Why Should Small Businesses Use Integrated Analytics and Reporting Tools?

4th July 2019

KPIs. Goals. Growth. Do these terms sound familiar? Well, we’re going to hazard a guess, that if you’re a business owner, then you should be overly familiar. All companies are different and will have individual needs and goals, even from your competitors.

However, there is one similarity that all businesses share. Arguably, this similarity could be described as universal. Now, what we mean is that it’s one common aspect that all business, whether it’s small or large, online or brick and mortar. Do you have any ideas?

Well, the answer is that every company, big and small, across industries all require actionable insights into their business. Whether you know it or not, you need to understand where your business is at right now, to make an effective decision to improve your business.

Although this similarity is share, not all companies utilize business insights, analytics and reports effectively. There are several reasons why companies may not be leveraging this beneficial information.

We feel that the primary reason is that these reports and information can be somewhat complex. Fortunately, digital transformation has provided business owners with effective, easy to use analytics, forecasting and business insight tools.

One could say, that in today’s world there always seems to be an online solution. Likewise, not all solutions will be effective for your needs. So, we thought we’d make it a little easier for you. In this article, we will be giving you two great business insight and analytic tools, Futrli and Fathom.

The reason we have selected these particular online business analytics tools because we have had the first-hand experience. Not only that, they’re transferrable for small and medium-size businesses. Therefore, when used and selected appropriately integrated analytic and reporting tools can enhance business productivity, growth and ultimately success.

Why are BI tools important for small businesses?

Well, before we can answer the above question, we need to look at the purpose and role of BI tools in business? Business intelligence tools are not new and have been widely used by large corporations and businesses. However, there is one big misconception that we’d like to address.

That’s – small businesses feel that they’re not large enough to leverage business intelligence tools. Undoubtedly, larger businesses require these to ensure growth, sustain and enhance revenue. Still, small and medium businesses can also take advantage of online business intelligence tools like Futrli and Fathom.

Why? Well, as we said we need to understand the purpose. The primary principle of business intelligence for businesses is to assist the board of executives, senior level management, as well as key operational staff to make educated, subjective and informed business decisions.

Moreover, business intelligence tools offer several benefits, when they are implemented and executed effectively. For instance, small businesses can leverage this invaluable information to reduce/cut costs, discover any inefficiencies as well as finding effective business opportunities.

Hopefully, you can now see how the purpose of BI tools in small businesses can be beneficial. Now, if you’re not technically minded, you might be thinking. “Right, that’s great – but what is business intelligence exactly?”

What is Business Intelligence?

Well, to simplify this complex task, we’re going to use FinancesOnline.com’s definition.

“Business Intelligence (BI) refers to the tools, technologies, applications, and practices used to collect, integrate, analyze, and present an organization’s raw data in order to create insightful and actionable business information.”

Yes, we know we said simply. In practice, Business Intelligence is a complex function, and there are many specialists who train for years to master this craft. So, you might be thinking, “I’m not exactly technically minded.” Well, most of us would struggle to manually implement BI without having the proper training.

Fortunately for you and us, there are online tools – like Futrli and Fathom. Now, we’re just like you, we wouldn’t know how to do all the reporting and analytics tasks without assistance. However, rather than having to outsource or hire professionals, integrated online business reporting and analytic tools make this far easier.

Now, you may reach a point in your business where you need to onboard technical professionals, like a BI analyst. But, in the meantime, you can transform your decision-making processes, by leveraging the up-to-date, real-time and accurate data. Although, in theory, BI is a professional discipline.

Yes, this is true. As we said, there are now automated online solutions, which encompass the four main areas of business intelligence. Again, FinancesOnline.com state that the four key tasks are:

  1. Data mining
  2. Analytical processes (generally online)
  3. Querying
  4. Reporting

Well, if we’ve lost you again. Don’t worry! Although you need to have a basic understanding of the four key tasks, each will be automated if you opt for an integrated analytics and reporting tool. So, we’d now like to look at the benefits of implementing business intelligence tools, like Fathom and Futrli.

What are the benefits of using integrated analytics and reporting tools in small businesses?

Ultimately, the most advantageous benefit of small businesses using online BI tools is invaluable insights. It is a well-known fact that the best decisions are made when they’re informed. Now, this applies in life and business. However, in the context of business, these insights, analytics and reports can be leveraged to enhance growth and success.

Now you may already have KPIs or a basic reporting system in your business. Alternatively, you may be manually generating the report, by pulling several figures from various sources. If you are already implementing reporting, KPIs and analytics in your business, then you surely understand the benefit of this information.

If you feel that you’re business has stalled or started to plateau, it could be that you’re looking for a solution. Well, we’re sure that you already know what our answer is going to be – business intelligence and analytics. Unlike ten years ago, when most businesses relied on Excel, or even paper to create business reports, this can now be generated with a few simple clicks. Digital transformation has had a substantial impact on the business world, in many areas. Although it has made certain processes easier, it’s also made the business world far more competitive.

