5 Business Improvements to Make to Thrive in a Changing Economy

In a recent survey[1], Sage North America discovered how small businesses are changing the way they conduct business in a recovering economy. In response to a question that asked about the top change or improvement made to their business over the last five years, it was found that the top 5 methods employed by these small businesses have been:

  1. Increased technology investment
  2. Better management of cash flow
  3. More use of mobile devices
  4. Better management of inventory
  5. Better employee productivity

5 business improvements to make

It follows then that, for any small business wanting to survive and thrive in a changing economic climate, these five factors should receive focus.

More technology investment

It’s no wonder that ‘More technology investment’ tops the pile.  42% of companies in an Aberdeen study indicated that over-reliance on gut feel is why they are taking a closer look at analytics[2]. With data growing at a rate of 56% year over year[3] for businesses, this reliance on gut-feel is often due to there being just too much data to sift through. In fact, 7 in 10 organizations spend more time waiting for data, preparing data, and reviewing data for quality and accuracy, instead of analyzing the data![4]

Business intelligence solutions provide real-time access to strategically meaningful information to people across an organization, allowing them to better analyze business performance and focus on the decisions that make a difference in their business every day.

Interestingly, investing in business intelligence software ticks the first improvement then sets a business up to improve in the next four areas identified by the Sage survey.

Better management of cash flow

Companies that have clearly defined and frequently measured key performance indicators (KPIs) enjoy higher year-over-year growth in operating cash flow, according to the same Aberdeen report[5]. A business intelligence tool gives you clear business insight to establish and measure KPIs, as well as to track cash flow. Cash has always been king, and needs to be well-managed. It is crucial for a small business to know where the hard cash coming from and where is it going to. A simple cash flow forecast is the first step to tracking and managing cash inflows and outflows. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it should be graphed (something that is easily achievable with a tool such as Sage Intelligence) so that you can easily pick up if your forecasted bank balances are heading into the red, and take corrective measures to avoid running out of cash, the life-blood of your business.

More use of mobile devices

In this information age, people need to be connected, and, as more employees work from home or remote offices or spend more time travelling, they need to be connected in a manner that works for them. Sage Intelligence reports can be scheduled and automatically run out in a number of formats and published in a number of ways, so that no matter where you are and what device you are on, you have access to the latest information that you can act on.

Better management of inventory

Everyone knows that tying up cash in slow moving stock is almost as bad as losing sales due to stock outs. A business intelligence tool can help a small business track trends and conduct accurate planning to avoid inventory holding costs, meet demand levels and avoid missing out on opportunities. It can also facilitate collaboration between business functions such as sales, purchasing, manufacturing and logistics.

Sage Intelligence ships with ready-to-use inventory reports which are easily filtered to view the data according to the user’s preference; for example: warehouse, product line, and item. The reports are customizable for in depth analysis of inventory to help you better manage your inventory levels and allow business owners, buyers, stock controllers to:

• Forecast consumption of goods for the near future

• Determine stock requirements with respect to seasonal fluctuations

• Measure statistics such as inventory turns

• Highlight inefficiencies in inventory management.

Better employee productivity

How many hours do you or your staff spend each month manually exporting data to Excel and trying to make sense of it? Do you have immediate access to information you need? Sage Intelligence automates report preparation by pulling trusted info from your ERP system and other sources into Excel report templates when you want it. It consolidates data from virtually any system and gives users a single version of the truth, helping to reduce spreadsheet chaos. Financial staff in particular can dramatically reduce report preparation times and repetitive data pulls. No more cutting and pasting repetitively, no more human error and no more doubt about data accuracy.

Sage Intelligence can also automate the running and distribution of reports to those who need them at regularly scheduled times. Users get reports that are accurate and up-to-the-minute without having to wait, prepare, or review data for accuracy. You get to spend more time analyzing and interpreting the information and less time searching for it.


It seems like a no-brainer for any small business operating in a fluctuating economy to invest in a reporting tool made with small businesses’ needs in mind, that can then be used to increase employee productivity, gather the intelligence needed to better manage cash flow and inventory, and present it on mobile devices so that better business decisions can be made anytime, anywhere.


[1] The survey was conducted by Sage during June 2013 among Sage customers in the U.S. who are business owners with fewer than 100 employees. A total of 347 people completed the web-based survey. View the Summary Report here: http://na.sage.com/~/media/site/sagena/documents/Sage-Reinvention-of-Small-Business-Study-2013—Summary-Report

[2] Aberdeen Group, Receivables Management for the Long Term, 2012

[3] Aberdeen Group, Data Management for BI: Getting Accurate Decisions from Big Data, 2013

[4] Ventana Research, Business Analytics: Benchmarking the Analysis of Data To Gain Insight, 2011

[5] Aberdeen Group, Receivables Management for the Long Term, 2012