5 BI Trends all Xero Advisors Should Know

Transitioning from Technical Accountant to Business Advisor cannibalizes billable hours revenue. That’s OK, Advisors’ modus operandi is about replacing low value client engagements with value adding technology and services. Business intelligence (BI) and corporate performance management (CPM) solutions is a natural route for Advisors to pursue. Business intelligence and analytics are in high demand as organisations seek to use information assets to gain smarter insights into business performance and future opportunities and challenges. In turn, data has become the lifeblood of organisations.

Yet, if you have built your advisory business around Xero, you may have discovered that solutions such as Spotlight, Fathom and Futurli struggle keep pace with changing business demands and growing expectations of the user community. IT-driven application development, limited access to historical and operational data and canned business reports are no longer satisfactory. Users want more control, better access, stronger visualizations and analysis capabilities with faster development cycles. Let’s explore 5 Trends all Xero Advisors should consider

Better Integration of Multiple Data Sources

In the digital age, the next great competitive advantage is the use of information. An easily identifiable trend is more information. Organisations are looking at business performance more holistically, they want to combine accounting data from Xero for example, with new data sources generated by social media, CRM and online customer behaviour for example.

Key Takeaway #1. SME’s need a data warehouses too. A data warehouse is a central repository that integrates, validates and stores data from multiple sources, for better access, accuracy and analysis. In the past, it’s been cost prohibitive for SME’s. It’s typically a six-figure project by the time you combine consultancy, services and software. In 2017, forward thinking companies have taken these costs away from SME’s with pre-built data warehouses with readymade connectors for popular data sources such as Xero, Google Analytics, Salesforce and Public data.

Self Service

Non-technical users need to be equipped with tools and capabilities to access, analyse, and share data on their own. However, the road to this destination has not been easy with the likes of Spotlight. Getting the requirements right for the data, reports, visualization, and drill-down analysis capabilities is difficult and never fully satisfactory. By the time requirements have been gathered and turned into application features, users will have identified different requirements.

Key Takeaway: Your BI Tool should allow non-technical users to determine their own BI requirements by authoring reports, assembling their own dashboards independent of IT. The interface to data should feel natural. Report generation should not require scripting or code. It should be an intuitive drag n drop exercise.

Data Visualization

Also referred to as Data Discovery, this interactive analysis enables dynamic comprehension of major trends and outliers. This technique has become best practice for organisations seeking better decision making. Why? It’s scientifically proven. Our brain’s ability to digest visual information quicker than text and tables enables better decision-making to become exponentially more efficient.

Key Takeaway: Modern BI tools can make data, charts, and dashboards even more accessible by letting people interact with data using natural text and language. This is the next phase in the evolution from standard reporting to storytelling. Does your BI tool have powerful data discovery features?

Harmonising Financial & Operational Strategy& Plans

Most organisations have siloed planning and performance management processes. These typically involve independent efforts that deny each business domain the opportunity to expand analysis of past performance to a cross-domain business process and synthesize additional information to plan activities more effectively. But these separate planning and performance management efforts share some common characteristics. For instance, most business domains’ financial planning employs driver-based scenario analysis, “bottom up” or “top down” process design, allocation of fixed components and, increasingly, more collaborative model creation and maintenance. In this context, the opportunity that Corporate Performance Management (CPM) solutions offer is immense. CPM is mostly used by Finance to add efficiency and control to financial budgeting and planning processes.

Key Takeaway: Coordinating the financial planning aspects of these efforts, with Business Advisors at the center, provides each business area with the opportunity to synthesize a broader spectrum of information, allowing it to ask continually “What information do we need?” as opposed to conducting a more domain-specific analysis that may lack financial and strategic context. The technology that enables this is CPM. All CPM solutions have a modelling engine, for example OLAP (at the very least). A modern modelling engine should allow for unlimited scenario modelling, simulation techniques and writeback. These solutions are evolving from centralised, finance process support solutions into ones that serve broader, more collaborative financial planning, analysis and performance management needs. Ultimately, Advisors can use CPM technology to model specific business processes and, ultimately, tightly link their clients corporate strategy to key aspects of execution in support of organisation wide performance management.

Advanced Analytics

This extension to the historical-focused data mining technique is advanced analytics, used to estimate future data probabilities. By analysing data, the trend of advanced analytics allows businesses to make sense of current inefficiencies or areas of strengths in order to determine the most beneficial routes for future attention. This will help to understand customers and immeasurably improve business performance.

Key Takeaway: : Just because it’s advanced, doesn’t mean it should be complex, complicated or dependent on IT to create, access or report on information. Advanced analytics just means advancing strategic decision-making and business agility regardless of your financial or technical expertise. When considering a strategic BI tool, Advisors should consider the vendor’s current advanced analytics offering and roadmap. Do they offer Advanced Analytics? Is it easy to use, easy to access and easy to generate rich insights and analysis? Advanced analytic offerings should allow all decision-makers across the organisation to quickly, and easily create, access and visualize data in reports or dashboards.

If you are interested in exploring how modern BI & CPM tools can grow your Advisory business, register for our Webinar on the 14th of July. We will be speaking to globally renowned BI expert Martin Kratky about Clear Jelly and how it was developed with SME Business Advisor’s needs in mind.