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When is the right time to implement Business Intelligence and analytics software?

Written by LS Retail | 30 October 2017

“Data is saving the retail industry,” touted a Business Insider headline just a few years ago. As a matter of fact, data is increasingly fundamental to run a retail business: you need a great amount of information to be able to understand your customers, to spot and anticipate trends with the right products, and to create campaigns that hit the mark. Data is fundamental to today’s retailers’ success - but at the same time, it’s not enough. There are amazing insights in the data you collect daily in your business – but you need the right tools to extract these insights. Unless you are using a Business Intelligence (BI) and analytics solution that aggregates all the data you collect into a holistic view and crunches it for use, your data will be of little use to your business.

Enter Business Intelligence and analytics

With a BI and analytics solution, you can transform the information you collect into a source of invaluable knowledge – and ultimately, of revenue. A BI solution enables you to consolidate information from multiple data sources (think of customer loyalty management, vendors, sales, etc.) into a single, clear snapshot of your business. As a result, it’s easier to monitor your key metrics, for example sales per square foot in each of your locations, sales performance per salesperson, or revenue over budget. A Business Intelligence and analytics solution can also help you capture problems with data entry in a timely manner. Errors can easily occur, but they are often hard to spot. With a BI solution, you can catch irregularities and fix them before they escalate. Without a BI solution? You will probably realize that there is a problem only once it has become large enough to be noticeable.

This is the time

If you are a company that collects data, you will benefit from a BI solution. That is why, when companies ask me “When should I install a BI solution?” my answer is always: In my opinion, the right time to implement BI is now. I can hear your objections: “I’m already going through the implementation of a new ERP system. Surely I should wait until this process is over before embarking on another system installation!” You may be surprised to hear that the best time to implement a new BI and analytics system is while installing a new ERP and retail management system. Far from making things more complicated, the BI system will support the ERP implementation, for example helping you see straight away if there is anything wrong with the flow of data. You might even say that implementing both systems at the same time will simplify your life! “I can see the point for a BI and analytics system, but I’m worried about the time I will waste on the implementation.” No need to worry! In many cases, implementing a predefined Business Intelligence solution for your ERP system will take just a few hours or a few days at most, depending on the size of your ERP database. If your company is using a standard ERP solution, then implementing a standard BI solution is the fastest and simplest way to go. You will save precious time and money, and minimize the risk of additional load on IT resources. If, on the other hand, you have modified your standard ERP solution, then a predefined BI solution Data Warehouse will not solve all your needs - but it still represents a very good head start. “I would love to be able to use the data I collect, but I don’t have the in-house skillset to implement on-premises BI, and I can’t afford a data scientist” Until a few years ago, BI solutions were designed for large enterprises, and demanded high investments during deployment and extensive IT resources to maintain them. This is not the case anymore. Cloud-based SaaS BI gives retail businesses of any size the opportunity to implement, configure and use the latest analytics tools with no special knowledge (that is, no data scientist) required. Cloud-based BI is also usually available at a subscription pricing (often monthly fees) which makes it an affordable solution for companies that can’t afford large initial investment. Even better, free trials are often available. “I know I need analytics, but I don’t know what kind of BI solution I should choose” Should you select an on-premises BI solution, a cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) solution, or a hybrid model? To pick the right version for you, you must begin by analyzing your needs and environment. The choice will depend on several factors, like company culture, technology, and in-house skill set. An on-premises version enables you to customize the system to your specific needs.  On the other hand, it is more complex to use and maintain, and many IT departments today are overloaded, understaffed, or don’t have the necessary skill set to build a bespoke solution. Cloud-based solutions might give you fewer options when it comes to customization, but, if you are interested in trying out a BI at little cost and risk, in my opinion that’s the fastest and easiest way to go forward.   The time to use your data to grow your revenue is now. Need more information? Need help going forward? Contact us.

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