Thursday, 20 February 2020

What Drives your Decisions?

One of my favourite quotes comes from Jim Barksdale, the CEO of Netscape and COO of FedEx. He is credited with saying:
“If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”
But having data isn’t enough – most businesses have more data than they can analyse. Data must be presented in such a way that it communicates something useful and actionable. In other words, you need to turn raw data into something the business can use.

Raw data often has inconsistencies, errors, and different ways of reporting the same thing. Power BI allows you to clean up these problems and manipulate the data into something you can work with. It also allows you to create a data model that will drive analysis and visuals. In other words, it has all the business intelligence features you need to make informed decisions.

It has several game-changing features such as:
  • Being able to link to many different data sources.
  • Being able to manipulate and clean the data.
  • Presenting data in new and compelling ways.
  • Creating dashboards and scorecards, including key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • Being able to share reports and dashboards securely.
This means you can track specific business indicators, updated by one or more than one data source. You can create reports that use more than one data source. And you can create powerful dashboard-type reports that focus attention on specific areas. All updated automatically when the underlying data is updated. It’s powerful – as the name suggests.

Business intelligence was once out of the reach of departments and mid-sized businesses. Budgets were large and project lead times were long. Microsoft Power BI is the next generation of business intelligence and it has changed the way we work, and how we make decisions.

It’s easy to get started; you can download Power BI Desktop for free. If you need some help, we have end to end experience from cleaning data, creating data models, and advising on impactful reports. And we can train you in all aspects of Power BI.

So, if you are a department that wants to bring data together from more than one system, track specific indictors, or present data in a way that can’t be ignored, get in touch.

Monday, 6 January 2020

6 Reasons to Rethink Your Business Reporting

Well-designed business reports can support business strategy, form the backbone of decision-making, and guide your every action. Unfortunately, many businesses are working with reports that do a lot less.

Legacy systems often produce lists of figures that send us to sleep, rather than prompt action. Which is a shame, because regardless of how or where your data is held, modern, visual reporting is now available to everyone. Unfortunately, most business data is never analysed or used to make data-driven decisions, even though data analysis has become a competitive issue.

So, are your management reports driving your business forward, or holding it back? Here are 6 reasons to rethink your business reporting.

1.     Support your strategy. Implementing strategy is tough. Conflicting views and too many distractions make it easy to get blown off course. Clear reporting that shows the status of your key business goals improves the chances of implementing your plans.

2.     Visuals are better. Visuals have two big advantages over lists of figures: speed and impact. When data is shown visually, it’s much easier to understand. Our brains can process variances, comparisons and trends within a fraction of a second. And when data is shown visually it becomes compelling and much harder to ignore.

3.     Dashboards let you travel faster. Having data on a single dashboard has big benefits. Firstly, part of planning is deciding what’s important and what’s not. By designing a report on a single page, focus on the important goals is improved. Secondly, having a visual and single page view gives you an instant view of how well things are going. When you are driving, you don’t expect to have to examine a 16-page report to find out whether you are running out of fuel or the engine is overheating. Business dashboards give you the same at-a-glance view of your business journey – allowing you to travel safer and faster.

4.     Big picture to detail. Interactive reporting works in the same way as our brains, allowing the big picture to be understood before the detail. The ability to drill down allows us to understand the overall situation first, and then investigate interesting parts further. Whether things are going well or badly, big picture to detail allows us to work in a logical way.

5.     Access from anywhere. We may still do most of our work in the office but thinking happens anywhere and anytime. Reporting that can be viewed on a mobile or a tablet means you have your data with you, whether you are working from home, travelling, or suddenly get a flash of inspiration during breakfast.

6.     Better collaboration.  All of us work better when more brains are on the problem. Modern reporting encourages collaboration by sharing reports and allowing input.

Modern reporting software has much more ambitious goals than the listing reports of old. Highly visual, compelling reports that convey more understanding, more quickly. Thanks to software like Microsoft Power BI, it’s never been easier to create highly effective visual reports.  

If you want to rethink your business reporting, get in touch to find out how.  

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Does Learning and Development need Data Analytics?

Learning and development is digitizing. What once was a fat binder with printed sheets, today is a PDF. What once was a week’s residential course, is now a mixture of classroom training, eLearning, and discussion groups. And what was once a drive away is now a webinar at your desk. Digitization is happening faster in some organizations than in others, but it is happening everywhere. People can access role-relevant training for free with MOOCs, (massive open online courses), regardless of what their manager, or the L&D department say. Moving learning from the physical to the digital is like all change: messy, challenging, and uncertain.

What is clear, however, is that digitization produces data. Lots of data.

Data isn’t new, of course, we have been storing data about training for years. Courses attended, hours spent learning, and delegate feedback have kept stakeholders informed for years. What is new is the opportunity to capture different data, often more meaningful data, and compare it to data held in other parts of the organization. Sales training data for example, might be combined with sales and marketing data from CRM and accounts systems.

As it happens, this capability isn’t new either. Data has been brought together in data warehouses for years, allowing all kinds of interesting trends and insights to be extracted. The only problem with this approach is that it can be expensive.

Happily, data analytics tools have also improved, in answer to both the high cost of analysis, and the mountain of data we are all generating. Today organisations of all types and size have access to data analytic capabilities that were once available to only the large and wealthy. Microsoft Power BI, for example, does not need a big budget to visualize data, attach to a variety of data sources, or find previously hidden insights.

Affordable data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, sentiment analysis, and big data technologies are here to stay.

