Technology & Innovation

How business intelligence strategy can drive digital transformation

If data drives your business, you can make better decisions that make the most of your competitive advantages with a business intelligence strategy.

People sitting at desks in a large office

If data drives your business, you can make better decisions that make the most of your competitive advantages with a business intelligence strategy.

Business intelligence is a vital tool in the CFO’s toolkit. Accurate and easily-accessible financial data allows you to understand what’s happening with business-critical metrics such as profit margin and cash flow. But today, business intelligence is even more important as the CFO role has evolved – 97% of financial decision makers in Canada say their role has significantly changed in the past five years, according to our report CFO 3.0: Digital transformation beyond financial management.

Much of the difficulty is coming from data and business intelligence-related challenges – aspects of the job that financial decision makers find challenging include thinking of new ways to help the business with financial matters (76%), integrating financial and operational information (73%), compliance audits (70%), a lack of available real-time financial data and insights (68%), and aggregating information across sites and locations (66%).

As a result, it may be you who has the responsibility of driving the use of digital financial tools which can support an effective business intelligence strategy, with almost three-quarters of financial leaders (70%) having a hand in driving digital transformation.

Why business intelligence drives digital transformation

If you want to drive digital transformation in your business, you will need to build your organization’s data and analytics competency. In many industries, such as discrete and process manufacturing, using data and information as an asset is still in the early adoption phase.

The fact that we’re still in an early adoption stage is something you can take advantage of – if the use of information differentiates you from the competition, data and analytics could and should be a strategic priority. If you don’t do anything, you may be left behind businesses that do pursue business intelligence.

For instance, Gartner says by 2022, 90% of corporate strategies will explicitly mention information as a critical enterprise asset and analytics as an essential competency. “A company’s ability to compete in the emerging digital economy will require faster-paced, forward-looking decisions,” says Douglas Laney, distinguished VP analyst at Gartner.

How business intelligence works for the finance function

Here are a few points which frame what business intelligence is why it could work for the finance department.

• Business intelligence converts data into an easily digestible format (with visual aids such as graphs and charts) that ensures that the right information reaches to the right people when they need it.

• It provides peace of mind with complete visibility into accurate and up-to-date business information.

• It provides a real-time look into the health and well-being of the company by displaying current metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs).

• This critical information empowers businesses to track their success and make decisions accordingly.

In the finance department, the big benefit of business intelligence tools is not only in the visualization of real-time data. It’s also about saving time. For instance, most financial leaders (90%) have already automated processes to drive efficiencies, while even more (93%) say that automation has positively improved productivity.

Business intelligence in manufacturing

An industry like manufacturing, for example, hasn’t always been well known for its use of information and data to drive decision making. Data might have been in too many places and in multiple systems, which may have made tasks tracking inventory difficult. Reporting tended to be slow, because it often had to be done manually, usually with spreadsheets.

But manufacturing has changed, and the only way that manufacturers can take advantage of Industry 4.0 technologies is understanding and maximizing their use of data. It’s important to note that in manufacturing, business intelligence could play a day-to-day operational role in the business – it offers rich possibilities when it comes to analyzing sales, inventory and other measures which require business visibility.

With business intelligence in manufacturing, you can:

• Manage and use data (which you may have lying idle) to gain actionable insights to ensure regulatory compliance and improve business performance. You can access large, unwieldy databases and transform it into information you can understand, helping you make informed decisions.

• Manage data from various supply chain touchpoints, which could include information from suppliers, distributors and customers.

• Improve operational efficiency and the effectiveness of business processes and systems through analyzing expenditure and cost-effectiveness, to drive profitability.

The use of data can very quickly create positive impacts on the factory floor. One good example is predictive maintenance.

Using the Internet of Things, you can analyze sensor data such as temperature and vibration, allowing you to monitor the health of your assets and machinery, reducing downtime and delay.

Instead of waiting until a machine breaks down, you can find and fix the issue before it turns into a more serious issue that affects the work you can do.

Business intelligence in the food and beverage industry

Another industry where business intelligence can make a huge difference is the food and beverage industry. Like manufacturing, data analysis allows businesses in this industry to find patterns, correlations and insights that matter when it comes to increasing profitability, efficiency and effectiveness.

The food and beverage industry is particularly time-sensitive. Stock is perishable and sensitive to shelf life and temperature, while there are complex international requirements when it comes to how you handle food and maintain quality. Business intelligence could help in adapting to these unique requirements.

Applications of business intelligence in the food and beverage industry could include those related to traceability. Food and beverage manufacturers can track products through the supply chain and multiple stages of production through machinery collected to the Internet of Things.

This data will make sure that the quality of food and beverage products remains high, but it also detects issues and bottlenecks in processes that can be later looked at and fixed as part of condition monitoring and predictive maintenance.

Another use of business intelligence is in sales. With business intelligence, you can provide salespeople with a complete view of the customer and the insight that allows them to work more effectively, wherever they or the customer are.

Business intelligence can replace basic reporting, allowing you to conduct complex investigations into what your business needs for success now and in the future. Business intelligence tools can do a lot of work in connecting the different parts of your company, giving you a holistic view of the whole business.