business intelligence reporting | 13 mins read

Business Intelligence Reporting- What is it and Why it Matters

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Debdutta Bhattacharjee

By Debdutta Bhattacharjee

Define Business Intelligence or BI

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Organizations are under constant pressure to deliver the best products while earning rich profits. For this, they need to make smart and informed decisions.

A huge amount of data is generated by point of sale (POS) systems, business management software systems, employee management systems, customer relationship management systems, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, and so on. A successful organization is one that is able to harness this critical information, do an in-depth data analysis, and gain insights that would power decision-making.

Business intelligence or BI refers precisely to this practice of data discovery and data collection from a wide range of sources in order to create BI reports, which then can be worked upon by the application of predictive analytics to inspect, study and understand the data, and answer questions on not just 'what', but more importantly, on 'why', 'how' and 'what next?'.

For example, a BI report may be in the form of a simple profit-loss statement, a sales report, a comparison of profit margins of various years, or a report on employee labor hours during the holiday season over different periods of time. BI analysis then draws upon machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), modeling, and statistics for making forecasts and recommendations.

These forecasts and recommendations are data-driven, and hence, sound and insightful, allowing the entrepreneur to make stronger business decisions on several issues relevant to the organization like pricing, positioning, and priorities; operational efficiencies; new revenue opportunities; market trends; minimizing risks; managing resources, vendors, employees, and customers better; and beating the competition.

Why is Business Intelligence Important?

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1. Create a data warehouse- Simply put, a data warehouse is a large storehouse of data collected from internal and external sources and used to shape business decisions. BI reporting leverages AI to allow the data collected from a variety of data sources to be compiled and centralized in one place, so that they can be easily accessed, interlinked, compared and analyzed in order to generate insights.

2. Identify latest trends- A business has to be on top of the latest trends if it has to stay competitive. With the help of business intelligence tools, a data analyst is able to dive deep into and explore the sea of data and emerge with actionable insights.

This interpretation of unstructured and abstruse data sets can help identify trends, according to which the functioning of a business can be calibrated to derive the maximum profits.

For example, restaurants may discover from POS data that most customers have been preferring QR-code-based ordering and payment methods in the post-Covid world. The restaurant can then prioritize placing QR-code-based terminals on the dining tables over using paper menu cards and cash-based payment modes.

3. Create better strategies- BI reports would allow businesses to have complete knowledge of what items they have in stock and how much. They would let businesses plan and manage their ordering and supply chains better so that stocks of popular items do not run out. These reports would also prevent inventory wastage in the form of spoilage, pilferage, pest attack, or as a result of over-purchasing.

Sales data can be analyzed to identify which products/stores are doing well, and which are not, and allow a business owner to make more informed decisions on what to retain, purchase, promote, expand, or discontinue in order to maximize profits. BI can also facilitate business innovation and the creation of new products and services, sometimes to serve completely different niches.

An organization using business intelligence tools is also able to gain greater knowledge of its customers with which it can devise services like loyalty and reward programs to woo the customers. Employee data, on the other hand, would help the manager in optimizing staff scheduling so that labor costs can be kept at a manageable limit.

4. Reveal blind spots- BI helps in the discovery of problem areas that could not otherwise have been pinpointed easily. For example, a restaurant may be leaking money and finding it difficult to identify the source of the problem unless a comparison between vendor rates shows that a product of equal or better quality is available at a lesser price with a vendor different from the one the restaurant has been taking its supplies from.

5. Eliminate manual errors, cut time- Manually sifting through reams of paper or spreadsheets containing tons of data can be quite a tedious and uphill task. It also opens the room for human errors to creep in, which can make predictions incorrect and decisions weak. With the help of technology, tasks are automated and repeated with a considerable degree of accuracy.

6. Attract investment- Data from sales, accounting, finance, human resources, information technology, customer support, supply chain, customer relationship management, and so on can be leveraged to pitch the business to potential investors and encourage existing investors to continue showing interest in the business.

7. Match performance against targets- Actual sales data for the current month collected from the POS system can be matched against the target set at the start of the month. This would give an idea of where the company is in terms of its performance.

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Common Restaurant Business Intelligence Metrics

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A restaurant has to regularly measure and analyze its performance for increasing its product quality, customer service, profitability, productivity, and generally, grow its business. For that, it should be aware of its key performance indicators (KPIs).

One of the key metrics to gauge a restaurant's performance is profitability. This can be seen from the restaurant's profit margin, average customer spending, and the gross margin percentage, which looks at how much of every dollar in revenue is used to pay for ingredients, labor, utilities, rent, and other overhead costs.

The number of customers served or the quantity of food sold in a month would give an idea of the strength and weakness of the restaurant's operations, from staffing to menu. Customer satisfaction, on the other hand, is monitored through information from surveys, Yelp scores, Google analytics, Google reviews, and social media comments.

POS data would help to measure the average bill size, mealtime frequency, and duration, which would allow restaurants to set the 'right' prices. Restaurants can also analyze POS data to see which modes of payment are preferred by the customers. This would allow the business to take more prudent decisions. For instance, if upgraded cards are hardly used by the customers, the restaurants need not install expensive POS terminals.

Furthermore, revenue per available seat hour and revenue per available square meter tell the restaurant owner how effectively space, seating capacity, staffing, and menu offerings are being utilized to make the most money.

The success of menu updates and the popularity of existing menu items can be seen by comparing their sales figures with the monthly total sales numbers. Market research would identify the dishes for which there is a strong demand. The restaurant can then design its menu accordingly to offer something extra to the customers. Customer data should be analyzed by factoring in gender, age, frequency of visits, and the location of the restaurant. Accordingly, strategies can be made to introduce new dishes or offer a good deal on old favorites.

