The dangers of data visualization and BI tools in ag retail

Technology innovation is driving a rapid pace of change within agribusiness around the globe. Data is abundant in agriculture, but it isn’t always put to best use. How to improve this situation naturally invites questions, such as:

  • What is the right technology for our business?
  • What data should we be collecting?
  • How do we best evaluate that data?
  • What are our overall objectives for data analysis?

Questions like these are the next wave of strategic considerations at the forefront of decision-making for Ag Retailers, with both great risk and great reward on the line.

The Importance of Data and Analytics

Utilizing an analytics tool to drive actionable insights for the organization is a business advantage that promotes long-term strategic thinking. “The right data and analytics solutions will improve efficiency, and increase visibility, which enables enhanced, strategic decision making, and can identify opportunities to increase revenue and drive up profit margins. All of this can happen in a timely and reliable way with the right solution in place,” says Marie Kennedy, Commercial Analytics Product Manager for Proagrica.

Exploring Solutions

When exploring solutions for data and analytics platforms, it is important to consider the full spectrum of implications that come with this choice. While some Ag Retailers prefer to make their selection based on the needs of the moment, creating a long-term strategy for future success can help turn this decision into a true business advantage.

Such considerations and strategic objectives may include:

  1. Delivering actionable and easy to understand insights
  2. Increasing visibility of business insights across the organization to help inform decision-making and increase revenue.
  3. Using a scalable and future-proof solution
  4. Ensuring that insights are reliable and trusted because they are derived from clean and standardized data, encouraging engagement from the business and providing a single source of truth

Traditional BI Tools

Business Intelligence Tools (BI Tools) are already familiar to some agribusinesses and can appear to be an easy win when it comes to implementing a data and analytics solution however, they are rarely a complete solution. Let’s consider the pros and cons:


  • Flexible visualization of data is possible through user created dashboards.
  • Relatively low total cost when dealing with a low number of user licenses
  • User familiarity with market leading solutions – experience of navigation and manipulation of data within popular applications.
  • Quick way to start investigating data use cases for the business and uncover data challenges.


  • Does not take care of the data pipeline, only the visualization aspect. Bespoke consultancy work may be required to achieve objectives, which is often expensive.
  • Does not create a reliable foundation of clean, standardized data.
  • Manual data manipulation can be required to fix underlying data issues, which is time-consuming and does not provide a repeatable and scalable solution.
  • Licensing costs often limit the number of users that can actively use the application across the business.
  • “Super Users” are required to build out reports to push to the business, creating delays and limiting visibility.

Proagrica’s Commercial Analytics Tool

  • A complete, end-to-end Data and Analytics platform that extracts data from all relevant systems and brings it together into a standardized format
  • An automated tool that does not require manual efforts, but instead provides timely, accurate reporting
  • Enterprise licensing means no limits to the number of users within the organization who can have access to the insights
  • Reliable, long-term pricing model based around a supported, robust and scalable platform

Industry experts, like the leaders at Proagrica, agree that big picture thinking can help ensure all the areas of the business realize the benefits. “There is no need to buy something off the shelf that doesn’t fit their needs, and no need to pay to build something from scratch,” says Ms. Kennedy. “Commercial Analytics takes the best of both worlds; using our data and analytics platform Agility and configuring the product offering to fit the complexities of their customers’ data, and the needs of their business.”

Successful solutions, like Proagrica’s Commercial Analytics platform, utilizes tools to achieve data visualization, while helping to improve access to information, accuracy of information and the ease of leveraging data to make decisions. “We’ve done the work to understand what it is Ag Retailers want to know across their sales, customers and pricing data with ready-to-go charts and widgets, so that their business can realize the benefit of the insights as quickly as possible,” says Ms. Kennedy.

Some agribusinesses are already taking advantage of well-executed, long-term strategies to help them surpass their competition, build trust with customers and increase revenue and are already reaping the benefits. “Commercial Analytics is about taking a long-term, partnership approach to delivering ag retailers with the valuable business insights they need to grow and support their business into the future because it is scalable and flexible,” says Ms. Kennedy.

Businesses have already tried to address their sales analytics needs through BI Tools or other solutions, but may be disappointed with the outcome.   “It can be natural to think that the cost already invested is a good reason to continue on down the same path, but if the current solution is not working it can end up costing more, both financially and in terms of opportunity lost if they continue. Sometimes, a change is needed to see the positive impact that the business is looking for and the benefits will outweigh the effort to change approach.”

While BI Tools may well deliver against some strategic objectives, businesses often find BI Tools lacking in their ability to meet the objective of ensuring that insights are reliable. In comparison, Proagrica’s Commercial Analytics product uses their Agility data and analytics platform, which is designed to deliver against all four strategic objectives noted above.

The use of a BI Tool to visualize data may seem like a quick and easy win, however the visualization of data is in fact the easy part. The quality, reliability and suitability of the data being used in the dashboards is where the most time and effort should be spent in order to ensure the insights being visualized are real, valuable and actionable. This problem space is where Proagrica Commercial Analytics excels.

Looking Forward

For agribusinesses looking to gain a strategic advantage, putting the right tools in place to maximize the value of data and analytics can be a game-changer. “The right data and analytics tool, delivering value to roles across the organization, should pay for itself and is well worth the investment. It also doesn’t need to be a daunting task if you choose to partner with Proagrica, as we will guide you through the process from set-up through to launch and on-going technical, and user engagement support,” says Ms. Kennedy.


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