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3 Do?s and 3 Don?ts of Business Intelligence
28 Sep, 2010 - Lachlan James

Implementing a Business Intelligence (BI) tool is like boxing.

You know you have to knock your opponent out to win. But it’s not enough to go in swinging wildly like an undecided voter or a maniacal child on the monkey bars.

For success, a plan must be strategized, and a process adhered to.

So, here are some common do’s and don’ts to consider to ensure the success of your BI tool.


Do’s

1.  Identify and define your reporting and analytics needs
As mentioned above, before rushing out and spending potentially significant sums on a BI tool, establish what it is that you want to achieve. What are the business insights you hope to glean from your data set? How will these insights help you achieve your stated organizational and operational goals and objectives? These points must be clearly articulated and well documented in a careful pre-implementation planning process to help guarantee the success of, and high Return On Investment on, your BI project.

2.  Select an easy-to-use BI application
Select a BI application that is Web-based, easily integrates with existing infrastructure and allows for personalized report delivery and scheduling. This allows end-users to keep up-to-date with the crucial real-time information that is relevant to them, whilst ensuring the confidentiality of sensitive materials. End-users should not have to search for information. It should be delivered to them. BI is about empowering end-users to make more accurate, faster decisions. It must not be viewed by end-users as a burden and obstacle to productivity.

3.  Include business end-users when selecting a BI tool
Include the ultimate end-users of the BI tool – the non-technical business people – when selecting a BI tool to ensure that they are satisfied with the product. End-users will be more likely to embrace your BI solution and ultimately help foster a successful BI roll out. This doesn’t mean you should neglect the needs and preferences of your technical users. Just be mindful of the fact that they represent a small portion of your overall BI users. Ensure that the analysis undertaken by your tech-team can be easily shared with non-technical users in a fast, easy to understand, timely manner. End-user adoption is the key to a successful BI program.


Don’ts

1.  Implement a BI project without knowing what you want to achieve
You can’t win the treasure hunt if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Similarly, a BI tool cannot solve your business reporting and analytics needs if you don’t know what they are. BI tools have the ability to provide powerful insights into your business processes that can reveal market opportunities and operational inefficiencies, allowing you to respond accordingly to increase productivity. But, good data analysis requires accurate problem definition and identification. Otherwise, you’ll end up ‘solving’ the wrong, or a non-existent, ‘problem’.

2.  Overlook the process of data collation
A BI reporting and analytics tool can only synthesis data you’ve collected. It sounds obvious, but if you’ve collected the wrong data, or collected it poorly, your analysis will be inaccurate. No matter the strength of your reporting and analytics program, if the data it drills down and through is unreliable, your analysis will be too.

3.  Keep using Excel
Organizations put themselves at tremendous risk when basing decisions on spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are recognized as being prone to error, wreaking havoc on the quality and consistency of information, and are limited in so many ways leading to:
  • Lack of regulatory compliance
  • Lack of data governance and data quality
  • Delayed access to data for decision-making
  • Lost productivity
  • Dependency on the spreadsheet gatekeeper

However, spreadsheets are still widely used throughout many organizations. Selecting a BI tool that recognizes spreadsheets as a legitimate data sources is a sensible idea. It will help wean users off them, without confronting users with the prospect of having to suddenly give them up altogether.

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