5 Ways to Build Internal Support for Your BI Initiative

business-intelligence

Business intelligence may have transformative potential, but it’s also a significant investment.

Too often, that investment goes unrewarded. Last year Gartner found that 70% of corporate business intelligence initiatives fail before reaching ROI.

Even when projects succeed, they are used by less than half of the team.

The lesson to be learned from this isn’t to avoid business intelligence, though. There’s too much to be gained from using data to build a dynamic, factual model of operations and customers.

Instead, executives should address one of the root causes of BI failure: internal resistance and a general lack of adoption.

Try these approaches to build team support for business intelligence.

Use Success Stories to Build Enthusiasm

Employees have a full set of regular duties to handle. Learning and using business intelligence adds more to their slate.

A well-designed system will save them time and effort once established, but they need to be motivated to put in the effort to learn new tools.

Business intelligence seems like an esoteric concept to some. It can be hard to see a direct connection between data and results.

Instead of throwing out dry statistics, frame business intelligence in terms of what it can do for the team using real examples.

Before early initiatives, find success stories from competitors or comparable organizations. Use those to build excitement for the upcoming project.

Once each phase of the business intelligence project is finished the results can be marketed to the internal team to keep that positive momentum going.

When pitching business intelligence to the team, keep reviews specific but short. Choose clear metrics that demonstrate the actual effects of the project without getting bogged down in details.

For example: “Sales teams closed 23% more contracts last quarter using the new lead management system.”

Integrate BI into Daily Workflows

There’s no incentive to change if staff can default to the old system. People get comfortable in a routine, even when it isn’t effective.

They prefer to stick to what they know rather than learn new procedures.

Nudge resistant team members out of their rut by removing the option to use old systems whenever possible.

Don’t disrupt everything at once, but do have a schedule for phasing out old tools and switching to new ones. Publicize the schedule so it isn’t a surprise when old programs won’t open.

At the same time, make it easy to adopt business intelligence.

Be sure users are properly trained on the new tools, to include putting reference materials where they can be easily accessed by everyone.

Sometimes resistance stems from embarrassment or unfamiliarity, so also refrain from criticizing team members who need extra training or refer to training material frequently.

Create Business Solutions, not just High-Tech Tools

Misalignment between business needs and tool function is a leading reason for lack of adoption.

IT gets an idea for something they can build to collect new data, but it isn’t geared towards an actual business goal.

The product becomes busy work that distracts staff from core functions.

Business intelligence tools need to address specific pain points order for the team to use them.

They should have a clear purpose with an established connection to existing business goals. It’s also important that the new tool is demonstrably better than the current system.

If the tool takes ten minutes to update every day and the old system took five minutes twice a week, it won’t be adopted.

Along the same lines, favor simplicity in function and design. Don’t build an overly complicated multi-tier system only engineers can understand.

Aim for a unified dashboard with intuitive controls and a straightforward troubleshooting process.

Remember that the Team are Vital Stakeholders

Finally, don’t overlook the value of employees as stakeholders in any business intelligence initiative.

They have “on the ground” knowledge of internal operations that can guide the creation of a more targeted system. Take advantage of their expertise early in the development process.

Include key internal team members when gathering stakeholder input during discovery.

Go beyond management and choose representatives from the groups who will use the tools after release. Solicit and give serious attention to team feedback, both during and after release.

Bringing the team in from the beginning does more than build better software. It creates a company-wide sense of ownership.

When team members feel they had a hand in creating business intelligence tools, they become enthusiastic adopters.

Build Support, Not Resentment

Above all, keep the process positive. Encouraging adoption of business intelligence doesn’t have to be a battle of wills.

Focus on potential gains, not punishment for failing to fall in line. Bring the end users in early, listen to their feedback, and build a system that helps them as much as it helps the company.

When the team is excited – or at least convinced of the product’s value – they’re much more likely to adopt business intelligence in the long run.

Every level of operations can benefit from business intelligence. If you have a project in mind, we can help make a compelling case for BI that encourages everyone to get on board. Sit down with one of our experienced developers to find out more!

