point where you may be overwhelmed by the amount of data in in your practice.

For your practice to make a success of this data, you need a way of handling it so it can be converted into actionable insights while maintaining its accuracy and integrity.

By delaying the adoption of business intelligence solutions, your practice will risk having an overflow of incorrect data that is mostly keyed in manually, without being able to effectively act on it.

3. Security and privacy concerns

You might be hesitant to trust cloud-based business intelligence solutions with your practice data. Perhaps you still prefer private networks or offline solutions because you think they are less vulnerable and will help you avoid the nightmares of data breaches you hear about in the news.

Most of the security and privacy concerns surrounding online solutions are born out of misinformation or a lack of knowledge. There are also incredibly strict protocols in place to ensure software companies encrypt and secure their customers’ data. They carry hefty fines if they’re not followed.

And with secure backups in place and the ability to access the system from any place, at any time (and no set physical location for the data), the major risks of information theft, loss and damage are also negated.

In fact, according to a report by Grand View Research, more than 46% of small businesses who have adopted business intelligence use cloud-based tools as a core element of their business strategy.

Top benefits of business intelligence platforms for practices

The purpose of business intelligence isn’t to simply give you more visibility into your practice. And it isn’t just to give you different views of your data so you can figure out how to make it more successful. It goes much deeper than this.

Business intelligence will give your practice a competitive advantage by equipping you with insights into your clients’ business that enable you to make swift, data-driven decisions.

Cloud-based business intelligence platforms that are designed specifically for practices can help you:

1. Deliver better client services

They can help you transform your clients’ data into critical insights about their business. With these insights, you can deliver proactive advice that goes beyond traditional tax and compliance.

2. Save time with automation

Complex data challenges can be simplified with automated processes that accelerate time-to-insight. You can also optimise workflows by replacing lengthy, manual processes with simplified dashboards and automation.

3. Gain insights into your practice

You can gain instant access to data and insights via intuitive dashboards and visualisations to make data-driven decisions. And effectively monitor internal practice data to improve staff productivity, job management and meet your KPIs.

4. Stay informed and manage by exception

Business intelligence platforms can help you stay instantly informed on critical events within your practice or clients’ business. For instance, you can receive alerts for breaches in financial thresholds, or variations in operational performance.

[1] Sage Practice of Now 2020

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