Tag Archives: cascade.bi

The importance of [not] being idle – review, sift and react

In the modern era we are bombarded by information, updates, messages, emails, notifications, alerts….the list goes on!

In both our personal and business lives, there is information overload and increasingly we are learning to sift, skim read, delegate or ignore the information presented to us. With Cascade for Sage 50 we provide relevant business intelligence to SMEs which stops the need to sift, create from scratch or even ignore your business information.

How do we make it relevant?

We understand business. We have worked in businesses and understand the day to day challenges, information requirements and the ability to make decisions quickly and reliably. Cascade.bi makes accessing your business information very easy, our quick, click through drill and analyse technology allows you to delve into the deepest areas of your business and find the answers.

Does sifting increase risk?

Sifting data can be dangerous, you can miss key business information, make poor decisions or fail to make critical decisions at all.

Do you feel under pressure to clear all your notifications?

It may be feeling the need to have a clear inbox, (or at least keep it to one page), address all notifications on your phone / tablet, you will find that you are constantly sifting and clearing all of this information. The danger is that we all sift or clear notifications but fail to delve into the detail. It is important not to be idle and just by clearing the notifications, does not mean that you have all the information you need to make reliable and accurate decisions.

We make it easy to sift information from Sage 50

Let’s look at the example of not monitoring closely your profit by customer, something which as a Finance Director and business owner I have always wanted to achieve. The challenge is always preparing this in a timely manner, and once prepared, then having the time available to react to it before it is out of date!

Sage 50 BI

Being able to instantly identify which customers contribute to your gross profit, and those that do not, has a huge benefit as this information guides you to making the right decisions, delivering change and action across your business. If this information was sifted and not reviewed in detail, you may end up selling to customers at a loss without knowing.

What happens if we look at everything?

Whilst writing this blog, I have been bombarded by notifications on all devices including the same emails being received, tweets to @Cascadebi and LinkedIn messages and updates, together with BBC news feeds to my watch and IPad! This massively impacts on our productivity as they either interrupt our thought processes, distract and disrupt our productivity.

So what’s the solution?

It all comes down to “The importance of not being idle” (yes its a take on the Oasis track from 2005). We all need to understand that whilst we have to handle a significant volume of data, it is important to sift quickly, identify the important and crucially respond to, take action on, and resolve issues as they arise.

Whilst we recognise that Cascade.bi for Sage 50 provides yet more information to our customers, the data is very focused, relevant, reliable, comparable and understandable. It is easy to sift and delve into the detail, adding value to SMEs and business owners. We even provide a free email each week, providing a summary of your financial position and key metrics.

We are so confident that our platform will provide you with the information that you need to help run your business, that we offer a free 14 day trial to road test your data.

Please share your experiences of how you have managed data overload in your business in a bid to remain focused and driven.

Top 10 hints for Sage 50

Using the Cascade dashboard with Sage 50
Sage 50 integrates with Cascade.bi

We all recognise that data is valuable but it is only as good as the quality of the data. Garbage in, garbage out – for that reason, see below my hints and tips for quick wins with your Sage 50 data.

1. Mark old products, customers and suppliers as inactive

To both stop posting transactions to these areas, mark as inactive and you can stop them being displayed on reports, exports and Cascade.bi dashboards.

2. Ensure contact information /postcodes are complete

This will help with analysing segmental information, enabling the quick filtering of data to spot trends early and take action.

3. Use Web analysis fields to categorise products

If you sell products, setting up analysis fields allows you to report separately on these categories, for example if you sell spanners and sockets, you might want to group the products into the following categories:

  • analysis 1 – spanners or sockets
  • analysis 2 – size of spanner and sockets e.g 13mm
  • analysis 3 – brand name

Doing the above would allow you to just analyse the size of both spanners and sockets combined, also get the split between spanners and sockets and also quickly identify which brand – all valuable in understanding your product mix, sales patterns and trends.

4. Use Customer and Supplier analysis fields

Much the same as analysing products if you use the 3 analysis categories which are available for customers and suppliers you can quickly and easily report on specific segments. For example if you categorise your customers by sales rep, you can report and crucially compare sales by sales rep, at the click of a button, either on paper reporting direct with sage 50 or graphically using Cascade.

Customers could be categorised into:

  • analysis 1  – Sales manager
  • analysis 2 – Type of customer e.g trade, wholesale, direct, cash
  • analysis 3 – Payment method e.g cash, bacs, direct debit, invoice

Suppliers could be categorised into: 

  • analysis 1 – Supplier resident country e.g
    UK, EU, RoW
  • analysis 2 – Department responsible for the purchase e.g logistics, factory, sales, admin
  • analysis 3 – Type of customer e.g trade, wholesale, direct

The above are just examples, it’s important to identify the categories which are important to your business, they are all different but we suggest you make use of all 3 for each area – maximising your ability to slice and dice your data!

