Comparing Performance to Plan with a BI Solution: It Should be Simple…

Compare Sales to PlanTo plan or not to plan … this is not the question for this entry, although it is an interesting topic.  In this post, I’d like to suggest a simple way to save time by taking further advantage of your business intelligence system to see just how close you are to the plan you established for this year’s performance.

When we talk to our customers about Flexible Information Delivery or FID (see my earlier posts), part of that concept is “what is it that we are trying to deliver?”  Generally, we are trying to deliver either a comparative view, a trended view or a graphic view of information.  There are many variations and combinations of these view types but they tend to be variations on a theme.

Then it’s what type of information are we delivering? Of course the answer to that question can be many and varied — just look at all the different types of information that can be collected and viewed in a solution like Silvon Stratum.  But, one of the most common comparisons that we see is “sales to plan.”

How are we doing versus the plan we put together to measure our success as we move through time?  This is where the time savings and your option to bail on reading this blog post comes in!  If your company does not do this comparison simply and quickly in your business intelligence system, then keep reading.  If you already compare your sales to plan without leaving your BI solution (or rather, you do not export to Excel to compare sales to plan), then feel free to bail on reading any further.

Don’t Waste Time Exporting / Merging Plan Data in Excel
I am always amazed at how much time people spend exporting information to Excel (this is generally easily done in your typical BI solution), and then merging that information with a plan in Excel.  It’s not that you shouldn’t be looking at the comparison of sales to plan in Excel, it’s that you should not be spending time merging the data in Excel.   Use the BI solution to automate the process of collecting the plan information and matching it up to your sales.  This way you can look at sales to plan performance quickly and easily in your BI system, and/or export it to Excel in one quick and easy click or tap on an icon.

Having the plan in your BI solution also opens the door to reporting and viewing plan performance through other flexible information delivery options.  In the case of our Stratum solution, this could be in the form of scheduled email report delivery, in a dashboard, alerts notifying you of above or below plan performance, on your mobile device, etc. The hitch on this seems to be a couple of things.  Either the plan is not captured and collected into the BI system, or the plan is not captured in a way to allow for comparison to the sales captured in the BI system.

Include Your Sales & Other Plans In Your BI System
If your plan is not being made available in your BI solution, the obvious question is why not?  Your plan is generally a small set of information (in relation to sales and other types of data that you’ve already collected in your BI system).   This means the options for including the plan into your BI solution are many.  You could use a traditional ETL tool to pull in the plan.  Even if the plan only lives in Excel to start, you could easily grab it and push it into your BI system.  Or you could even use a simple cut-and-paste from Excel to your BI solution.  Additionally you may consider developing your plan in a BI solution like Silvon’s Stratum system that allows you to collaborate and build a plan right in the BI environment.

One way or another, getting a plan into your BI solution is a process that can be automated, simple and quick — one that reduces the time spent playing around in Excel to merge the sales and plan data into some kind of useable comparative view that helps to determine how you are doing.  Once this process is established, you can easily look at the plan vs. sales at any time, with updated information and no time wasted on information gathering and merging.

Getting your plan into your BI solution will save you time and make one of the most common information delivery requirements, sales vs. plan, available upon request.  If you’re a Silvon Stratum user and your plan is not in Stratum, contact us — we can help out.

Now, if your plan is put together in such a way that it is difficult to compare to the information in your BI system, then we have a slightly tougher, but solvable problem.  Check out my follow-on post concerning this problem.

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