The terms business intelligence, data and analytics, and big data strike a combination of excitement and fear into business leaders’ minds. My goal for this post is to alleviate some of the fears associated with business intelligence and analytics (big data is a whole different world). Community banks and credit unions, regardless of size, can start using business intelligence (BI) today to yield tangible benefits. All you need to do is start with reporting.

Reporting: All You Need is Excel

While a data warehouse is often the foundation of a robust business intelligence platform, as long as you have a single SQL database (like Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, DB2, etc.) you can begin to use business intelligence.

Let’s assume that your core’s database is a SQL database (your IT team should be able to answer this question for you very quickly). Even if you don’t have a program like iDashboards, SSRS, Tableau, PowerBI, or some other data visualization and reporting application, you can still begin to create reports. Microsoft Excel 2010 and above have a fantastic feature, PowerPivot, that allows you to create and monitor KPIs right in Excel. You can create SQL queries, return data, create charts and graphs – all without leaving Excel.

Let me reiterate this: to get started with reporting and business intelligence, all you need is Excel.

Is this the best long term solution? Probably not. But it is important to start small when thinking about how to expand business intelligence in your community bank or credit union.

SSRS – You Probably Already Own It

SSRS, SQL Server Reporting Services, is a reporting tool built right into Microsoft SQL Server (one of the most common types of databases deployed at community banks and credit unions). This browser-based reporting application allows you to easily create, manage, and deploy reports to users throughout your organization.

Did we mention you probably already own it?

The theme here is to start small and use the tools already available to you. If you have SSRS, start to experiment with the program. Find someone in your company who wants a report built and design a small proof-of-concept. Once interest is piqued, one report becomes ten and then ten becomes one hundred. Soon, the use of business intelligence will spread like wildfire throughout your community bank or credit union.

Start Learning SQL

Learning SQL seems much harder than it really is. We’ve provided some great free SQL lessons throughout our site to help you get started. Looking for something a little more comprehensive and hands-on? Take a look at our top-rated online SQL course; it’s a great value for SQL beginners.

Once you have learned SQL, you can start writing queries to retrieve data from a database. You can use SQL to pull data into Excel to then build reports, charts, and other visuals like we mentioned before. If you want to start using SSRS, start by creating some very simple SQL queries. Once you write the query, you will find that SSRS is very intuitive for new users.

Don’t feel like you need to become a SQL expert. Learn enough to start making an impact, and you can learn more complicated features as you go.

To Begin, Begin!

Using business intelligence is just as much a capability to the $100 million community bank as it is to the $5 billion credit union. Keep things simple and start working with Excel. Once you have made some basic reports with Excel, start to experiment with SSRS. Learn enough SQL to get started, and make incremental progress. Business intelligence can be as simple as reporting – something every bank and credit union can get better at.

Need help getting started? Give us a call at 860-593-7842 or send an email to [email protected]!