Businesses today have an increasing volume of sales performance data available from multiple sources.  While most companies understand the potential value of this data, many struggle to turn it into actionable insights--especially at the executive level. Why? Because few organizations even have the right mix of business intelligence tools and processes to uncover hidden insights from within their data. Although even when they do, most companies still face challenges delivering insights to their management teams.

The problem is that many executives still depend on manually produced spreadsheets for managing and tracking sales performance. But static spreadsheets can’t deliver the real-time, actionable intelligence management needs to improve sales and achieve revenue goals. 

Figure 1: Eighty-three percent of companies invest in sales performance management (SPM) technology to improve reporting at the management level. However, only 40 percent of those that make the investment realize an improvement in up-line reporting.
Source: “2012 Sales Performance and Technology Survey: A Report by WorldatWork and OpenSymmetry

Moving Beyond Static Reporting Tools

Improving executive reporting requires organizations to think differently about their information assets and how users interact with data. To stay competitive and financially viable, companies must harness the power of data currently locked within their technology siloes. And that requires an enterprise-wide commitment to move beyond standard reporting tools. Here we provide four proven ways organizations can leverage existing business data intelligence to improve reporting at the executive level.

1. Be Visual: Keep it Simple.

Reports filled with endless rows and columns of  static, numerical data that take hours to sift through and weeks to assemble don’t enable decisions. However, using the data to see cues and visualize trends, increases understanding, allows for predictability and enables more informed decision-making.

For instance, anyone who has ever ordered an espresso drink from Starbucks understands the complexity in choosing something as simple as a beverage, as illustrated in the Figure 2.


Figure 2: How fast can you decide which drink to order using the above data? 

Compare the utility of this chart with the graphic below to better understand how visual representations of complex data can drastically simplify quick and informed decision-making.


Figure 3: Visual representations of complex data greatly simplify rapid and informed decision-making.
Source: Six Revisions

2. Be Concise: Get To The Point.

BI reports should not force management to wade through pages of data. Rather, these reports should be presented like a strategy plan or a news website, with concise headlines and summaries that help managers quickly find the information they need. The goal is to present contextual meaning and actionable insight in an easily searchable format.

3. Be Timely: Distribute Real-Time Data Alerts.

Data alerts are unique visual indicators based on a defined key performance indicator (--an established, quantifiable measurement that evaluates a critical success factor for a business). Alerts generally present actual data as positive, neutral or negative against defined thresholds. Most alerts are extremely time-sensitive; if the information is delivered after any action can be taken, it has no value. The ability to deliver real-time data alerts is an important best practice for any sales organization.

4. Be Mobile: Deliver Insight To The Point of Action.

For business intelligence to be useful, it has to be delivered to the point of action, which usually means a mobile device. Smartphone use continues to climb and tablet sales have increased exponentially -- a trend with no signs of abating. For most companies today, it’s not a question of if they will enable a mobile workforce, it’s how. As a result, businesses without a mobile BI strategy will likely fall behind the curve by the end of 2013. Mobile BI is simply a must-have for any organization looking to improve business performance.

To be successful, companies today need to mine relevant business data and deliver timely, actionable insight to key decision-makers on their devices of choice. Companies that generate and deliver BI that is visual, concise, timely and mobile are positioning themselves to achieve new levels of sales performance and the greatest possible competitive advantage.

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