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Building Custom Software Ready for Integration

Building-Custom-Software

Building custom software solves a lot of problems that businesses face while pushing digital transformation. Whether it’s an analytics dashboard that unites data from different platforms or a social media chatbot that boosts customer service ratings, custom software can be built to a company’s exact specifications without the compromises that come with third party solutions.

Custom software does present one problem: how to integrate it smoothly with existing systems. Often those systems contain third-party software which requires special design consideration.

It doesn’t have to be a roadblock, though. Keep these core concepts in mind during development and the result will be custom software ready for integration.

Think Modular

Adding to an existing monolith is complicated and makes the deployment process harder than it needs to be. For a more forward-thinking approach, lean towards a microservice architecture. Microservices isolate a specific function into its own module which can operate independently of other functions.

There’s a lot to be gained through microservices. They’re highly scalable and easy to integrate into a stack using APIs. When one microservice needs maintenance, it can be worked on or replaced without taking the entire system offline. It’s also possible to modernize outdated legacy systems by adding new functions via microservices.

Use API to Connect Necessary Resources

Application programming interfaces, or API, are software “middlemen” that allow unrelated software to communicate with each other.

The most visible API are the public ones that extend functionality to third parties for mutual benefit, like social media API. However, using private in-house API is an excellent way to integrate new software.

API reduce the risk of affecting existing software when adding new features. They position the system as a whole for agility and consistency. If several components communicate using the API, they must also use the same data formats, requirements to mandatory and optional parameters, and dependencies between fields.

This simplifies data governance and makes it simple to scale or add new functionalities.

Adopt Continuous Integration and Delivery

Something which is often done last when building custom software is actually integrating it into the existing stack.

Under this practice, bugs or gaps in function that previously went unseen can derail launch at the last minute. Adopting continuous integration and delivery helps address such problems before they affect delivery timelines.

Continuous integration means automating the build and testing of code every time a change is committed to version control. It merges all changes into a shared version control repository, encouraging developers to share their code and unit tests.

This results in fewer merge conflicts and earlier identification of bugs.

Continuous delivery, which is often used in tandem with continuous integration, involves automating the release process. Changes can be pushed straight to customers at the press of a button.

Some developers take this a step further with continuous deployment, where changes get sent out as soon as they’re committed. A bad tests will prevent deployment, but otherwise changes are pushed straight to users.

Why does this make integration easier? Frequent, productive communication is essential for building quality software on time and within budget. Continuous integration and delivery provides the basis for that communication.

It allows for smoother collaboration and frequent client feedback, letting developers fine-tune their approach for a seamless integration.

On top that, frequent testing and validation leads to faster discovery of errors. This is especially important when integrating with existing systems because bugs can affect those systems if they aren’t caught before integration.

Repairing bugs earlier in the process can be more easily than at later stages, which lowers the overall cost of development.

Custom Software, Custom Integration

While there are challenges when integrating custom software with an existing stack, those challenges apply to any software integration. Taken as a whole the opportunities outweigh the risks. With custom solutions, companies can guide the integration process and minimize the disruption to their daily business.

Concepta’s software development team has 12 years of experience with building custom solutions. If you’re looking for guidance on how new custom software can fit into your stack, set up your free consultation today!

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How an Integrated Management System Improves Enterprise Visibility

integrated management system

In the best-run enterprises in each industry, the various departments tend to be closely aligned with one another in a complex web of activity.

Forrester specified integration as the first of five key best practices for more productive planning and execution.

Like the pieces of an intricate mechanism, accounting affects manufacturing planning, which impacts marketing, which defines the organization’s goals in business partner negotiations.

As your enterprise approaches maximum efficiency it leaves less and less room for project delays or surprises.

That is one of the primary reasons why you may have seen integrated business management solutions so high on CIO priority lists over the past five years.

Long-term planning for staying flexible in volatile markets demands a steady hand on financial controls from inventory valuation to currency normalization.