Namely, the world of e-commerce. You might even be a small e-commerce venture, so you will understand what we mean by competition. Not only that, digitalisation has opened doors for budding entrepreneurs to embark on a new startup. Although the number of new startups might be increased, the amount of new startups failing is much higher than it was ten years ago.

In fact, you might be shocked by the number of individuals that fail in their first year. According to Bloomberg, a staggering eight of ten entrepreneurs who start their new business venture, fail within the first year. Now, this figure may reflect the American market, but the United Kingdom isn’t far behind.

For instance, The Telegraph recently reported that annually, 660,000 new companies are established in the United Kingdom. Now, we’d like to use their comparison as it works nicely:

“…That’s equal to 70 new businesses being formed every hour. That’s the same as every man, woman and child in Glasgow starting a new business every year!”

So, the competition is certainly fierce. However, what is causing so many of these businesses to fail? Is it the product or service? Is it because they don’t understand their niche market or customers? Now, it could be a combination of one or all of these reasons. However, it seems that the biggest downfall for businesses is a lack of information.

Now, what we mean by a lack of information, is a combination of the questions above as well as understanding their business. Information, across all levels, is crucial to the success of a business. Therefore, business intelligence solutions can be an ideal way to enhance and understand your business.

At the end of the day, if you don’t understand your business – including every aspect, how can you grow? How can you make a profit if you can’t identify inefficiencies and discrepancies? How can you focus on increasing a product/service that is working well?

Well, you can, and all of these are possible. Although you don’t need to have an online business intelligence tool to generate this information, you should have one. Yes, you can do this manually, but the biggest downside is human error. Think of how many times you’ve entered the data incorrectly just in life in general.

Now, imagine that when you’re transferring data to generate these reports manually, and you have a duplicate figure. That error alone will ruin the entire accuracy. Thus, the data is essentially useless. Whereas, online tools like Fathom and Futrli generate these reports automatically.

Moreover, they will provide you with amazing insights, that are useful because they’re backed by accurate, up-to-date information. When it comes to selecting an online BI tool, finding the right one for your small business is essential. Now, you might not like Fathom or Futrli, but there are plenty of options, like Spotlight.

Also, if you use QuickBooks, they do offer a recommendation for integrated BI tools. Besides, Fathom and Futrli can be integrated with various platforms, whether it’s your Shopify sales page, or if you use an online cloud-based booking keeping service. What these BI tools do, is pull real-time data and generates easy to read reports.

Thus, you can leverage these reports to ensure that you or your management team can make advantageous, informed decisions. Moreover, these decisions can be the key to you growing, remaining relevant and on a level playing field (or even surpass) your competition.

We have discussed the main benefit in depth, as it is genuinely invaluable. Not only that, we feel that it can be the key to a small business succeeding and failing. But we’d rather focus on how you can enhance your business. So, let’s summarise the top three benefits, after improving and speeding up your decision-making processes.

1. Optimised, effective internal business processes

We’re confident that all businesses strive to improve the effectiveness of their business processes. Well, one of the great benefits that BI tools can provide small businesses is optimisation. Even if you’re the sole employer, it can allow you to surpass your competition (which might have 10+ employees).

The bottom line is that you can speed up and enhance your business reports, as you’re not working from outdated or inaccurate information. Instead, you can optimise the areas where your business is thriving and work on ways to enhance them further. Besides, these reports can also help businesses to identify areas that are failing or have a smaller profit margin.

Also, if you do have employees, then these business intelligence tools can help your team to collaborate, as well as being more informed. Therefore, this invaluable information can improve the communication and productivity of your team.

2. Generating and driving new revenue opportunities

Following on from the above benefit, these reports can provide small business owners with insights as to where the business is thriving. Moreover, you can leverage this information by comparing your services against your competition. This comparison might help you to discover gaps in the customer market, which your larger competitors are failing to address.

Generally, business intelligence solutions can help you to have a thorough understanding of your customers. Undoubtedly, it is essential for companies to understand their target market. However, a lack of understanding can result in a business venture failing. At the end of the day, why would a customer pay for a service, if they don’t need it?

Moreover, if your customers feel that you do not understand or recognise their needs, then they will be less likely to use your product/service. Whereas, if you’re equipped with analytics, reports and up to date data, then you can leverage this to connect with your customers.

For instance, you can transfer the data by incorporating the need or demand into your advertising and marketing campaigns. As noted, digitalisation has revolutionised the business world. Additionally, consumers are more demanding in terms of how they want to be contacted, as well as how they receive their service.

So, if you have accurate business insights, you can utilise them by transforming them into effective marketing campaigns. Thus, increasing and driving more revenue for your business.

3. Enhance your business operations

Regardless of your business type, whether you’re providing a service or selling a product, you will still have some form of business operations. Now, this benefit encompasses all of the above benefits, including helping businesses to discover the wants and needs of their customers. BI tools, like Fathom and Futrli, which can be integrated with bookkeeping and accountancy platforms/services will also enhance the efficiency and productivity of your business operations. For instance, you can improve areas that are lacking in your supply chain.

