The importance of Business Intelligence (BI) on business operations has grown tremendously over the last 5 years. BI involves collecting and analyzing raw data from external and internal sources and turning it into actionable business data. Therefore, Business Intelligence will help you turn chunks of unstructured data into critical references for business decisions.
Today there is an increased demand for data analysis tools – BI processes – since no one wants to miss out on the endless list of BI data services benefits. However, this has also seen most businesses rushing into the adoption of BI processes without any strategy or roadmap.
Importance of a Good Strategy in BI Processes
While having BI software ensures you don’t remain reactive in business decision making, integrating one without proper research can be disastrous in the long term. A BI strategy will entail all the steps you plan on/should take to the successful integration of BI in your company.
A good strategy will go from defining the BI process to laying out the objectives of every stakeholder in the company. Therefore, it acts as a compass that ensures you remain in the right direction as you integrate all the required BI processes.
6 Key Steps for Setting Up Efficient BI Processes
These 6 steps will help you to take the full advantage of your BI tools’ functionality.
Step 1: Educate Stakeholders and Employees on Business Intelligence
This step is all about explaining the basics of BI to employees. It ensures there is a mutual understanding among everyone involved in the process. You can also take this opportunity to highlight all the pain points that have led to you taking up BI processes.
Besides, all your staff and stakeholders get to understand how they will benefit from BI integration. Remember, failure to have everyone aboard the process, especially the commitment of the top management, only increases the difficulty of BI implementation.
In addition, this stage will involve laying out your sources of data as well as the control of data flow. It is advisable to come up with flexible data sourcing channels that can be easily changed in the later stages of the BI process.
To make this step successful, you’ll need to:
Define the objectives and scope
Having clear objectives is core to the success of your company’s BI strategy. However, you also need the problem you expect to solve. This will come in handy when determining other high-level parameters such as sources of data, type of data, measurement of progress, etc.
Moreover, it provides a clear vision of the short- and long-term futures of the BI project. Hence, it makes it much easier for stakeholders and staff to understand what to expect of the BI tool.
On the other hand, the scope will help you anticipate and manage set deadlines. This makes it easier to strategize on the plan of action from the word go.
Identify and define the right KPIs
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are there to help you evaluate whether you are meeting your objectives at any point of the BI implementation process. The KPIs should not only be in line with the objectives but also easily measurable.
For instance, if you want BI to increase your revenue by 15% over the next 3 months, you can set KPIs such as the number of sales funnel leads, product inquiries, and opt-in email signups, among other indicators. With such metrics, analyzing whether your BI is working is quite straightforward.
Step 2: Choose a BI Team
The next step is to form a BI team that will help in collecting, cleansing, and analyzing of BI data. They will also play a key role in executing the BI ideas of the company. Here you will specify every team member’s role to ensure efficiency, from who validates all actions to the one responsible for monitoring the whole implementation process.
It is ideal for including people from different departments as part of the BI strategy team. With each department represented, inter-department communication on data sources and collection insight is simplified. A great team should include;
- Domain representatives from departments who provide access to required data sources as well domain knowledge of their respective data types. For instance, a sales representative ensures you get all the meaningful sales information via a single source.
- BI-specific members who will make the key BI process decisions, including development, technical, and strategic. Here, you can have a Head of BI, Chief Data Officer (CDO), and BI Engineer, among other analysts.
Step 3: Choose the Ideal BI Tool
This step is aided by the requirement document you’ll have written for the BI system. This allows you to implement a tool that integrates well with your KPIs. As indicated earlier, the BI market is awash with numerous BI tools. Finding the ideal BI tool will depend on several factors, such as the size of your company, your business needs, and industry type. A useful tool that can be used regardless of the company size is the balanced scorecard. If you’re not aware of what a balanced scorecard is, it’s a methodology that looks at your organization from different perspectives to measure its health, seeking to create a balanced view of your organization.
If need be, you can choose the optimum software for each task in the process. For instance, get one that is great at data cleansing and another for the analytics. However, while a bit difficult, it is ideal if you found a single BI tool that incorporates all the processes.
You can use cloud-based BI tools that can be easily embedded in your existing applications, meaning you don’t have to deal with the integration burden. The main advantage of embedded analytics applications is that they’re 100% cloud-based. In addition to providing various security advantages, they lower your total cost of ownership, as you don’t have to host and maintain servers.
Some basic features of a great BI tool include:
- Secure integration.
- Simple user interface.
- Mobile versions.
Step 4: Document the Execution Strategy
With your ideal software and BI team in place, you need to have an execution strategy as you implement the BI process. You can choose to document your strategy roadmap using either:
- The Top-Down Approach, where the ends justify the means. Here you already have clearly defined goals and KPIs but no specified methods to achieve them.
- The Bottom-Up Approach, where you define a business problem and look for solutions for the identified problem.
Some of the components included in the document based on the approach taken might consist of:
- Data sources.
- Reporting procedures.
- Reporting type flow, either self-service or traditional BI.
Step 5: Setting Up Data Integration Tools
This step calls on the expertise of your IT department. With data stored on your data warehouse in raw form, you’ll need multiple integration tools that will extract, transform, and load it for easier querying.
In simple terms, this step ensures the key elements of your data for the BI process are implemented. This includes:
- Data quality. This ensures your database collects data that meets the BI’s goals.
- Mastering of data governance. This is part of the data cleansing process. It involves creating multiple checkpoints that allow you to evaluate the data quality at various set intervals.
- Data dictionary definition. This helps in data processing and analysis. It ensures there is accessible knowledge by creating a consensus of data calculations and definitions.
This also calls for the configuration of your data warehouse to ensure it matches your volume of data. If you deal with large amounts of data, it is ideal for structuring your warehouse in a way that reduces the error rates, especially when parsing data. Besides, a structured data warehouse enables quicker reporting and easy access to the data.
Step 6: Implement the Process and End-user Interface Dashboards
This step acts as proof of concept or pilot for your BI integration. It helps you analyze whether your BI process is in line with the predefined KPIs. Here you can pick a few KPIs and create interactive dashboards that allow end-users to access standard reports.
With most modern BI tools now offering dashboards that allow for ad hoc reporting, you can easily measure the benefits of your BI strategy.
This step can be implemented over and over again. For instance, if you realize you are lagging behind on the objectives you set at the beginning of the process, you can modify your strategy and implement the process again. Then rerun the pilot to see if you meet the set KPIs.
Setting up a great BI strategy may look complicated, hence why most companies opt out of it altogether. However, when done correctly, it will provide actionable insight and push your employees’ productivity a notch higher.
Remember, efficient BI implementation is a never-ending process. Therefore, it should be continuously refined as your company’s objectives evolve. These 6 steps will help simplify the process every time you need to set up a new process irrespective of the size of your company.