Metrics like actual food cost percentage, net sales, and average food and beverage costs would show the profitability of the restaurant, and its efficiency in buying, receiving and stocking food.

Other useful business intelligence metrics used by the restaurant industry are customer per table, percentage of tables served, average check per customer, inventory turnover, reservations, and cancellations.

How Does Business Intelligence Software Work?

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Business intelligence tools allow the collection and processing of enormous amounts of information from various data sources and make that information ready for analysis so that dashboards, reports, and data visualizations can be created. With the help of data mining, the information stored in the 'data warehouse' can be interpreted to generate both a big picture view of the organization's performance across various parameters and also a deep understanding of specific business aspects.

Business intelligence software, in this regard, helps in the easy interpretation of big data. It also makes data mining a smooth process, so that data-driven operational and tactical decisions can be taken and the organization is given a competitive edge and long-term stability.

BI tools involve a huge range of data analysis applications, including ad hoc analysis and querying; online analytical processing (OLAP); enterprise reporting; real-time BI; mobile BI; cloud, and software as a service BI; location intelligence; open-source BI; operational BI; and collaborative BI.

BI tools may also deal with data visualization techniques that allow charts to be created. They may also involve the creation of business intelligence dashboards and performance scorecards that showcase KPIs and business metrics. Easy-to-use and easy-to-comprehend visuals, therefore, make inert data come to life. It makes data interesting to be interpreted.

Moreover, by compiling tons of data in one place, business intelligence software ensures that the business becomes manageable. It also spares business users the trouble of manually wading through an ocean of data.

The Hubworks restaurant app store, in this regard, offers a bouquet of software solutions like Zip Reporting, Zip Forecasting, Zip Ordering, Zip Inventory, Zip Clock, Plum POS, and so on that address every Data Collection, and data analysis need of an organization.

5 Ways to Optimize BI Tools

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1. A business user should know exactly what the aim of the study is and what data sets are to be chosen for that particular purpose. The plan then needs to be executed by putting the data from the business intelligence software into practice. Finally, the effect of that execution has to be analyzed to figure out which plans and strategies worked, which did not, and which are the areas that can be improved upon.

2. An organization should always look to enhance the user experience of its BI software. For example, greater data visualizations would help in better analysis, and the organization should take steps to enable that. Moreover, if the live dashboard, which is meant to supply real-time data, does not provide the information that the company management needs at the start and end of the day, the organization would have to find ways to improve the dashboard.

3. The employees should be imparted adequate training so that they can make the best use of the BI system. Apart from technological training, the employees should be imparted knowledge on GL account planning, CapEx planning, and simulation implementation, among other things.

4. The BI tools may be customized and integrated with the organization's existing platforms. These tools can also be integrated with Microsoft Excel. Some people like shareholders, investors, and customers may not have access to the company's Excel sheets, but exporting sales reports, charts, and analyses from Excel would allow them to easily view the data. The data can easily be visualized by applying BI tools so that the viewers can digest the data without any difficulty, and make sense of Research Reports.

5. The software must be turned into a data warehouse, and with the application of advanced analytics, normal questions can be picked up and further conclusions made through modeling techniques. One should ensure that the data and the analysis generated are acted upon, and data is turned into knowledge and profit.

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Top 3 BI Software for Restaurants

1. Zip Reporting- This Hubworks software offers a streamlined and quick way to access and interpret data anytime, from anywhere, and across several devices. This software saves the business user time and effort and cuts the frustration of manually digging through mountains of data. With the help of cloud-based syncing, data can be accessed in real-time. Zip Reporting takes the complexities of a business and simplifies them into actionable insights.

2. Power BI- The Microsoft Power BI solution converts data into high-quality visuals, allowing the business to focus on customers' wants. Power BI includes a collection of business analytics tools for separating data and providing insights. The answers, which are received with the help of dashboards, are instantaneous. Power BI offers several data visualizations, Excel integrations, built-in AI abilities, and pre-built and custom data connectors, with the help of which users can share insights.

3. Restaurant365- It is a restaurant-specific, software as a service (SaaS) accounting and operations platform. Restaurant365 integrates with the POS system, suppliers and vendors, banks, and payroll management system to provide robust reporting features. It saves a great deal of time and lets operators make strong, profit-driven decisions.

Business Intelligence FAQs

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1. Can Business Intelligence solutions be afforded by medium and small organizations?

Accessing, visualizing, modeling, and reporting business data would have been impossible for all but the large companies until a few years ago. However, cloud-based technologies have made sure today that the costs of business intelligence solutions are reduced and those solutions are made more accessible to medium and small enterprises.

2. What is the difference between business intelligence software and enterprise resource planning (ERP)?

Business intelligence solutions involve high-level discussions with the aim of meaningful tactical decision-making. These solutions take into account the company data as a whole -- both operational (related to daily sales) and strategic (related to revenue, growth, and profit). Enterprise resource planning (ERP), on the other hand, looks to produce a precise operational picture of the company, often without trend analysis, data comparison, or insight generation.

3. How can you define and assign data roles?

One should always seek to maintain data quality across the company. The assignment of specific roles helps in the enforcement of data policies. Roles that carry a considerable degree of importance are those of chief data officers, data stewards, owners, analysts, and data protection officers.

4. How can you establish data governance?

A data governance policy seeks to maintain the quality of data throughout its lifecycle. There should be proper processes to control the data. It should be made sure that users across the organization are fully aware of the governance procedures, and a panel should monitor the execution of those processes.

5. How does Google Analytics help in successful marketing?

Google Analytics offers insight into who had visited a website and their activities after coming to the website. Google Analytics can give a company valuable information on how effective marketing campaigns are, and how the user experience on the website influences conversion and retention.

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