The best integrated management systems assure flawless data flow from ERP systems to CRM and everything in between. The goal is a virtual pane of glass with absolute visibility into every corner of the enterprise.

That is also how leading firms always seem to make the right strategic moves. They are not fortune tellers and they are not lucky: They just have better visibility into their own operations.

Pan-Enterprise Visibility

One of the beneficial outcomes of this intense concentration on pan-enterprise visibility is that providers of integrated business management solutions have crowded into a burgeoning market, driving down prices until practical for the mid-sized enterprise.

There is no longer a need for knowledge and data to pool inside spreadsheets somewhere deep in a forgotten network folder. There does not need to be confusion over which version is the most current.

With a single source of the latest data, servers can operate faster with more storage space available, since there are not countless versions of the same document sitting in email folders all over the enterprise.

That may also be why the departments most often leading the charge for greater pan-enterprise visibility are those responsible for governance, risk and compliance.

According to the 2015 GRC Maturity Survey, “90 percent of respondents stated the integrated approach to GRC has either met or exceeded expectations.”

The shared data that comes from integrated business management is the enemy of risk.

Free Data Flow

The top enterprises in each industry are able to free up time for innovation when they allow data to flow freely from department to department, whenever and wherever it is needed.

Sales teams can instantly answer questions about past orders, upcoming shipments and a related prospect’s stage in the customer journey.

Integrated business management solutions allow auditors to access payroll and reconcile their financials against posted accounts.

In the years ahead, enterprise data itself will be considered intellectual property and a competitive advantage.

The best data analysis tools put clear visualizations and intuitive decision support in the hands of everyone in your most pivotal roles. That is how enterprise teams, despite being geographically dispersed and tasked with conflicting priorities, can collaborate on realizing a singular vision.

You can learn more about data visualization here:
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Data as a Lighthouse

In ancient times, the lighthouse was the fixed point that guided ships through high risk and dangerous waters. In the economic storms of contemporary global market where local impacts are immediately felt around the world, centralized data is the new lighthouse.

Integrated business management solutions are how your enterprise can work with that data to establish visibility and certainty on where you need to go next.

For more information, contact Concepta today and…

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How a Salesforce Integration Can Help You Run Your Business

salesforce integration

Salesforce is a popular Customer Relationship Management (CRM) product that was one of the first to see the power in setting up as a Software as a Service (SaaS).

Salesforce gives you excellent tools to build sales pipelines, create support services and track interactions with customers. However, your other company data can be cut off from the customer information unless you take the time to initiate Salesforce integration to mesh the disparate systems together.

Here are some things to consider when you integrate Salesforce with external systems.

Integration with Current Applications

In today’s IT landscape, many companies have both cloud-based and on-premises applications.

When planning to integrate Salesforce with existing systems, especially on a large scale, you must determine the best “pattern approach.” This method was developed by Salesforce to provide a matrix for you to decide what options are best for your individual situation and quickly became a set of Salesforce service cloud integration best practices.

The patterns were refined by Salesforce partners and developers after many successful implementations. Each pattern has a name, context, problems, forces, solution, sketch, results, sidebars and example that you can review to see how closely it matches your challenges.

Here is an example. One pattern is called Remote Process Invocation – Request and Reply.

Salesforce starts a process on one of your internal programs, waits for the process to complete and then determines the state after evaluating the response it receives from your application. For instance, you might have a separate system that creates and processes orders.

While Salesforce is great at nurturing new customers, what happens when a new client places an order?

In this case, Salesforce needs to contact your ordering program to create a new order.

The ordering app tells Salesforce the order status and number asynchronously, and Salesforce updates those details internally. The order number is the foreign key for any further changes or updates to the order management software.

This pattern must also consider error handling and recovery as well as security. In addition, the call and response must be fast so users and clients don’t have to wait around for the software to update. For that reason, the Salesforce integration best practices for this pattern is to only use it for small volume scenarios.

