Benefits of Business Intelligence: Excel and Tableau
Simple, high impact solutions to common business problems that help you get actionable insights from your data quickly.
I've gotten to talk to a lot of small business owners recently and one thing that always comes up is a lack of time to actually get everything done. Now that's hardly a secret, that's true for small business owners, that's true for parents, that's true for corporate America, that's true for everybody.
It's really amplified with small and medium-sized business owners though because their business is their life. Every decision they make impacts them, their lives, their employees, etc. So in an ideal world, they make the best possible decisions in the shortest amount of time.
One of the services that I offer is called business intelligence and it helps people do exactly that.
Great decisions in the shortest amount of time.
So really quickly, what is business intelligence? I have a whole video kinda going into the "what" of it, but simply it's reporting on data to provide actionable insights in a user-friendly way.
Nothing crazy, not rocket science. There are a lot of benefits to it, and I'm gonna cover just 3 here, because I think they are fairly common problems that have really simple solutions, with incredibly high impact solutions as well.
1) Reducing Manual Work Time
So, number one is reducing manual work time. Every company has data, every company needs to make sense of that data, and use it to make Data Driven Decisions.
Along the same lines, most companies and most teams are in Excel to some extent. Not a whole lot of people are Excel experts but Excel is still used in a lot of different ways by a lot of different people.
I have an - this is an example story - I have a friend who is not an Excel expert and his job is not to be an Excel expert but he is in Excel every day.
He looks at about 10 reports per week. Crucial information comes in through Excel and he has to spend about an hour filtering through it and formatting it to get to the conclusion that he wants. So the process is: download the data from their internal site, put it into Excel, filter it, get to the conclusion.
Building an Excel tool to ingest that data and kind of get right to the conclusion piece would reduce his manual work time from about an hour to about 10 minutes. I know this because I've done this for him. That step 3 - the filtering process - you can pretty much just get rid of that, because it's the same thing done every time, it's very manual, he's looking for the same stuff. Just building one Excel tool will save 50 minutes, five-zero, minutes per report.
Again, he has 10 reports he does this for, so if he looks at 10 reports in a week and saves 50 minutes per week or per report. He's saving 500 minutes in a week or just over 8 hours. That equates to about 30 hours in a month.
To actually make this Excel tool, yea you have to invest a little bit of time. If you're an Excel expert, you can do it in like an hour. If you're just getting the hang of it, maybe it'll take you like 5 hours or something like that.
In that scenario where it takes 5 hours per Excel tool, you're going to invest a total of 50 hours 5 hours for 10 reports, and you're going to save 30 hours per month for as long as you're using that report, or that collection of reports.
So in your second month you've already saved 60 hours for your 50-hour Excel tool time investment (again that's the maximum scenario).
If that's the case, you're just going to keep adding 30 hours and 30 hours and 30 hours a month saved.
I love a CBA's, cost-benefit analysis, and quantifying ROI's but pretty safe to say that's a home run or slam dunk, whatever your favorite sport is.
So, a pretty easy solution to just make an Excel tool, it takes the data, it does all the hard work for you and you get to jump straight to the high impact conclusions and decision making.
Tableau is another potential solution - I'll get to that more in a minute. A lot of benefits of Tableau as well but for a lot of people Excel plenty.
How anyone can make a customizable Excel dashboard at no cost: https://www.pineapplecf.com/post/how-anyone-can-build-a-customizable-analytical-dashboard-at-no-cost
2) Consistency & Transparency Across Teams
So number 2 is consistency and transparency across teams.
The goal is to have everybody looking at the same data and that's not easy to do - there's a lot of different data sources out there if you don't have something that's easy to use or easy to look at for that matter, people aren't going to use it.
So I have an old corporate story where I had a friend that was new to a team and they'd have these meetings weekly. Somebody named Bob would give direction and then her the rest of the team what kind of figured out and strategically execute on it. So at one point, she says "hey sorry I'm new here - who's Bob?" So half the room says "oh, Bob is a VP, he's over in product or whatever" and the other half of the room said that Bob was an acronym for Book Of Business.
So two different parts of the room, or parts of the team going after different strategies using different data, just really bad communication and that's clearly a flaw there but the other flaw is not having a consistent data source to use. So whatever source Bob, the actual person was using was different from the book of business monthly report - which for starters, monthly is just too slow to have for a report.
Here's where I'll go into Tableau a little bit more. Tableau, you can have update pretty much daily if you want, it can ingest aa whole lot of data and it outputs into something that's really user-friendly, and people are actually going to use it.
That eliminates the whole lack of communication between teams because everyone will go to the same place, use the same data, and you can have views that apply at the VP level or whatever down to the analyst level where you can really get into the weeds.
Another example for this is sales teams.
Sales teams should not be looking and formatting and messing with data. They're not supposed to be in data or Excel or Tableau. That's not their job, their job is to sell.
So, making an Excel report you get this really easy solution just like we said in the first example, and the Tableau solution is going to be automated, you're going to have visual cues of "hey you're doing great" or "hey you're not doing great".
Simple simple solutions that you can have the manager say "oh my team's doing great" and you can have the individuals say "oh I'm doing great in these geographies or these industries this month." Boom, done. Quick, easy check. Everybody is on the same page everybody's using the same data source - huge huge advantage and takes away a whole lot of headache when meeting with your team in and deciding on the next steps.
3) Visualizing Your Data
Lastly, it's simply visualizing your data and I've kinda been talking about this the whole time because it's such a simple sophistication.
You can have summary views in Tableau, you can have deep-dive capabilities in Tableau and Excel.
Actually seeing your data has an enormous impact.
There's one option where you have data that comes in that looks like this: it's in columns and rows nothing's really jumping out at you it's tough to look at it and it's tough to use.
Now that same data can be put into something looks like this:
So this is the Tableau report, it's the exact same data we were just looking at, just in a much more digestible way.
It's really clear to see how you're doing you can click here and it's interactive. Since this is sales, you get to see where you are in relation to your budget.
You get to see who is performing well over here, which sales rep is doing great, and which ones are a little behind the mark. You can see your performance by region - just a whole lot of information really really quick and really really clear for you.
You're able to use the science of the data with your gut instinct, or with the art of visuals. It kinda brings everything together and leads your team to be much more data-driven. You're going to make those Data Driven Decisions that are going to be better than just kinda winging it, or only trusting your gut - nothing wrong with that, but it's always good to have a gut check - and you're going to make that quick decision, it's going to be the right decision, it's gonna have high impact with a really really easy solution.
So again, Business Intelligence 1. Reduce manual work time, 2. Consistency and transparency across teams, and 3. Being able to actually visualize your data.
Huge, huge impacts from simple simple solutions.
Hopefully that helps.