Technology & Innovation

How to help your clients see the value of business intelligence

If you’re an accountant who’s aware of the fundamental value of business data, you already know about the buzz around business intelligence.

But do your clients understand its benefits and how it can help them have greater visibility of their businesses and a better view of their company data, which they can use for positive gains?

By informing them of its benefits, you can further prove your worth as a trusted adviser.

To help you articulate the impact that business intelligence can have for your clients, this article highlights why it’s so useful and where it can make a difference.

And there’s also advice to assist you in helping them take the right steps to adopt it for their businesses.

What is business intelligence?

Defining business intelligence and explaining its vast amount of benefits to your clients can be tricky.

That’s why, before we get stuck into it, here are a few points that better frame what business intelligence is and why it’s so effective:

  • Business intelligence converts data into an easily digestible format and 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.

How it can help your clients make better business decisions

The customers of your clients want high-quality products and services at low prices. And they want them quickly.

If they want their businesses to survive, your clients need to move fast to meet the demands of their customers.

Let them know that business intelligence can provide the levels of insight required to effectively carry out necessary decisions that can result in happy customers.

Jona Blecher, former managing director of accountancy firm The Outsource CFO, used business intelligence to provide his clients with monthly reports that give them a competitive edge and helps his practice provide a better service.

He says: “Business intelligence saves me time, helps my clients make informed business decisions, quicker, and ​it helps me provide a more professional service.”

Cultural shift towards more evidence-based management

On a global business management level, there’s been a fundamental shift from an old-fashioned style of intuitive decision-making to a more evidence and fact-based approach.

Businesses of all sizes can no longer afford to make decisions without the evidence necessary to ensure they are made with full confidence.

It becomes far too costly when these decisions have to be revised or reversed because there wasn’t enough data available.

Successful organisations are making a conscious effort to shift their entire culture into a more data-driven business practice. Every impactful decision should be based on data and the insight this offers – there’s no more room for guesswork.

As a new generation of tech-savvy managers replace the baby boomers, this data-driven managerial shift will only intensify.

This leads to an increased need for business intelligence that will help facilitate this new management style and enable businesses to evolve with the people who drive them.

Three reasons why your clients haven’t jumped on board

Despite the advantages of adopting business intelligence, there are still many companies that are hesitant to start using it.

Here are a few concerns that your clients may have and how they’re being addressed:

1. They think acquiring analytics talent is expensive

As the popularity of business intelligence increases, so too does the perceived need for having people in the business who have the skills to convert this data into real insights.

This talent may be viewed by your clients as expensive to hire or outsource, and, when outsourced, it’s feared they will not be supported adequately.

With the rise of self-service business intelligence applications and the customer focus that many are being developed with, the truth is that the software has become simpler to use and more accessible to your existing employees.

As accountants, it’s also become easier to provide your clients with accurate insights into what’s going on in their companies.

This makes for a seamless support and advisory service where business intelligence is integrated into the everyday work you do for your clients.

2. They’re unclear about the return on investment

As you may know, most small business owners feel that cutting costs is a sure-fire way to increase revenue.

While they’re not wrong, it does make it difficult to convince your clients to spend more on a business intelligence solution, especially if vendors don’t emphasise the potential return on investment enough.

Therefore, a combination of tangible and intangible measurements needs to be highlighted to rationalise any potential investment.

This should not only be quantified by direct revenue generated but also by the time and resources the technology could save.

3. They lack trust in technology

Even though it’s capable, available and, to some extent, affordable, technology adoption still poses a major challenge for less-technical businesses.

Without financial means and/or a well-defined return on investment, your clients may not be willing to get past the technical block and invest.

This might be because they don’t believe they have the time to learn or adapt to a new way of running their companies.

However, the approach to adopting technology to help run and manage businesses and their data has changed dramatically.

Small businesses in particular no longer need an entire IT department to support this software.

In fact, in most cases, you’re also a business owner’s adviser on technology and often help to select and implement the appropriate software.

How your clients can outperform their competitors

Business intelligence won’t just give your clients more visibility into their companies. Nor will it simply offer alternative views of their data so they can work out how to make their businesses more successful.

The main point of it is to help them stay ahead of their competitors.

Business intelligence will provide your clients with valuable insights into market trends. That will allow them to make fast, data-driven decisions.

But how can they do this?

They need to collect enough of the right data in order to make those better decisions. This in turn will lead to more satisfied customers, with an outcome of a business that’s more profitable.

And as a result, they can outperform their competitors.

Ultimately, if your clients are collecting data about their customers, products or services but are failing to use it to improve how they are performing, it’s time for them to start using business intelligence.

Tips to help your clients start using business intelligence

When talking to your clients about using business intelligence, it’s important that you speak to the key benefits depending on their needs.

For small business owners, it would be essential to highlight the potential for improved reporting and explain how business intelligence can easily provide them with information to help make the right decisions to fuel growth.

A few benefits to highlight to a small business owner could be:

  • Prevent unwanted surprises by knowing what’s happening in the business anytime, anywhere.​
  • Optimise cash flow to meet needs of the business and reduce risks.​
  • Identify opportunities to grow, reduce costs (manual processes, errors, stock outs, single sourced suppliers, etc) and increase profitability.​
  • Share consistent, up-to-date information that supports informed decision-making.

Final thoughts

With business intelligence functionality – covering financial reporting to operational reporting for the whole business – your clients can finally go beyond the limitations of spreadsheets to get a real-time overview of their data and transform it into actionable information.

Make it your job to help them realise that and truly provide the value and business advice that will help make them successful.

After all, a successful client equals a successful accountant.