Besides, identifying improvements, you can also comprehend where you might need to improve your manufacturing or delivery services (just to name a few). After all, if your delivery, supply chain and entire back-office processes are fully-operative, cost-effective and efficient, then your business with inevitably flourish.

So, there’s just three (well four) of how lucrative and effectively integrate business analytics and reporting solutions can be for your small business.

How do these BI tools work in practice?

Hopefully, we have explained how invaluable these tools are in business, from forecasting market trends or shifts, to creating personalised services for your ideal customers. However, you should still understand how these tools work in practice.

Now, we mentioned that we will be focusing on the best two players – in our opinion, Fathom and Futrli. So, please use this section as a guide, based on our experience in being an accountancy partner with both solutions.

The simplified description is that business intelligence tools are effectively Decision Support Systems. In business, these BI tools are implemented interchangeably with integrated bookkeeping, accountancy and selling platforms (like eBay, Amazon and Shopify). Basically, these tools automated the entire reporting process.

Instead of manually cross-referencing and analysing the data, these tools run reports automatically to generate accurate, complex and real-time reports. Therefore, businesses can make informed decisions backed by hard, accurate evidence, as opposed to “going with your gut.”

So, let’s look at Fathom and Futrli in a little more detail.

What is Fathom?

Now, Fathom isn’t just an advantageous business metric tool for businesses, it’s also been created to work in tandem with accountants. The reports, KPI metrics and insights can be utilized by Fathom accountant partners, like Pearl to create a more accurate financial portfolio, complete tax reports and projections.

Essentially, Fathom simplifies business metrics. It’s simplistic, user-friendly and it can integrate with various online solutions, including Xero and QuickBooks. It allows the business to thoroughly investigate all aspects of the business. For instance, you can identify trends, monitor areas, identify gaps for improvement, and obviously have a clearer picture of the overall performance.

So, to revert back to “what is Fathom?” It’s simply an innovative, effective and easy to use financial analysis, management and report tool. Businesses and accountants alike can leverage the reports to obtain an accurate evaluation of the business performance, as well as identifying areas to improve.

Key Features of Fathom

Selecting a specialist Fathom accountant like Pearl Accountants can allow you to excel and enhance the success of your business. Here are just 5 of Fathom’s key features:

  1. Easy to use – Fathom makes KPI generation and reporting simple.
  2. Integrates – Fathom provides real-time data by integrating with other online solutions like Xero or QuickBooks, as well as Spreadsheets.
  3. Transparency – Fathom offers a transparent and clear understanding of how a business is performing, in all areas.
  4. Informed Decisions – The information generated by Fathom allows business owners (directors/management) to identify areas of improvement, set accurate goals and fully understand the businesses’ financial health.
  5. Interpretable Data – Fathom doesn’t generate overly complex looking reports, instead, it generates visually pleasing, easy to interpret data.

What is Futrli?

Futrli, to put it simply is an integrated reporting and forecasting tool, which is designed for small businesses. Moreover, if you’re looking for a one-stop reporting and forecasting solution, then that’s Futrli.

Nowadays, there seems to be a digital solution for nearly everything. However, these solutions are not created equally. Now, what Futrli does is allows users to have a clearer reporting system, as they say at Futrli “because BI dashboards look backwards and spreadsheets are so last century.”

Futrli provides small business owners with a robust report. Unlike many reporting platforms, the aesthetic is easy to interpret. Therefore, it allows businesses to get a clearer understanding of the overall performance, based on the latest data.

The great thing about Futrli is that if you’re already using online solutions like QuickBooks and Xero, is that it can help businesses to get a stronger handle and understanding of your cash flow. Likewise, we have to agree, which is why we’re going to explain why we feel our partnership with Futrli is highly beneficial for our clients. So, let’s have a look why?

The Key Features

On the whole, Futrli is highly advantageous for small businesses, who are looking to get a better handle on their company performance, identify issues or scale up. Pearl Accountants are eager to leverage Futlri’s innovative solution to provide our clients with a more comprehensive, effective and efficient reporting solution.

Here are our top 5 benefits of Futlri’s features:

  1. Accurate and easy to understand reports
  2. Compare historical data to the most recent
  3. Allows you to predict and prepare for an abundance of “what if” scenarios
  4. Transferrable reports – for personal use, generating tax returns/reports and for investment purposes
  5. Seamless integration with online platforms such as QuickBooks and Xero.

The Bottom Line

If you frequently read our business guidance articles, then you will know that we’re advocates for the “what’s right for you and your business” theory. As all businesses are different, so one software may or may not work for you. Moreover, at Pearl Accountants, we strive to help your business to grow.

If you would like to learn more about Futrli accountancy or Fathom accountancy, please get in touch with our helpful team.

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