An overview of business intelligence technology, skill sets and processes that turn data into insights and insights into actions.
For the past several years, business intelligence has consistently been identified by executives as a top 3 initiative for their organization.
They’re looking to data to identify opportunities to optimize efficiency, reduce waste, mitigate risk, improve revenue (or collect more of what is owed to you), reduce overtime costs, and identify the most profitable customer relationships.
The road to fully functional, well received and highly impactful business intelligence capabilities is a “just right” combination of skilled human resources, processes, and sophisticated technology/software for mining, monitoring and reporting on data trends.
That combination needs to include management action for turning mined data insights into actions and measurable improvements.
For organizations looking to make an investment in business intelligence (or for those looking to upgrade their existing resources and technologies), this blog can serve as an overview for the key components you’ll need to ensure that you’ll get the return on investment you seek.
Source: BI-Survey.com: Finding the Right Business Intelligence Tool
The Technology of Business Intelligence
There are quite a number of tools, technologies and software available for business intelligence, and with abundance comes the opportunity to craft a business intelligence solution that’s exactly right for your firm and its situation. Whether it’s securing insights for growth or even benefiting from opportunities embedded in real time data, its no wonder that big data and business analytics is predicted to grow to a $187 billion market in 2019.
Many firms turn to consultants to help them select, customize, implement, monitor and train staff on using business intelligence. Generally speaking, BI solutions are integrated with existing systems, but can be a standalone application or even part of ERP, CRM or ecommerce systems.
Business Intelligence Inside Your Company
Successful business intelligence implementation require that your organization make investments in individuals who have the skills to:
- Build data migration jobs to move critical data to a single data repository,
- Manage those data stores and optimize their performance,
- Understand the organization’s business imperatives and related data
- Present that data using the appropriate toolsets and software, and
- Make it simple for stakeholders to access that data and leverage for making informed decisions.
Business intelligence can have a steep learning curve and be challenging to roll out in large organizations. Your consultant should be coming to the table with a well-crafted plan for managing the human equation of business intelligence, including a deployment schedule, staff training, monitoring and real-time assistance, particularly in the early stages of adoption.
With a well-crafted roadmap in place, companies can efficiently and effectively move from using static spreadsheets for managing their business to interactive and dynamic tools built on real and/or right-time information.
Business intelligence Investments and Freed Maxick
Business intelligence is a path to significant competitive advantage if staffed with the right team and implemented with the right technology. However, investments in business intelligence hardware and software are expensive, the skill sets needed are relatively scarce in the local job market (thus also expensive), and the ROI on those investments take time to realize given the learning curves and stops/starts of organizations on their business intelligence journey.
At Freed Maxick, we’ve already made those investments in best-of-breed technology, experienced DBAs and business intelligence developers. We offer business intelligence services that rapidly enable an organization to make the leap from static spreadsheets to interactive and dynamic dashboards with real or right-time information.
Whether you need a fully outsourced team or merely supplemental assistance on specific business intelligence initiatives, we’re certain we’ve got the right approach to suit your needs.
To discuss your organization’s situation and explore the possibilities of implementing a business intelligence capability, call me at 716.847.2651, or connect with me here.View full article
Vulnerability can be a key ingredient in a great romantic movie, but it is a recipe for horror when it exists in business systems.
Movie romances may or may not be one of your favorite kinds of entertainment. At some point, though, all of us have probably sat through at least one film where a character in a potential relationship risks wrecking things because he or she can’t be “vulnerable” enough with the wannabe crush. In some pivotal scene, a friend pulls the person aside and says something like, “You’ve gotta open up. You’ve gotta be more vulnerable.” The character does this and the object of affection is hopelessly smitten. Cue the violins as the happy ending ensues.
If they made a movie about your business, no one would EVER say this. When it comes to finding and eradicating weaknesses in your information technology systems, it’s all about John Wayne—there’s no room for Hugh Grant. You can’t sit back and assume your systems are protected enough. The best way to guard against vulnerability is to constantly seek it out and eradicate it. That’s the purpose of a vulnerability assessment, and there are 5 reasons why this test is one of the most important ones your business will ever take.
- Identify vulnerabilities in the perimeter systems that protect your network: Periodic scanning of your network identifies vulnerabilities in the critical systems that protect against outside threats. Not only do you need to test against the latest hacker strategies, you also need to verify that everything is up to date. Vendors frequently release patches, updates and firmware upgrades specifically to remediate newly identified security vulnerabilities. A regular scan of your internal and external network systems helps to confirm that they are current for the most recent changes.
- Verify that change management processes are keeping pace with security: Vulnerability scans confirm that your company’s change management processes haven’t missed any critical patches. The harder you work at modifying your system to maximize operational efficiency and ease of use, the harder It becomes to keep up with changes from your IT vendors.
- Check system configuration: Vulnerability scanning can also help identify improperly configured systems that leave a network vulnerable. We all count on our IT departments to implement new systems in a secure manner. Sometimes, it helps to have a fresh set of eyes look at the system top to bottom, the forest AND the trees, to help support your team and guard against mistakes when configuring and deploying new hardware and software.
