Everybody’s talking about business intelligence (BI), and with good reason. Implementing an effective and comprehensive BI strategy is critical to the success of your business.

Why do you even need a business intelligence strategy? Because you need data. You need it to make projections, identify sales trends, establish price points, analyze profits, track product trajectories, and enhance corporate efficiency. You need it to make good decisions about your products and services.

Often, gathering data for reporting and analysis is no easy task. Typically it requires a team of people harvesting information from multiple, disconnected systems, which may produce unreliable results.

Let’s say a manager wants to investigate the profitability of a particular product over a specific time period. Maybe he is also interested in who had the greatest volume of sales during that time. In order to get his answer, he (or his team) will need to invest a lot of time combing through customer relationship management (CRM) data, financial and accounting system data, and a few “rogue” spreadsheets.

You probably don’t realize how much of your company’s workload involves performing these types of routine tasks, which crowd out more productive endeavors. Your analysts are likely to be interrupted by special requests from coworkers and burdened with revisions to reporting formats. They will need to track down data components in their various repositories and deal with the constantly changing data set that the manager wants to see.

However, establishing an effective business intelligence strategy dramatically minimizes the time needed for putting this type of report together by organizing your data in a centralized, searchable, connected system. A comprehensive BI solution provides you with the answers you need in a digestible, “business dashboard” format. It also enhances your ability to customize reporting, see new business opportunities and identify where there are problems.

A lack of business intelligence impacts nearly every aspect of your business. Without it, your team spends all of its time sorting through reports to find the right data, paralyzing the decision-making process. Smart organizations establish a unified and comprehensive system that can grow with the company instead of becoming obsolete in a couple of years. This type of system pays dividends immediately: your payroll hours are used more efficiently, your forecasting is more accurate, and your streamlined process makes everyone happier and more productive.