5. Review and define departments:

Analyse profit & loss by department or person easily (using cascade) or more difficult within sage, often requiring a custom report to be written.

 

 

6. Ensure the correct stock status on products

Identifying if you wish to use stock in Sage could help reduce your database size, speed up the backup routine and avoid having to manually set all stock items to ensure you do not run negative. Many businesses do not use the stock feature on sage, but set quantity to 999999 but this is unnecessary – simply mark them as non-stock in the product record.

7. Set up product categories

Setting up categories at product level allows you to quickly identify trends in sales and profit. Using Cascade.bi this becomes far faster and visual too.

Similar to the analysis fields mentioned above, you are able to categorise the products into one category.

Where the analysis fields give you 3 separate factors to categorise, this gives you the option to add a product to a single category. We would recommend grouping products e.g into tool equipment, using the spanners example above.

8. Set up appropriate product details

By putting accurate descriptions, units of sale, supplier and cost information, not only will your invoices be accurate, but the reporting impact will be massive. Imagine being able to quickly analyse profit by product, supplier spend, sales by product and category. Getting the data accurate will enhance the value of your data.

9. Frequent bank reconciliations

Whilst we don’t think cash is king (see here), we do recognise the importance of ensuring your cash position is reconciled frequently and at least each week. This depends on the size of the business and the size of the finance function. Ensuring the bank is reconciled means the core data is up to date and reporting accuracy will be improved.

10. Regularly review the quality of information

Over time, the cleanliness of your data becomes less accurate and requires review. We suggest you set time each quarter / 6 months to review and update. Always try and stand back and consider if the information you are receiving is working best for you and don’t be afraid to change or seek advice from your advisor.


Contact us for a free no obligation trial:

Cascade.bi packages start from just £45 month, no set up fee, no installation cost or training required. For a free 14 day trial, sign up at www.cascade.bi or contact us on: info@cascade.bi or call 03330 112882

 

 

 

BI trends for SMEs 2017

In this blog I outline the key changes which I believe will help shape the future of Business Intelligence for SMEs in 2017.

  1. Live Sharing

The days of sending PDFs or Excel spreadsheets to key personnel are beginning to fade with changing expectations that data should be instantly available to everyone. Business is following the on demand trend we see in our personal lives.

  1. Empowering the team

Traditionally the reports mentioned above have been used by the business owner and directors. The business benefits of sharing this information constantly and empowering all staff are evident. Just look at John Timpson and the success he has seen through sharing and empowerment. Great article here. Information aids decision making abilities.

  1. Remote working

Needing to be working 9-5 in an office environment is fading, with employees demanding to work more flexibly, and the government encouraging this for parents. The evolution of the Cloud has been an enabler in this move and undoubtedly in 2017 this will continue to grow. Having the ability to access data whilst on the move or working remotely is key. Important and beginning to be expected by employees.

  1. Environmental policy

The ever need for monitoring environmental impact supports the notion of moving towards a dynamic, paper reduced, tech savvy business where information is shared digitally and monitored in near real-time. Cloud BI aligns perfectly with companies environmental policies.

  1. Instant messaging

Increased
use of instant messaging (IM) tools such as Slack and WhatsApp for sharing of information and to provide instant communication with colleagues. Emails will gradually reduce as the use of IM is far quicker and more efficient than traditional email. The use of IM tools is aligned with the desire for instant business intelligence and the combination of both will increase in 2017.

  1. Focus on core data

SMEs all have valuable data, be it from sales invoices, purchases, employee wage costs or credit control. A focus on getting the raw data correct will help improve the standard of both more traditional reporting styles (through paper and bespoke excel reports) and innovating BI tools. Improving the raw data will deliver increased effectiveness and value from all styles of reporting, both traditional and digital BI.

  1. Multiple data sources in one place – increased aggregation

The world we live in now both personally and in business is surrounded by data. We register on multiple websites and apps each year and they all tend to generate data – valuable data. We can now use apps like Facebook or LinkedIn to register on apps, however the trend in 2017 will be for data to be bought together allowing the user to draw instant comparisons across multiple data sources. By 2020 aggregation apps will be common place.

  1. Cloud based analytics used for both on-cloud and off-cloud

Analytics have been increasing their reach with cloud based software as it is technically far easier to obtain this data and analyse it. That said, SMEs use many non-cloud programs which may not offer built-in analytics. We believe that 2017 will see the start of technology to enhance these off-cloud programs and bring them closer to the benefits of the cloud, whilst retaining the ownership of the data on their own servers.

  1. Business advisors & consultants will increasing the use of BI in providing proactive advice

Accountants and consultants are utilising technology around the cloud to enhance both their own and their clients’ productivity. The increasing emergence of cloud accounts based software has undoubtedly opened up the opportunity for firms to provide pro-active advice and react to the changing market. This will continue to grow with more and more firms marketing these skills as one of their core services.

  1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) for SMEs

AI will start to be talked about for BI in SMEs, although we are unlikely to see it being widely used until the end of this decade. We are already seeing the rise in AI, with Google acquiring Deep Mind in 2014 – already being used to perform tasks which needed significant human intervention.

There is a great article here on it is already impacting perhaps invisibly on SMEs. It will become more explicit and far less invisible.


Contact us for a free no obligation trial:

Cascade.bi packages start from just £45 month, no set up fee, no installation cost or training required. For a free 14 day trial, sign up at www.cascade.bi or contact us on: info@cascade.bi or call 03330 112882

Business Intelligence for SMEs…..are you an intelligent SME?

Data is all around us and we often feel swamped by how much there is to understand, digest, and analyse both personally and in business. We are constantly bombarded by updates from mobile apps, emails, and texts, which can put us off wanting to analyse and review data on an ongoing basis.

www.cascade.bi
Screenshot from Cascade.bi platform

We have data overload & our mental capacity to accommodate and retain all of this information is restricted. I am going to set out below why I believe timely information and analysis is critical in the success or failure of business performance.


All too often I read in the press that a business has failed by not understanding its current financial position and not being aware of the current trading performance or possessing the ability to adapt to pivot to a changing environment, until it is too late.

An agile business should be able to use its resources (often people) in the most productive and profitable ways to drive business success. This mindset will allow the business to adapt. However, in order to change you need information.

Information allows us to be informed. Having the information available to make such decisions can be critical and the difference between a profit and success or loss and failure.

Business analytics and intelligence is just one area which needs to be covered sufficiently in every business, and I mean every business as it enables reliable decision making. If you are not able to retain in your mind all of the critical information such as knowing your most profitable product, region, sales performance statistics, cash balances, money owed and money due and in addition, be able to identify trends, then I believe you need to have a system in place which allows you to achieve this.

Having a good handle on your own BI is only a start, you need to understand and monitor lots of information in business, including competitors, market conditions (spotting threats and opportunities), the economy (both macro and micro), political and regulatory impacts and changing technology, to name just a few.

Too often getting in depth analysis of your sales, product, customer, supplier and cash performance is deemed as too costly and troublesome. This may be a task which is performed on a monthly basis and most likely more time is spent collating the data (in excel) than analysing and reacting. Does this sound familiar?

My top 5 tips to getting the most out of your BI:

  • Review the time taken to prepare existing weekly/monthly reports.
  • Estimate the % of effort for: Data collation Vs Time spent analysing e.g. 80/20.
  • Plan which data you would like to see and understand. Write down your biggest challenge which you would like to prove through your data (send it to me if you would like).
  • Prepare your data with analysis in mind e.g. tagging customers and products with their segment/category/location/sales manager.
  • Break the data fatigue cycle – move to a constant review, rather than periodic cycle. Become more agile.

Ultimately, I believe Business performance should be a continual process and adapting constantly, not seen as a “review” process. Challenge this norm, explore how Cascade.bi can help you improve your business performance.

In summary:

BI for SMEs used to be an expensive task which only larger companies could afford. With modern cloud based technology, the cost of distributing and analysing this data can be as little as the price of a mobile phone contract each month…….pause……who runs their business without a mobile phone?


Contact us for a free no obligation trial:

Cascade.bi packages start from just £45 month, no set up fee , no installation cost or training required. For a free 14 day trial, contact us on: info@cascade.bi or call 03330 112882

Cash is king…..?

It is a widely held belief that cash is king in business. I believe it is a myth that if there is cash in the bank then the business is performing well.

Imagine that you are a wholesaler and you sell something today at a loss. Your customer’s terms are 45 days and you pay your suppliers on 30 days. You will have cash in the bank until you pay your supplier, but only when your customer pays you will you actually realise the loss in cash terms. By this time you are likely to have continued to sell at a loss for 45 days and your cash balance will be depleted.

I believe that pricing strategy and information is key. You must know your customers, know your costs and know your prices. Imagine a world where you could instantly see those customers, products or regions which were most or least profitable…or even “making” you a loss.

In summary:

It is a fact that pricing decisions are important and that having the correct information available to make instant decisions and to review is critical. Be informed before it is too late, pricing is king and not cash. Cash is a factor of other decisions and a good barometer of long term performance. Cascade.bi provides all of the above in real time, with prices as low as the price of a mobile phone contract each month…..pause…..who runs their business without a mobile phone?


Contact us for a free no obligation trial:

Cascade.bi packages start from just £45 month, no set up fee, no installation cost or training required. For a free 14 day trial, contact us on: info@cascade.bi or call 03330 112882