Other patterns you might use include:

  • Remote Process Invocation – Fire and Forget
  • Batch Data Synchronization
  • Remote Call-In
  • UI Update Based on Data Changes

Integration Paths

Like all major web services, Salesforce has a robust API for Salesforce integration with third-party application systems.

Transactions through the Force.com API have surpassed Salesforce page views and now make up the largest percentage of the more than five billion service transactions on the site every quarter.

But depending on your Salesforce integration project, there are different paths you can take through the Force.com Connect system.

For example, Singapore Airlines used the AppExchange marketplace for e-marketing; Infoworld used a Native Connector for contact management and Symbol Technologies used it for forecasting and order management; Karl Strauss Breweries tapped the Partner ecosystem for order management solutions while Magma used it for account and customer master programs; ADP invested in custom development for order management, and Heald College did the same for student recruitment.

As you can see, there are a number of factors to consider when planning Salesforce integration with other applications, as well as various paths to take to solve your particular challenges.

Salesforce cloud computing is a powerful way to maintain the advantages of reliability and consistency of your current solutions, and then tapping the power of Salesforce cloud integration for a truly effective combination of cutting-edge applications.

For more information, contact us today or visit our website.

How a Quickbooks Integration Can Help You Run Your Business

quickbooks integration

If you have a small business, there is a very good chance you use Quickbooks for your accounting solution. QuickBooks has an incredible 80 percent market share — that means 29 million small business owners count on the program to keep their books organized. It’s also likely you use a number of other cloud-based apps to help run your business.

Take a look at why you should integrate Quickbooks with these other programs.

Quickbooks Integration

You’ll find there is a wide variety of cloud-based applications you can integrate into your Quickbooks business workflow. For example, let’s say you use Square for processing transactions in your retail store. Using the Sync with Square app, you can auto-import your sales and expenses into Quickbooks. The advantages include:

  • Eliminating manual entry of data
  • Saving time, money and worker hours that can be better used helping customers
  • Simple reconciliation to match deposits, fees, refunds and payments against your bank statement
  • Automatic invoice creation, including product details and category
  • Viewing all payment processing fees in one location

Square is just one example. There are hundreds of apps you can integrate with Quickbooks. For example, you can:

  • Sync Quickbooks with Constant Contact to nurture better customer relations
  • Connect Quickbooks with Google Calendar to track important dates and events
  • Track time sheets and employee work schedules with TSheets Time Tracking
  • Sync receipt data with Receipt Bank
  • Receive quicker payment using InvoiceSherpa

Webhooks for Quickbooks Online API

With a talented developer, you can create your own Quickbooks cloud accounting software integrations. Developers can use the Webhooks for Quickbooks Online API, which features a push model instead of periodic polling for data changes.

For instance, you might want to get an alert when a customer’s data changes. All you have to do to achieve this is create an endpoint that the online API can contact for the change information.

Webhooks aggregates data for each request and sends a notification to your API. You can learn more from the Intuit Developer page, which includes SDKs, developer guides, informative hangouts, sample code, a developer sandbox and tutorials on working with the Quickbooks enterprise cloud.

You are also free to use the API for your own app as long as it passes muster with the Quickbooks marketing, security and tech guidelines. Once complete, you can post it on Apps.Intuit.com, the Quickbooks app marketplace.

ERP Systems

There may come a time when your business outgrows Quickbooks and you need to move up to a full-blown Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. With an ERP, everything is self-contained, so there’s no need to integrate Quickbooks with third-party vendors. When you make a sale, your General Ledger and Accounts Receivable automatically update to the new status.

Your staffers may lobby for Quickbooks online integration because the interface is effective and familiar. However, a modern ERP system offers functionality, internal integration and seamless operation benefits that far outweigh familiarity and comfort. Over time, your team will get used to the new system.

Exceptional and Versatile Accounting Software

Quickbooks offers you versatility in the way you run your business — you can select from hundreds of apps covering project management, scheduling, manufacturing, membership, non-profits, retail operations and more. So, if your first choice isn’t a good fit, you have many others to choose from.

For more information, contact us or visit our website.