Having usable business information readily available no longer needs to be a challenge for SMEs

One of the perennial struggles faced by SMEs is getting data from their source systems into a format that they can easily analyse and report on. This is especially applicable to accounting packages – which comprise the heartbeat of the SME. The typical analysis of historical data involves creating individual reports, exporting them to Excel, cleaning up the data (removing un-needed rows, columns and formatting), re-arranging columns and then appending the result set into a master sheet for analysis. To a lesser extent, for those with some good coding skills to write scripts for data extraction, it is possible to circumvent half the above – but there is still quite a bit of manual manipulation of the exports in Excel before reporting and analysis can be performed. At the end of the day, employees spend much more time in gathering and preparing the data rather than in analysing it. As a result, small businesses find themselves looking at their reports once or twice a month, rather than making daily decision based on the latest data, which would provide them with a competitive advantage opportunity. Given the need for SMEs to ensure that their limited staff are utilised as much as possible in value adding activities, the above situation is problematic. Furthermore, because of this conflict, reporting and true data analysis tends to suffer. The answer though, to the conundrum, is not to throw ones hands in the air and assume that the status quo has to remain, nor is it to add more staff, a cost that most SMEs can scarcely afford, but to make better use of technology. An example will suffice to show how this is possible. I was recently faced with a company that desired to make use of the advanced data visualisation techniques to use on their Pastel Partner data. The accountant was involved in the laborious process described earlier and was making little headway in extracting the data because every time he decided he needed to analyse an extra dimension which he had not thought of before, he would need to re-export all the data again, taking care to include the new dimension and then go through the data transformation process. The solution was as simple as writing a connector to extract all transaction and grouping data from Pervasive (a schema-less data store which is the main reason reporting off it is difficult) and populate it into MSSQL server (SQL Express is free and large enough for holding the accounts data from just about all SME’s I have come across). Suddenly, the accountant in question had access to the full transaction history and could interrogate it directly without having to spend time doing exports and cleaning up the data. In his case, he made use of Tableau, the fastest growing BI and data visualisation tool in the world, to create interactive visualisations rapidly, but he could have used any tool, including Excel. This is the kind of solutions thinking that is needed in the SME space. The company in question is now able to use the latest data on a daily basis for making business decisions without any extra effort on their part. Technology SHOULD be used as an enabler to add true business value by aiding the decision making process. Smarter decisions will definitely improve the bottom line of SMEs and help them grow in these tough business conditions. It is for this reason that we at Space Age Technologies are now offering BI services specifically for SMEs. Find out more about BI for SMEs using Tableau Software. Source: Vusi Nkomo – Logista Stellenbosch

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.