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Business Intelligence tools are nothing without targets

It’s often said that humans are nothing without something to do – a target to aim for. Despite our increasing reliance on technology to get jobs done, this idea remains true. Even when business intelligence tools are taking the effort out of the task, we still need to use workforce analytics and labour efficiency statistics to set goals for the future, otherwise you might as well be throwing revenue directly onto that staff BBQ.

The rewards of using business intelligence – or big data as some might think of it – can be huge. According to the International Institute for Analytics, by 2020 organisations successfully using data could collectively reap $430billion in productivity benefits. In contrast, those who ignore this opportunity stand to lose out significantly. The value of the information gleaned is one of the reasons why workforce management software needs to be in the next business budget.

The companies that aren’t using workforce analytics and labour efficiency statistics at all may not be worst off, though. In many ways, it’s actually more damaging to misuse, misread and misunderstand the purpose of all that data than flat out ignore it altogether. So how can businesses ensure they are not falling into a honeytrap, or failing to see the forest for the trees? Comprehensive training plays a huge part, and this begins by ensuring everyone knows why these systems are being brought into play.

“One of the most common mistakes business owners and managers make with business intelligence is collecting it, reporting on it and then doing nothing about it. Collecting data for data’s sake won’t help your business,” says Andrew Northcott, CEO and founder of Roubler, a specialist in workforce management HR software.

“You need to then investigate what your results are telling you. If the data looks great, find out why and replicate those actions across the business. If the data shows a problem, investigate it and implement an action plan to address the issues.”

So it’s vital you understand what you want to glean from the use of business intelligence tools before implementing their use. Questions such as ‘what goals am I looking to achieve?’, and ‘what targets are in place?’ must be asked. But simply setting regimented targets is a misnomer. Unless management understands that goals should be fluid, reacting to information as it reveals where improvements and changes could be made to improve efficiency and overall performance.

“Goals do need to be flexible to take into account changes in the economy and consumer trends. Conversely, the data you receive from business intelligence tools may show that you need to adjust your goals,” Northcott explains, going on to clarify the point. “That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have goals – it’s vital you have a solid direction for your business.”

Another cause for concern among organisations looking to introduce business intelligence and workforce analytics to the management mix is becoming overwhelmed with information. While such worries are valid, by following Northcott’s advice and having a clear picture of why you are using these systems, the situation is easily avoided before it even presents itself.

“There is such a thing as too much data but generally, this happens when you don’t set out why you are collecting the data in the first place and pull every report that is available. When you set goals, identify which data you need to measure your success and only collect that data, nothing more. Having a great deal of retrospective data is a good thing as it helps you identify patterns,” says Northcott.

As you might expect for someone who has established one of the leading firms in this sector, Northcott is quick to point out which type of business intelligence tools can make the biggest difference to day-to-day operations. Ultimately the focus should be on those that can improve effectiveness and reveal where cost savings can be made without negatively impacting on performance.

“Having labour efficiency statistics can be truly game-changing, particularly for retail and hospitality businesses. Being able to compare staff costs with revenue gives you the power to adjust resourcing and keep a tight rein on your budget,” explains Northcott. “Also having this data over a long period helps you identify trends in your business and allows you to see when you need to allocate resources or pull back, or implement strategies to increase revenue.”

All of which proves one fundamental point. At the end of the 21st Century’s second decade businesses are blessed with the opportunity to conduct in-depth analyses and audits of the way they function, but those at the top need to grasp how those opportunities can be fully exploited. Without taking these steps they are destined to lose out on the benefits – financial and otherwise – such technologies can offer.


Words by Richard Trenchard


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