Business intelligence (BI) can be a valuable tool providing meaningful information and analysis to help managers make informed decisions. This is particularly important as businesses come out of the survival bunker and start putting growth plans into place. BI tools have now developed beyond the early problems of being too complicated, too time-consuming and too expensive. They have evolved to become much more user-friendly particularly for those who aren’t computer programmers and cloud versions allow access from anywhere in the world. Here are 9 quick tips to help you make Business Intelligence work for your business:
1.) Select the BI team
These are the guys who will make it happen so choose the right people with the required background and experience. They’ll need to understand what is needed, how often, in what formats etc.
2.) Decide what is required
Most companies will have numerous software packages, bespoke programmes and databases, so understanding how they are failing is key to deciding what you will need going forwards.
3.) Develop an implementation plan
Sounds obvious but it will be essential to the success of the project. You will need to identify what you want from the system, who will be using it and how they will use the reports. Having realistic targets will ensure you are able to deliver, and personal goals will ensure everyone buys into the programme.
4.) Stick to specification
It’s easy to get carried away once you start a BI implementation programme and see further benefits from increasing the specification or complexity of the project. “Nice to haves” cost more money and may not bring the benefits to your organisation than they did elsewhere so don’t invest in “boys toys” and stick to what you agreed would bring the most benefit.
5.) Do your homework
Even if you’re experienced it’s often beneficial to speak to others who have put similar BI programmes in place. Get the views of industry experts, other company owners who have put plans in place, companies who write the programme software, or your peers. They will tell you the good and the bad and it will help you to avoid some of the mistakes they perhaps made.
6.) Compare actual success against the plan
As you go through the implementation process, compare your progress against the plan to ensure the objectives are still being met. You may have to make adjustments to the plan as experience shows that improvements could be made, or unforeseen issues occur that weren’t considered in the initial plan.
7.) Don’t forget the training
It’s no good putting a Business Intelligence system in place if the only people who know how to use it are the implementation team. All users must have sufficient training to enable them, at whatever level that is, to use the system as planned to get the most from it. Not all users will require the same training so it must be tailored to individual needs.
8.) Garbage in, garbage out
It’s one of the oldest computer sayings in the book but still very relevant. The quality of all input data determines the on-going success of BI systems, and as time goes by controls need to be put in place to avoid complacency and laziness or the system will break down. If the outputs become inaccurate and the users start making incorrect decisions based on the system, it will quickly lose credibility.
As “big data” becomes more pervasive in business it’s becoming far more valuable for decision makers, which makes it crucial that key decisions are made on reliable data that will add value to a business and allow it to, amongst other things, grow in a sustained manner.