Have you been hearing about big data, business intelligence or data visualisation lately? If not you either don’t need to worry about it because it does not apply to your business or you may be missing out on the use of technology to drive performance and efficiency in your business.
If you are fortunate enough to not need to bother with results from your data this is not for you. However, if your business is large enough and complex enough that you have lots of spreadsheets or multiple databases that you get reports out of, then this may be of interest to you. If you are constantly frustrated by the impact of not seeing what was going on under your nose because the reports took too long to get to you in a useful format then read on.
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In small and medium businesses we have been using databases for a while now to store all sorts of business metrics, from sales figures to production inputs and outputs to staff performance and finance. We look at reports and we build static charts to look at at the end of the month to see how we have performed.
As the pace of business increases with technology and information flows getting faster, the concept of looking at monthly reports seems a bit old fashioned. It is a bit like trying to drive a car looking in the rear view mirror – with practise you can go in a straight line but you cannot avoid obstacles.
What if you were looking at live charts by the minute? Could your business learn to avoid obstacles?
This is the challenge that data visualisation is beginning to work with in our SME segment. By turning pages of numbers collected by many people and machines into attractive, interactive dashboards and charts it is possible to be more predictive and take corrective actions within the month to avoid end of month blow outs in whatever is being tracked.
There are a raft of products now hitting Australia that facilitate this sort of visual analysis, there are tools for SAP and Oracle that tend to be too expensive for the SME marketplace, then there are tools integrated in Xero like Fathom for the start-up and micro business market and for the SME to mid-market there are tools like iDashboards that are set to offer the analytic power growing businesses are looking for to improve performance and minimise costs.
These products will still cost tens of thousands of dollars, but the value they can drive for organisations with large amounts of data are significant. So if you are in business or work in the business intelligence community it is time to get to know the data visualisation tools out there and see where they can add value for you by driving powerful
David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.