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7/14/2006
10:18 AM
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Are You Using Spreadsheets As BI?

If you could peer into the very heart of your operation and learn where you are most- and least - profitable, it's obvious that you'd learn a lot. But figuring out just what makes your business a success, and where you need to turn up the volume, takes at least a little bit of time (often it takes more...) and a commitment to seeing the task through. That's where many businesses fall short. In fact, it's probably one area that separates the businesses that are eeking out a profit from the ones

If you could peer into the very heart of your operation and learn where you are most- and least - profitable, it's obvious that you'd learn a lot. But figuring out just what makes your business a success, and where you need to turn up the volume, takes at least a little bit of time (often it takes more...) and a commitment to seeing the task through. That's where many businesses fall short.

In fact, it's probably one area that separates the businesses that are eeking out a profit from the ones that are superstars.

This isn't particularly shocking; most people you meet aren't particularly introspective. But knowing yourself means knowing how to use your strengths to offset (or possibly even build up) your weaknesses. Extending that metaphor, if you understand where your business is beating the competition, you employ those strategies to boost business in lagging areas. And, if things are going south universally, you can look to other companies as benchmarks to see what you ought to be doing.

This week, the Aberdeen Group released a report stating 89 percent of retailers are using business intelligence processes, including advanced analytics, enterprisewide. Further, more than two thirds of retailers indicated that senior executives, including CEOs, are actively engaging in the use of business intelligence within their organizations. Why the interest? According to the study, retailers are finding a need for a more rapid response to consumer demand. That is driving retailers to budget new business intelligence programs or to upgrade existing internal data management processes. The need to become more operationally efficient is becoming increasingly evident.

Despite the Aberdeen study's findings, BI still doesn't seem to be hitting its potential. For example, only 11% of retailers are looking at business intelligence data on a near-real time basis. So, for many retailers, information on purchasing trends is out-of-date by the time they receive it. And file this under "I" for "ironic": Forty two percent of retailers are using spreadsheets to manage their business-intelligence data, despite recognizing that spreadsheets are an inefficient means of doing this task.

Many business people think they don't have the time to look inside their companies. They like the idea of BI, but can't spare a moment to implement products to make it happen. Funny, the reason they can't spare a moment is because they are using their valuable time using inefficient processes, from which BI could free them.

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