Business Intelligence (BI) is the process whereby organisations use technologies and applications to collect, analyse, interpret, and integrate all of their business information into a consolidated presentation. This is for the purpose of understanding and evaluating key business performance metrics using data which are used to inform better business decision making.
In many instances, the intended outcome of technology is derailed by human misuse and misunderstanding which is where major issues arise. According to Gartner, 87% of organisations have low BI and analytics maturity. This is largely due to poor management and lack of understanding rather than a reflection of the technology’s capabilities. BI only presents relevant information and highlights areas for improvement, it is up to humans to use the information accordingly in order to yield results.
What steps can you take to ensure your BI efforts succeed in delivering tangible outcomes? There are many, but here are our top 5:
1. Develop a BI strategy
A lack of an enterprise-wide data and analytics strategy with no clear vision is the primary reason why businesses are unable to leverage their data to improve operations. Most businesses are structured in a way which leads to any analytics projects performed within departmental silos, which cause major issues when trying to get an overview. Data analysts must develop a holistic BI strategy which crosses department borders and gathers quality data across the entire organisation. This is an ongoing process which must evolve along with the business and IT changes in the future.
2. Hire a dedicated CIO
Your Chief Information Officer (CIO) needs to head up your business intelligence efforts and gain significant buy-in from all relevant stakeholders. The aim is to get them to view business intelligence efforts as crucial for business growth, and not as an afterthought. Successful BI strategies are led by a determined CIO who is able to select, implement, and manage project metrics and the software used to manage them. Using dedicated BI software, CIOs need to present crucial data and analytics to business leaders in order to provide a clear overview of the business operations in real-time.
3. BI integration
Most businesses operate with dedicated enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems which offer data analytics out of the box. But as technology and business requirements evolve, so must your BI software. Implementing dedicated BI products which can integrate into existing ERP systems (or work alongside them) that offer data visualisation, mobile accessibility, and drag-and-drop dashboards, is crucial in revealing valuable BI insights. In order to make any decisions based on data, business leaders require automatically updateable dynamic visualizations reflecting new insights in real-time which monitor business activity.
The success of any new software relies on the competency of its users. Many BI failings are due to unskilled personnel unequipped to process and understand the data. There is no use in accumulating data which has no end-goal in sight. Business leaders must train CIOs and staff in analytics gathering and support in order to achieve decisive and actionable outcomes from the acquired data. BI training should not only be a requirement for CIOs and a small, dedicated team, but also a company-wide endeavour to get everyone on the same page in order to track data from every department in your business. The more data you give to analysts the bigger picture you get, translating to more targeted actions from the information presented.
5. Data quality
When the quality of your gathered data is low it leads to various analytical discrepancies and misreadings. Data analytic tools which fail to separate outliers from the norm result in data results and analytics being skewed in various directions, resulting in useless and inaccurate information. This makes it impossible to make any business decisions based off of this ‘dirty’ data. It is therefore important for CIOs to be equipped with enough knowledge and expertise to select data gathering and visualisation tools that offer sanitisation and filtering functionalities. Robotic Process Automation is helping in the quest to clean data in large volumes, assisting businesses in finding the veritable needles in the data haystacks. Based on the quality of your data, business leaders are better able to make assessments and business decisions informed by your business analytics.
As with all technology, the true power of business intelligence endeavors is only truly realised when used correctly. The process of a successful BI strategy is two-fold: instilling a culture of understanding the worth of BI in a broader business strategy scope, and getting the right people to translate the relevant data in a way that aligns to your overall business strategy. Having the data is not enough, knowing how to leverage it is the key.