In the not too distant past, businesses struggled to acquire insightful financial reports in a timely and efficient manner. The data was often too late to affect any immediate business decisions, or it was too incomplete to offer any real insight or understanding of the company's current performance.
In today's business environment, though, there definitely isn't a problem with having too little data available at your fingertips. It's quite the opposite in fact. Businesses have so much data that it is hard to effectively sort and analyze it without a considerable amount of time. Companies of all sizes are being inundated with a mountain of data on a daily basis. On top of that, the data is often too buried within a database to access it in an efficient manner or even know what information is actually worth pulling.
This begs the question, how can I get greater access to my company's data and use it effectively?
It often starts with finding a software application that can help organize, automate, and provide real-time data visibility of your company's performance metrics. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, especially when your company has to deal with outdated legacy software applications or several different programs that don't communicate with each other. Antiquated programs and "software silos" are an all-too-common reality for businesses these days.
Many companies have plenty of good performance data and business intelligence, but it is often spread across several different platforms and databases, which makes the value of the data severely limited when it's trapped in one program or another. While transitioning to a new software platform is definitely a big step and requires a lot of time and effort to set up, the end result is worth it because it often leads to greater efficiency, accuracy, and performance.
Legacy software programs and other short term solutions, such as Excel spreadsheets, are notorious for restricting company growth and are nearly impossible to integrate with other applications because they are often customized for a specific purpose or are incompatible with newer programs. Moving to one single software platform is often the most effective, long-term solution because it gets all of a company's programs on the same page and speaking the same language. A single platform system helps cut down on redundant data entry and errors, while at the same time increasing productivity, streamlining recurring tasks, and maximizing data visibility.
Taking a proactive stance on how your company uses its data when making business decisions is significantly easier with a current software platform that leverages your business's data and makes it work for you. Many of the newest and best software platforms include a business dashboard that provides real time data that is updated automatically and provides good visibility to the most pertinent information, such as KPIs and other business intelligence statistics.
This allows your business to spot trouble before it becomes a problem and fix the true source of the problem and not just the side effects. Programs that require manual data entry are likely to be days, if not weeks, behind and too late to offer any real value to pressing questions. Rather than relying on data that is semi-accurate and days late, wouldn't it be better to make fact-based decisions that are objective and don't rely on human intuition or hunches?
An effective dashboard provides you the information you need to see the "big picture" of your company's performance without all of the hassle of searching for answers in a sea of information. Dashboards are designed to provide quick and accurate snapshots of live, actionable data that can lead to better business decisions and ultimately better company performance. Similar to a car dashboard displaying current speed or how much gas is in the tank, a business dashboard is capable of providing key metrics on any number of topics, such as billing and invoicing; inventory management; recording client interactions; or tracking marketing campaigns in relation to sales data.
If your business is struggling under its current software platform and is in need of a software reboot, now is a great time to explore what current software packages have to offer. Whether you need a true, cloud-based ERP software, basic accounting software, or an on-premise (non-cloud) solution, it is important for your company to find the right platform for your specific business needs. With so many options available these days, you can be certain there's a software solution that can get your business to the next level.
• Andrea White, CPA, is with the accounting and consulting firm of Porte Brown LLC. Contact her firstname.lastname@example.org.