From Spreadsheets to Business Intelligence Solutions: Becoming a Profitable Organization

why-excel-kills-your-schedulingSometimes it can feel like you are swimming in a sea of spreadsheets. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem, if spreadsheets didn’t cause so many of their own. Using Excel spreadsheets limits the ability to perform high-value, forward-looking analysis. They are prone to data errors. Errors in data will cause many more days of diving back into that sea of spreadsheets to try to fix the problem. Knowing all of this—that spreadsheets lack supportive features such as work flow and metadata management, that they can’t handle the complicated processes of business modeling, and that they are potentially making your organization less profitable than they can be, why are so many businesses still using them?

In 2014, Grant Thorton, LLP conducted a study of 130 finance executives from companies of $1 billion in annual revenue. The findings showed that nearly 39% use spreadsheets only. The people of Grant Thorton, LLP believe that the annual budgeting process alongside planning tools will create the most efficient, accurate and profitable organization—but this can’t happen with the use of spreadsheets:

“Companies spend weeks or even months completing the annual budgeting process, which is not surprising given that the budget serves a variety of high-level, table-setting purposes in most organizations. But too many companies fail to supplement the annual budget with planning activities that could make performance management more agile.”

  • A little less than half of all surveyed currently practice continuous planning and adjust resource allocations in response to changing conditions.
  • Only 36% use scenarios and “what-if” analyses to re-check possible outcomes of a strategy.
  • When asked why no one has improved the Financial Planning and Analysis aspect of the business to add value, 62% (nearly two-thirds of participants) stated that they were too buried in basic financial management duties.

Read more about this study here. There are a large number of organizations that could benefit from using a business intelligence tool and jumping out of that sea of spreadsheets. Companies that have been using business intelligence tools don’t feel behind. Instead, they find that theirs is the organization that is competing and still growing.

Dashboards

800x518_Hand_Drawn_Graphs__Charts_Preview3You didn’t think twice when your teacher wrote, Create a pie chart & graph with the information we learned today, on the board for homework. All that mattered to you was which colors you were going to use, or just getting the assignment over with. But even as a twelve year old trying to avoid homework, you were displaying data–creating a Dashboard, if I may.

Dashboards help to aggregate data from various sources and display that data in a visual format. They prove the significance of communicating  the message behind the numbers in a way that’s visually appealing and, more importantly, easier to understand. Dashboards encourage action on the information that is presented. They make the insane amount of data that is generated in organizations today seem less mind-boggling. But even then, that information can’t always be communicated in an understandable way or it’s stored in multiple different data systems. By putting all of your jumbled data into a colorful pie chart or graph, you can quickly analyze and make a change.

To make the most of your organization and benefit best from your business intelligence tools and the information they give you, BI is beneficial when it can be visual. A visual dashboard creates graphics and charts that make numbers even easier to understand, study and use to your advantage. Even better, when you use a dashboarding tool you don’t even need to create the chart yourself. Instead of the tedious, dreaded, homework feeling, all of the work is done for you. All YOU have to do is look at the graphics and use them to help your business grow. You can thank your 6th grade math teacher now!