Business intelligence should not be defined as technology alone — it should also be defined by the way a company works.
Data is growing at an exponential rate year on year, so large organisations and SMEs across a range of sectors such as marketing, manufacturing and consumer products must implement business intelligence (BI) functions to effectively use data to make better decisions and reach strategic objectives.
BI allows organisations to collect, analyse and visualise data in an often granular fashion, and this offers a variety of compelling benefits. Whether it’s gaining a deeper understanding of a marketplace or product, monitoring real-time efficiency, building long-term customer relationships, measuring KPIs or evaluating ROI (return on investment), accurate analysis of data ultimately leads to better and more insightful decision making in a competitive global market.
BI software is widely available and allows organisations to build dashboards and reports, visualise data and decipher information, which in return can inform processes and define strategic goals to increase economic growth and improve operational efficiency.
However, there is much more to high-value BI than deploying the software. Organisations must have a rounded and in-depth understanding of BI, including non-technology issues, for it to be effective. Inarguably, BI should not be defined by the technology alone — it should also be defined by the way a business works.
Research by technology industry analysts Gartner shows that 70 to 80% of all corporate BI projects fail. There are a variety of reasons for this, such as BI being considered as an IT initiative rather than a company-wide programme, quality issues with the data that mean it fails to meet the needs of end-users, or a gap in operational intelligence due to a lack of training.
One global entertainment organisation in particular found that its BI strategy consisted of nothing more than disparate reports, most of which were in Excel. Its analysts needed to manually manipulate the information in the reports to generate the data that they actually needed to see. It was both time consuming and error prone, and it left them with little time to analyse and exploit the data effectively to gather significant insight and value.
The data also remained in individual reports rather than being stored in a central database, which meant that key BI capabilities such as ad hoc analysis, trend reporting and joining data from disparate sources to gain a single view of their customers was challenging at best and impossible at worst.
With no BI strategy to speak of, the organisation found itself in a familiar position: instead of providing the company with value, its BI solution was, in fact, providing it with challenges.
Whatever the issue may be, organisations need to look at a cohesive strategy to identify overriding potential issues at the beginning of the BI process or before upgrading.
Organisations should first look at their current BI strategy and its strengths and weaknesses to highlight potential opportunities for improving value and effectiveness. Understanding what is required from the technology, and why, is vital to ensure the BI solution enhances the overall process.
If there are budget and perception challenges, organisations need to look at developing a tailored BI solution within the budget constraints that provides a level of BI competence. A proof-of-concept BI capability would also help to change perception by proving its viability and therefore securing future BI investment.
Reviewing an organisation’s overall BI maturity should take place ahead of developing a strategy that looks at identifying issues and fixing them in a real and achievable way.
The key strategy of the global entertainment organisation was to develop a BI culture within the company, using a robust and agile approach. This approach should involve the entire business throughout its development to ensure the BI culture was adopted and that the solution was the right one and provided value.
A range of both technical and practical capabilities should also be defined to support any BI solution. Business workshops should be used to identify business goals, processes and people that will amplify its effectiveness, rather than focusing on the new BI solution before realising what it needs to achieve.
Once this has been ascertained, organisations can look to determining the suitability of current, planned and available BI and data solutions to ensure they deliver to the already established goals.
Developing a new BI solution should be based on the information requirements that are most important to the business. This can then be used to gain its buy-in and change perception around the value of BI. A combination of existing reporting can be used to build trust, and new reporting to demonstrate the potential of BI.
To strategically minimise production costs, a BI ‘reference’ solution can be installed. Data can be extracted autonomously and loaded into a central data store, plus there should be a semantic layer and reporting layer built on top, supported by appropriate security and governance.
Overall, BI should be designed to not only meet set requirements, but to also deliver broader business benefits by closely linking business process to business goals.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but with a bespoke BI solution in place that allows analysts to spend their time analysing data instead of manipulating it, and with the organisation having a centralised, strategic approach to BI that will ensure continued growth and return on investment.
Solutions must be sufficiently adopted and accurately interpreted, and, in turn, BI capabilities must be consolidated and new priorities evolved. In short, technology and processes should come together on a company-wide level to fulfil business requirements and deliver real business value.
Sourced by Phil Husbands is the CEO of Saltare
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