All organizations have targets to meet and outcomes to demonstrate but what do you do when you find yourself falling short? Quality improvement begins with good data; business intelligence (BI) tools help non-profit organizations turn data into actionable information.

So what are business intelligence (BI) tools?

BI tools are any type of software that collect and structure large amounts of data from internal and external systems (such as health records, survey results, visual media, etc.) into a more usable format that supports evidence-based decision-making. These include such programs as Microsoft Power BI, Tableau, and R. While every BI tool has its own niche, generally, they all offer reporting functionality, tools for identifying data clusters, support for data mining techniques, performance management, and predictive analysis.

Reporting functionality should ideally include: 

  • A clearly understood purpose for the report
  • A defined audience (or user) of the report
  • The ability to determine frequency of report generation and refresh frequency of underlying data

Non-profits often have data that needs to be cleaned, formatted, and aligned for further analysis. Once this is complete, BI tools rely on methodologies such as data visualization, reporting, predictive techniques, and statistical analyses which can help identify trends and pull key insights that drive strategic decision-making.

Prior to processing data, analysts should:

  • Understand the scope of the organization’s data sources
  • Have the required permissions or credentials to access the data
  • Know the size of each dataset and how much data will be involved in the analysis

Once data pre-processing is completed: 

  • Define and document the problem that the organization is facing and trying to solve
  • Determine who is going to receive this information
  • Outline how the report will be used

No matter how advanced your data analytical skills, you should always:

  • Understand the purpose of the visualization and focus on how the visualizations help the reader
  • Choose the right chart to clarify and summarize the message rather confuse the audience with overloaded information.

If your organization is looking to improve internal processes, implement data-driven decision making and better serve your clients, contact CCNY today to find out how we can help: (716) 855-0007, ext. 317 or