Expert Interview Series: Paul Robertson of Phocas Software on the Effective Use of Business Intelligence

Paul Robertson is Head of Digital Marketing at Phocas Software, which helps wholesale distributors, manufacturers and retailers discover opportunities to increase sales, reduce costs and get a better visibility into their business. Paul holds a degree in Communications and Marketing and is completing a Masters of Information Systems at the University of Melbourne.

We recently checked in with Paul to get his insight on how companies can use business intelligence more effectively. Here’s what he shared:

Can you tell us about the mission at Phocas Software? How are you hoping to help businesses use their data more effectively?

Phocas Software’s mission is to have the happiest customers in manufacturing, distribution and retail. We want our customers to experience an easy-to-use solution that can be accessed by everyone in the company, no matter who they are, what they do or where they are. Phocas helps businesses make sense of data to streamline processes, increase sales and better manage stock.

What are the advantages to businesses willing to invest more in business intelligence? Why should business leaders care about business intelligence?

Two advantages our customers tell us about are:

Sales increasesWith business intelligence, companies discover insights into their business and their customers. For example, a sales manager can see and compare individual or team performance, identifying strengths and/or weaknesses that will result in greater success. Sales teams love to analyze customer buying habits and use the information to find cross-sell and link-sell opportunities. These insights alone can quickly generate significant profits.

Turn business data into actionable intelligence – Businesses are generating data in their finance, inventory, supply chain, marketing and CRM systems every day. The information in these systems can only create commercial value if it is put to good use. BI is the secret to turning company data into actions that make money, cut costs and significantly improve efficiencies.

A business intelligence solution is a business leader’s biggest asset. Harvesting useful data, making sense and drawing value from it is a key differentiator for many businesses.

What tends to surprise your clients the most about the potential uses for BI?

Before using Phocas, CEOs, executives and decision makers always react with amazement when Phocas reveals valuable insights they just weren’t aware of.

Clients are routinely surprised that Phocas can help them across their entire organization, and isn’t restricted to power users. Sales professionals gain insights into customer buying habits; sales managers can see how team members are performing; inventory managers can monitor stock on hand, overstock, understock and deadstock in real-time; and supply chain managers can access valuable insights leading to better accuracy when forecasting future targets.

What tools have you found are less effective for managing business intelligence?

Less effective business intelligence tools tend to be the freemium products entering the market. These products entice people to sign up based on a low price, but they offer limited functionality, are often complex to use and don’t handle large datasets well. A BI tool that can only be used by power users or spreadsheet experts is going to offer very limited business value in many cases.

What are the most common pain points your customers come to you with? What do you see as being the biggest challenges facing business today in managing and using their data?

Common complaints are that it takes too long to access reports generated by IT specialists who are using ERP systems. They are frustrated because ERP systems are too complicated for anyone but power users or IT experts. They want a solution that is accessible to anyone in their organization, not just a select few.

One of the biggest challenges facing business today in managing their data is accepting the cultural shift that business intelligence requires. Once business leaders accept that their entire organization will benefit from business intelligence, they begin to see everyone from their sales team to marketing, to stock and inventory managers using data to make better business decisions, leading to increased profit and more efficiencies.

What are the most common mistakes you see businesses making with data management? What should they be doing differently?

One of the most common mistakes is that business leaders rely on ERP systems to not only collect and store their data, but to also provide data analytics. ERP systems are not built for this, and as a result, the information is too complicated to extract and work with.

Reports can take a few days or up to a week to land on your desk, and by then the information is outdated or the need has passed.

ERP reporting is not only complicated and time consuming, it can also be static and incomplete because information is limited, and may sit outside of your ERP system. Phocas business intelligence alleviates the ERP burden by collecting your data from disparate  sources to form a coherent picture of the business and reveal actionable insights. Now employees across your entire company can explore the data behind the reports, and discover potential issues, trends, and capitalize on opportunities.

What would you like to see more of your client doing today to prepare for how they’ll be using data into the future? What strategies should they be implementing to stay ahead of their competitors?

Businesses need to futureproof themselves by implementing a good business intelligence solution that can do for them what ERP systems can’t –  provide easy-to-understand insights and answers to the critical questions a business has and will have in the future. To stay ahead of competitors, staff need to have access to a business intelligence solution that is embedded into the company culture, easy to use and offers value.

What trends or innovations are you following in the world of BI today? Why do they interest you?

A common trend in BI today is the move to self-service business intelligence. The ability for anyone in an organization to access and extract value from data is proving to be a game changer for a lot of organizations. Now staff company-wide can access and understand data to make informed business decisions.

Find out how having a customer data platform can help your business thrive in a digital economy. Download our white paper on using Treasure Data as your Customer Data Platform.

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Jeremy Goodrich
Jeremy Goodrich
Jeremy Goodrich is a marketer with a deep interest in technology, social media and developing websites that fulfill business goals.
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