Business intelligence (B.I.) is a mandatory tool for businesses that wish to survive and thrive in the current economy. Regardless of the niche, every business needs real-time insight into the data created by its activities, in order to guide future decisions.
B.I. connects the dots for managers and CEOs, and lets them know whether the current direction will provide the expected results. It’s also software that creates intelligible reports, so that every person of interest can understand and digest the provided data.
An effective B.I. strategy aligns with management goals and vision. While each approach should be unique, there are several steps that every company should consider.
Establish your vision and goals. Decide what you’re looking to accomplish. Do you have a specific vision in mind? It should take into account B.I.’s ability to process large amounts of data, and deliver real-time performance measurements that can be easily understood by all concerned. B.I. is strongly connected with effective data processing.
A good B.I. strategy should be designed for improvement. It can involve reaction time to market changes, better understanding of the customer’s shopping decisions, or identification of pitfalls in the production process.
Organize your data. The core of a B.I. strategy is represented by organized data, so make sure yours is under control. To accomplish this, do the following:
- Establish report needs. Not every piece of data is relevant to your current strategy. A report needs to be comprehensive but easy to read, not crammed with useless and complicated data. It’s vital that you define the metrics, analytics, and performance indicators that matter for each report. It’s also important to establish the data source for each report, especially if your company is covering multiple industries.
- Know the industry KPIs. In order to understand where your company stands in comparison to other players and the market, you need to know the key performance indicators of your niche. These might include ROI, profit margins and sales. When the B.I. system is ready to launch, the KPIs can be used as a means of determining your position in the market.
- Know your KPIs and historical data. The only way to determine whether you’re making progress is by monitoring your activity in time, following the KPIs that determine your success. Make sure you have a well-established database structure, where historical data can be stored and accessed whenever necessary.
- Put together the team. A solid B.I. strategy requires time, collaboration and the supervision of experienced people. While actual implementation should be performed by a team of I.T. and business professionals, you also need to have your own people, including executives, middle-tier managers and employees, involved in the process. Their job is to supervise the implementation and make sure all necessary aspects of your business are included.
Get stakeholders on your side. An implementation of this magnitude can be beneficial for the entire organization as well as key stakeholders. There might be hiccups that will affect them as well, so they should know what to expect and why. Find ways to include their expectations and needs in the process. As implementation moves along, make sure to keep them in the loop.
Bring in other specialists. Start by assigning the role of implementation supervisor to a key member of your staff. It doesn’t need to be filled by a member of your I.T. department, but rather someone with enough executive power and knowledge of the company’s needs for development. B.I. specialists usually recommend the chief financial officer or chief marketing officer for this position.
Next, determine who will be covering the following roles:
- Designing and building data pipelines that work with various data sources in order to extract only the most important information for reports.
- Transforming analytics results into comprehensible insights, by processing and summarizing the data in reports, graphs, and other tools.
- Overseeing database maintenance and development.
All these roles and more can be fulfilled by several members of staff, but are necessary to make sure the implementation is done right. Otherwise, your B.I. strategy will be rendered useless.
Prepare for a CDO. The position of chief data officer is relatively new in the workforce, but it’s crucial for companies that work with big data. This position requires a highly analytical mind, with a good sense for the larger picture in terms of development strategy and opportunities. This individual should be capable of maintaining database security, accuracy, and privacy, and is the one who will manage the project once this stage is complete.
Assess your current situation. Now that you have the foundation and the team that will work on your B.I. strategy, it’s time to start preparing for the implementation phase. For this, do the following:
- Understand your data sources. Most businesses gather their data from several different sources, such as their customer relationship management (CRM) system, website, mobile app and analytics.
- Establish your data warehouse. This is the central unit of your database, containing all the data that’s important for your business. This can be set up internally, or with the implementation team provided by your B.I. solution supplier.
- Create your current software stack. This is a logical structure of current organizational structures that use a specific type of software. It helps to identify bottlenecks, lags, and even blockages of data that are important for the reporting process. Also, you need to find ways to integrate the habits of your employees when it comes to handling data.
- Document everything. Every process included in the B.I. strategy must be properly documented. While it might sound daunting, this step is crucial for future development of the system.
Get the ball rolling. You’re finally prepared to start the implementation process (assuming you have already selected a reliable partner). Still, keep in mind that a solid and effective B.I. strategy and implementation can’t happen in a day or a week. The project requires a phased approach, with expected trial and error. But if all the steps are followed correctly, the result will be well worth the effort.
Danielle Canstello is content manager with Pyramid Analytics.