The benefits of business intelligence are clear to see. Using data makes companies more efficient and highly agile, positioning them to take advantage of opportunities as they arise instead of racing to keep up with the competition.
What isn’t so obvious is how to make the shift towards making data-driven decisions. There are so many BI tools on the market that deciding where to start can seem overwhelming.
The easiest way to stay focused is to build around specific business goals rather than choosing a trendy tool and trying to make it fit. Having a roadmap and a destination keeps business intelligence efforts on track, even when making adjustments as needs evolve.
Every roadmap will be different, but there are some guidelines every company can use to put together a practical, effective business intelligence plan.
Get Your “Data House” in Order
It can’t be said too often that business intelligence is only as good as the data feeding it. Bad data turns into flawed analysis, which leads to wasted time and money.
The first step of any business intelligence project should be conducting a comprehensive assessment of the company’s current data situation. Be sure to include:
- Data sources available for use
- Current data management practices
- Potential stakeholders in a business intelligence project (both major and minor)
- Wishlist for data or analytics capabilities
The goal is to clarify what the company has now and what would best help push performance to the next level.
This is also a good time to recommit on a company level to good data management. Business intelligence leads to a stronger flow of incoming data, and having familiar policies in place early will help staff take it in stride.
Work in Phases
Set a list of priorities and work in self-contained, cumulative phases to spread business intelligence across the organization. It may be tempting to just start fresh with a whole new system, but there are two compelling reasons to favor a modular approach.
So much goes into launching a business intelligence initiative. The costs go beyond buying or building software. Companies must also consider the cost of integrating it into their existing workflows and improving the data pipelines that feed the analytics.
Starting small both reduces the initial investment and allows the benefits of early projects to help pay for later ones.
One of the biggest killers of business intelligence projects is a lack of internal adoption. Maybe the product doesn’t fit into existing workflows, or staff aren’t convinced of its benefits.
It doesn’t help that sales teams for BI solutions tend to oversell their software. As a result executives expect too much, too soon, and when the desired results don’t materialize on schedule they become disenchanted.
A phased adoption plan allows the first success stories to build excitement for the business intelligence process. It serves to help manage expectations. Everyone can see how the first project played out and knows what they stand to gain.
Some areas show results more quickly than others, making them better choices for building support. For example, it’s easy to demonstrate the value of email marketing analytics or intelligent customer profiling and lead scoring. Both make staff’s jobs easier while noticeably increasing revenue.
Start with Market Tools
Don’t rush to build business intelligence software from the ground up right away. Needs may be unclear in the beginning; only thorough experience will companies discover does and doesn’t work. It can be frustrating to realize an expensive new suite of software requires an equally expensive overhaul of related workflows.
There are plenty of analytics tools and software on the market to experiment with while getting a feel for business intelligence. Options like Google Analytics, Salesforce, MailChimp, and User Voice offer an impressive suite of tools powerful enough to see real results.
As these prove their worth, companies can have custom software built to organize the various data streams into customized dashboards. These dashboards bridge the gap between the moment when companies are getting all the analytics they need but managing the results is too unwieldy and the point where their needs can only be met with a fully custom solution.
Evaluate, Adjust, Reassess
Schedule periodic assessments to review the business intelligence process as a whole. Get feedback from all stakeholders, including weighing adoption rates by department to check for inconsistencies that could signal a problem.
Measure performance results against meaningful yardsticks. It’s not enough to say something general like, “Reports increased by 60%”.
Instead, assess the actual impact on productivity and budget with specific instances: “Time spent managing leads dropped by 35% while successful sales calls increased by 15%.”
Business intelligence is a dynamic process. Remember to leave room for adjustments going forward. Look back on previous phases to evaluate their long-term value. How are they integrating with new technology? Have they met expectations, or is their performance trailing off?
Don’t be afraid to replace a component that doesn’t work. It’s important to give tools enough time to show ROI, but that doesn’t mean sticking with solutions that are causing problems.
This constant evaluation and correction process is the key to staying on the business intelligence roadmap without getting caught up in costly detours.
What can business intelligence do for you? How can you work BI tools into your workflows in a way that makes sense? To get recommendations about business intelligence software and learn how to organize your data into insights that drive real-world revenue, set up a free consultation with Concepta today!