Management by Spreadsheets Isn’t a Plan

A fledgling company can manage without much in the way of sophisticated software to track financial information, inventory and the status of orders. But Excel spreadsheets or binders of operating procedures will only go so far.

At some point, the volume of data requiring close tracking is simply too great and must be cross-referenced in ways too sophisticated to be trusted to spreadsheets, where a single formula error can foul up multiple reports. That’s why business intelligence tools are increasingly essential in translating information into insight.

Business intelligence software retrieves, processes and reports data so that the appropriate employees get timely access to information that is essential to keeping the company on track. Here are some fundamental steps toward selecting and deploying business intelligence tools:

Establish the Goal of the Conversion

Any number of products can handle the financials or track inventory. It’s up to management to maximize the value of the resulting reports.

That may come from tracking ordering by individual clients to project supply chain needs far down the road.  Or the goal could be to identify the common denominator behind a loss of customers or their switch to other products.

This is also the stage at which it’s time to ask what information might already be available but isn’t being utilized. For example, no two trucks in a fleet experience the same wear and tear, so routinely replacing them based on their age rather than mileage or history of breakdowns amounts to a potentially costly mistake.

Ask an Expert to Offer an Assessment

Everyone knows that person who can spot a typo that made it past multiple proofreaders or glances at a chart and sees that the data isn’t graphed correctly. In the same vein, it can pay to have outsiders look over the data already being tracked and generated. Your employees may know the origin of the data but not how to best utilize it.

A consultant can recommend appropriate business intelligence tools and plan for the migration to a new environment, whether it’s new software or an add-on to an existing system.

Establish the Crucial Benchmarks

With the plan in place, recall the primary goals. If the objective was to trim expenses, what’s an acceptable improvement? If the goal was to align supply delivery with production, how should that be reflected in the time required to fill orders?

Change Requires Patience

Just as it isn’t good process to rush toward choosing a solution, racing to implement the new tools isn’t prudent.  Time spent educating the staff, writing the plan, researching products and ramping up methodically is time well spent.

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