Do more with your data: Creating an intelligent BI solution

Understanding where the value in your data lies can be difficult if you’re trying to gather data from too many places. Without knowing, you could actually be making it harder to create tangible change in your business and miss critical information hidden in plain sight. Businesses in the food and beverage sector rely on continuous improvement to enhance processes, gain competitive edge and ultimately grow profitably. Equipping decision makers with the tools to identify and evidence areas for improvement is central to targeting effective change. 

So how do you not only gather data into one place, but also derive value from it so you can effectively scale your business? 

The answer, perhaps helpfully for the software industry, is an additional data management (BI) layer that connects the dots and sits over the existing application layer removing the need to replace or amend underlying software. A discreet project that takes us closer to the “one version of the truth” Valhalla. 

The ability to spot trends, quantify change, predict demand, and identify commercial opportunities is the lifeblood of profitable growth in a fascinating sector full of innovation.  And that’s just plain hard without the data. 

It’s here we move from merely reporting to a world of insight and actionable intelligence.  

With this in mind, there’s a need to go beyond the colourful graphs that catch our eye during product demonstrations. Of course, dashboards play a vital role in monitoring KPIs, spotting flashing health warnings and highlighting “at a glance” outliers. But the real value comes in the analytics: period/region/ product comparison, the subtle interplay of disparate factors and importantly the ability to “drill-down” and ask that follow on question… “Well, what’s causing that?”.  

Software that enables you to rapidly explore relationships in various sources of data, without having to write queries is at the core of this. For a long time, this was the preserve of enterprises with large data warehouses. But technology like the Qlik Associative Engine – the technology that underpins data discovery tools like Qlik Sense, allied with ideas such as BI as a Service are bringing this capability to SMEs in the F&B sector.  

Clearly C-Suite executives and SMT members have a need for strategic reporting – increasingly with a desire to satisfy this need for themselves. But so too, each business function has its own data needs to satisfy. Too often by the time the request is made, the report is run, and it lands as an excel spreadsheet in our inboxes the impetus is lost. The need now is to move this operational reporting beyond the IT department or FD to a world where data-literacy is the norm amongst managers and colleagues and near real-time information can be self-served – from anywhere. 

This might be the Commercial team keen to explore the success of a recent promotional activity or to understand the performance of a particular product, customer or channel in a given period. It might be the Finance department rightly focussing on matters of cost, spend and cashflow.  

It could be Operations trying to measure & optimise Yield, Throughput, Fill-Rate, Unplanned Downtime, Inventory & Wastage or Procurement seeking to improve buying – all real skills, but none of these can be done in a data vacuum.  

It’s here the BI layer comes into its own, by providing the opportunity for these users to interact with data previously only available to those with expensive ERP licences and training.  

With the rate at which supply chains are transforming having accelerated in last 18 months, us all undergoing a crash course in managing risk and the need for each member of the business to spot and make the most of each opportunity, the need for more of us to become data-driven decision makers is apparent. The role of leaders in the sector is to facilitate that and the challenge to the IT sector is to help make it happen without too much pain.  

Join us for our lunch and learn session on 1st November to learn more about how business intelligence can drive your business success. 

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Written by Darren Rafferty, Food and Beverage Sector Lead,