- Validate the actions of third-party IT managed-service providers: Everybody wants to believe that IT managed-service providers deliver the level of support they’ve promised. How can you be sure they are maintaining your systems as agreed in your contracts? If things are going smoothly, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The problem is, if your system is vulnerable, things could run smoothly until someone finds the vulnerability and exploits it. Without testing, it could be “broke” and you just don’t know it yet. An independent assessment is often a great way to check if service levels are being achieved and systems are protected in the manner described in the contract.
- Providing customers with assurance: Businesses and consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of data protection. They demand a high degree of vigilance and risk awareness from their suppliers when it comes to cybersecurity. We’ve reached a point where some contracts can be won or lost based on your ability to protect customer information. Whether your business serves the consuming public or other businesses, a strong cybersecurity program that includes periodic vulnerability assessments can help you stand out from your competitors.
Please contact Freed Maxick for more information on how a vulnerability assessment can help your business.
Freed Maxick CPAs, P.C. is Western and Upstate New York’s largest public accounting firm and a Top 100 firm in the United States. Freed Maxick’s reputation and experience with vulnerability assessments has made us a go-to cybersecurity firm for businesses from all over the U.S. and Canada who want an extra level of review in their IT systems.View full article
SWOT Analysis Looks at Borrowers’ Strengths and Weaknesses
Author: Paul R. P. Valera, CPA, MBA, Senior Field Examiner
The best lenders understand the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (also known as “SWOT”) of their clients and prospects. The analysis can also play a critical role in due diligence, in addition to assisting borrowers identify opportunities to make improvements or better respond to external threats.
Here’s how a client’s SWOT analysis can asset based lenders make better lending decisions.
Unearthing the source of each strength
A SWOT analysis begins with identifying strengths and weaknesses from your customers’ perspective. Strengths typically represent potential areas for building value and boosting revenues. These may be competitive advantages or core competencies. Examples might include a loyal customer base, a strong brand image, or an established customer list.
It’s critical to unearth the source of each strength. Some are tied to the company’s owners or key employees, such as an older partner with influential standing in the business community and an impressive client list. This is especially common among professional practices, such as accounting, advertising or law firms. But retailers and manufacturers may rely on key people, too.
When strengths are tied to people, rather than the business itself, you need to consider what might happen if a key person were to suddenly leave the business. Ask whether the borrower has non-complete contracts, key person life insurance, a buy-sell agreement, or a formal succession plan to transition management to the next generation.
Weaknesses represent potential risks and should be eliminated or minimized. Often they are evaluated in relation to the company’s competitors. Weaknesses might include weak internal controls, high employee turnover, unreliable quality or a location with poor accessibility.
Of course, all businesses have an Achilles’ heel. But when a borrower reports the same weaknesses every year, it’s cause for concern. It’s not enough to simply recognize a weakness — the borrower needs to take corrective action.
For example, one borrower decided to boost its weak sales force with a headhunter to acquire new talent, Dale Carnegie sales training classes to inspire the staff, and a new-and-improved commission structure. Within just a few months, the business’s year-to-date sales were up 35%. And the borrower now lists its salesforce as a strength, not a weakness.
The second part of a SWOT analysis looks externally not only at what’s happening in the industry, but also with the economy and regulatory environment. An opportunity could be favorable external conditions that might increase revenues and value if the company acts on them quickly.
For example, a pharmaceutical company responded to emerging health care legislation and the aging baby boomer demographics by purchasing smaller medical device and generic drug manufacturers. Both the acquirer and its targets have acted on favorable external opportunities with a roll-up to improve their financial positions.
As you can imagine, threats are unfavorable conditions that can prevent an unwary borrower from achieving certain goals. Threats arise from the economy, competition, technological changes and increased regulation. It’s critical to watch for and minimize any existing and potential threats.
Hospitals and doctors, for example, are keeping a close eye on health care reform legislation, because it threatens to lower their billing and collection rates from private and public sources. Many physicians are banding together to improve bargaining power and achieve economies of scale.
How about your customers?
If your customers haven’t completed an in-house SWOT analysis, it’s time to do it. SWOT is a proven management tool that’s been taught at business schools around the world. Strong borrowers will say “yes!” immediately and discuss the results. But you may need to encourage your weaker, less experienced borrowers to tackle the analysis. The end result, however, will enlighten them.
A SWOT analysis is typically presented as a matrix (see the chart), and provides a logical framework for understanding how a business operates. It can not only tell what a borrower is doing right (and wrong), but it can predict how outside forces can impact cash flow in a positive (or negative) manner.
Business owners love their work and typically don’t want to hear that their businesses aren’t operating at peak performance. So, if you have concerns about a risky borrower, suggest they do a SWOT analysis. It can be an objective forum for discussing sensitive or negative issues.
Don’t put it off
As you know, due diligence can be a daunting task. And no single approach works for every customer. But a well-executed SWOT analysis can provide a method to the madness.
If you have any questions about SWOT analysis or any other asset based lending issue, give us a call at 716.847.2651, or you may contact us here.