But does data analytics have a place in the learning and development department? Wouldn’t money be better spent on developing content, rather than data? Learning professionals believe data analytics is the future. Towards Maturity surveyed 7500 learning professionals from 53 countries about their 2019 priorities and skills, and found that:
  • 96% saw data analytics as a priority, with only 24% believing they have the necessary data skills.
  • 98% saw learning evaluation as a priority, with only 43% believing they have evaluation skills.
In contrast, 82% said they have the skills to deliver classroom training.

This shows that technology for the learning and development sector is both a challenge and an opportunity, and that making good use of data is one of the highest concerns. For help with your learning evaluation and data analytic priorities, get in touch and find out how we can help.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

What Socrates Taught Us About Data Analysis

The Unexamined Life is Not Worth Living

If Socrates been a modern businessman, I’m sure he would have been an early adopter of Microsoft Power BI. He lived and died according to his adage: the unexamined life is not worth living. It is thanks to Socrates that we appreciate the huge power behind questions, and the work we do in data analysis is the stronger for it. Despite his famous frugality, I’ve no doubt that Socrates would have adored the visualizations.

Hemlock Pie Chart, anyone?

In today’s digital economy, the unexamined business is worth very little. Data analysis has become crucial in improving the way we work. However, data analysis isn’t a sausage machine: you don’t put data in one end and get strategy from the other. Data analysis, like life, benefits from questioning, Socratic or otherwise:
  • What are we trying to achieve?
  • What data do we have related to this?
  • Where did the data come from?
  • How accurate is the data?
  • What evidence do we have to support this?
  • Why is this happening?
  • What does this mean?
  • What do we already know about this?
  • What are we assuming?
  • How do we know this?
  • What is causing this?
  • What are the possible alternative causes?
Admittedly, not all of those questions might have been asked by Socrates, but the principle is the same - asking the right data analysis questions can be as valuable as the answers. Whilst numbers rarely lie, our interpretation of the numbers always benefits from critical questioning. The most successful companies on the planet use data analytics to test their assumptions, and methodically analyse data to get better answers. Data analysis has been behind the rise of Amazon, Nissan, American Express to name but a high-profile few.

Microsoft Power BI supports a wide range of data sources, analysis techniques, and visualizations, but all are most effective when used in conjunction with questions and hypotheses. And the results it presents are most useful when questioned carefully and critically. Undeniably, Microsoft Power BI is a powerful piece of software that’s getting more powerful every month.

At Anatec Software, we have always believed that our questions are more powerful than our answers, and the longevity of our solutions has proved us right. Every company is different, and every problem unique, so whilst the technologies we use might be the same, that’s where the similarity ends. We never try to fit problems to a one-solution-fits-all approach. Instead, we question thoughtfully, and listen hard to understand the challenges you face and the opportunities you’ve created. Only then can work with you to find the right solution.

We work with Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Power BI and Microsoft Excel to produce business intelligence solutions to suit all situations and budgets. We’ve got a lot of experience in helping businesses make sense of their data, and use their data to make better decisions.

So, if you’ve got more questions than answers, and a pile of data that could yield some insights, get in touch to find out how we can help. There’s no obligation, only thought-provoking questions and friendly advice.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Why Microsoft Power BI is a Big Deal

To understand why Microsoft Power BI is a big deal, you have to got back a bit. 153 years back, to be precise.

You would no doubt agree that businesses fail or flourish depending on how quickly they can adapt to new information. Whether it’s a competitive move, or a change in consumer tastes, ignoring intelligence is at best damaging, and at worst fatal. Over 150 years ago Richard Devens used the term business intelligence to describe profiting from timely decision making based on intelligence, or data. Back in 1865, acting on intelligence before the competition was unusual enough for comment, and is arguably still noteworthy today. But while we still use the term business intelligence, we actually mean something quite different.

Today businesses run on software systems - from banking to sales leads, invoicing to estimating. Business intelligence (BI) is also digital - instead of relying on the relatively haphazard activity of noticing what’s going on, we now methodically and systematically process and transform data. BI systems require a budget and project managers to turn disparate data into consolidated, useful information. While just about all businesses have more data than they can handle (estimates suggest that only 0.5% of data is analysed) not all have a business intelligence system. It seems that some things never change.

The modern term business intelligence, refers to a set of technologies that facilitate the analysis of data generated within the business. Data warehouses take data from the different systems, and bring them together into one useable form. If you’ve ever tried to figure out which system holds the correct version of the data you want, you will know this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Reporting systems then provide access to the data warehouse, giving decision makers good, clean, and timely information.

If the data in our business systems were easy to access and match up, we wouldn’t need BI systems. And if the data were always good quality, up to date, and available when we needed it, we wouldn't need BI systems. The reality is that for many businesses, data is siloed, available only to the department who owns it. Data is neither correct nor up to date, because people are busy and pulled in many different directions. The result is that people make decisions based on incomplete evidence, or carry out instructions in the belief that someone, somewhere has better data than they do.

For large businesses, the expense of implementing a business intelligence system is worthwhile; they hold a lot of data, and there are a lot of people who need access to it. For smaller businesses, there are spreadsheets. So prevalent are spreadsheets, it is often said they are the world’s most popular business intelligence tool. But they do have their limitations, and whilst it’s true that small and medium sized businesses have less data than the multi-nationals, they still have a lot of data, and they still need to be competitive. The playing field is anything but level.

Which brings us up to the present, because a new kid has arrived on the block. A powerful business intelligence system called Microsoft Power BI. Related to the spreadsheet in that it has taken some of the more powerful technologies from Excel, Microsoft has created a true business intelligence system that is capable of handling large volumes of data, producing real insights, and includes visualization capabilities that once belonged only in eye-wateringly expensive BI tools. Power BI is a truly democratizing piece of software, and a big deal for all businesses.

If you'd like to know more about what Microsoft Power BI can do for your business, follow the link to our web site and get in touch.