Your business has taken off, yet your bottom line continues on a plateau as new challenges and demands stress productivity. It’s a situation many businesses are facing in today’s challenging landscape.The constant pressure to be more efficient, producing the same amount and quality as always while utilizing fewer resources and reducing overhead—all while prices continue to rise. To any logical thinker, it’s a virtual impossibility.

Or is it? With improved business intelligence, you’ll have the tools at your disposal to work smarter, and not necessarily harder. If you knew there were data, information and resources out there to set all this in motion, wouldn’t you want to know how to find it? That’s exactly what we’d like to offer you with the following five tips on improving business intelligence within any company.

Capitalize on existing intelligence

Here’s the good news: You already have some business intelligence, whether you realize it or not. Any sales records, performance metrics, production data and the like are considered business intelligence. If you don’t already have this information in a central location, now’s the time to do so. It’s an easy and relatively painless way to improve business intelligence; analyzing this robust bank of data will help you make smarter decisions.

Set reliable performance metrics

If you want to improve your processes and productivity, you’re first going to need to establish a baseline. And you’re going to want a reliable method for measuring the results of newly implemented changes. That’s where key performance indicators come in; no business can move forward without them. With them, you’ll know where you need to go and can better decide the best route for getting there.

In setting measurements and goals, you’ll want to decide which metrics are most critical to business success. Data as a whole is good to have, but hone in on what’s essential to improve efficiency or otherwise meet goals.

Use social media to gather intelligence

With social media emerging as a powerful marketing platform, the analytics possibilities have grown tremendously for this sector. Using social analytics tools, companies can drill down to specific searches which lead customers to purchasing products, which social networks target consumers are utilizing most, at which point in the funnel prospects convert to buyers and more.

Some analytics tools are available free or at low cost and data starts rolling in immediately after configuration. Any business using social media as a marketing tool can benefit from collecting the associated social data. Social analytics are easy to integrate and a quick way to start streamlining social marketing plans.

Make use of Microsoft Excel

If you don’t have a fancy business intelligence software suite, you can get started analyzing your data in Microsoft Excel. Using pivot tables, charts and other visual data representations, businesses can easily view and manipulate data. Raw data is useless without a means to understand it and analyze it as a basis for projections and forecasts.

Invest in a business intelligence software system

The most straightforward method for gaining business intelligence is to invest in a BI software system or application. Many of these programs offer easy integration with Microsoft Office products, including Microsoft Excel, capitalizing on the built-in capabilities of these applications while enhancing them through streamlined analytics and reporting.

BI software is intended as a complete solution, and most vendors offer customized solutions to meet specific business needs. Take your raw data and basic analytics processes to the next level with advanced measurements and metrics, and start using your business data to drive decision-making and improve efficiency.