As a School CFO, you may be seeing the term “Business Intelligence” (“BI” for short) more and more these days.
You probably have a general sense of what BI means, but it’s important to understand the term fully. As software becomes more advanced, and as school budgets continue to tighten, Business Intelligence is becoming indispensable for Education institutions to achieve fiscal success.
What is Business Intelligence (BI)?
Business Intelligence is the umbrella term for all the software, systems, methods, and strategies that go into analyzing an organization’s business and financial data, and the insights that are gleaned as a result.
In other words, Business Intelligence is what you learn from looking at past, current, and future/projected information, as well as the ways and tools you use to look at that information.
For example, if you were to use a software system to isolate and study trends in your data, determine process effectiveness, and create a system for performance benchmarking, all of that would be considered, generally, Business Intelligence.
Why does Business Intelligence matter for schools?
As you already know, using data to properly manage and make smart decisions for the business side of your district and its schools is complex but vital. Not only are budgets tight, but unlike a “business” (in the traditional sense), Education institutions are afforded little or no opportunities for generating revenue. That means your budget is, for better or worse, your budget. If you don’t make the most shrewd fiscal decision in each situation that confronts you, your school will face difficult consequences.
Since the stakes are heightened, Business Intelligence is even more critical for schools than it is for traditional businesses.
How do the latest Business Intelligence solutions help schools?
So what, exactly, does Business Intelligence do to help schools? The short answer is that Business Intelligence software helps you organize and make sense of your raw data. But that’s only half of the benefit that such software provides.
Yes: by tracking, compiling, and organizing your data, BI software helps you get a surface-level understanding of the effects your efforts have produced. But, without context, that understanding wouldn’t be worth much. Instead, BI software also measures your past data against benchmarks you’ve set, and helps you to predict, based on trends, where you will end up if you stay on the course you’re currently on.
In addition to showing you where you’re currently headed — and this is where BI gets really interesting — the software also clarifies your decision-making process in detail. Business Intelligence software makes clear which adjustments you need to enact in order to alter your projections to align with your goals and needs. In this way, you can calibrate with specificity how much money you need to spend where, and make other precise calculations that will help you hit your goals.
This may sound somewhat abstract, so let’s use a concrete example:
Harris School Solutions’ Business Intelligence software, called NextGen BI, takes your raw data, measured against 19 separate KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and automatically transforms it all into a visual experience (graphs, charts, etc.). The result goes beyond the simple organization of your data. You actually end up with a literal picture of what the data looks like, as well as what it means for key stakeholders (such as school board members) without having to sift through massive spreadsheets of numbers and explain equations to them.
If this still sounds confusing, this short explainer video may help: