A lot of companies have invested heavily in their BI capabilities. Like Data Warehouses, BI Infrastructure and analysts data scientists. The assumption is that data is considered to be “the new gold”. The question is, what the return is on those investments. This blog is based on my own experience over the last ten years.
1. Select the right leader(s) for your BI department
You need an expert in technology with practical knowledge of data & analytics. At least as important your BI manager should understand your business, and be able to smoothly communicate on all levels in the organization. Finding and keeping this key resource seems like looking for a needle in a haystack.
An alternative is to make a good tandem responsible. The IT / data focused manager should understand business concepts sufficiently, and the Business orientated manager should have a good sense of technology. And both managers should cooperate very well together.
2. Monitor the use of BI tools to estimate real costs
I have seen lots of situations in which hundreds of reports were developed over time and loaded periodically with new data. Most BI tools store the number of clicks on the reports by employees and clients. In many cases, I have seen the disbelieve of business managers who then calculate the integral costs per click.
3. Understand what holds users from using BI tools
That business users don’t use the reports developed, is in itself not a proof that they don’t add value. What it does say, is that far more budget should be allocated to training, capturing business requirements and, why not, pushing business users into shared systems rather than local spreadsheets.
4. A business lead project approach rather than technology driven
All successful projects I have worked on started with a business need. As long as there is a business need, there is focus and sufficient budget. At the same time, there are important business resources available to help understand the details of the business challenges. Analysts can then start digging into the data, and will often find new insights and relationships that add value to the business.
5. Stick to limited number of software vendors to keep your architecture simple
I come across quite some organizations that use competitive tools of five different vendors. This means you will need different types of resources, as most developers have a clear preference for one tool over another. There are significant drawbacks related to using tools of different BI-tool vendors. The first one is that you can’t leverage on reusable software. Secondly, you organize endless discussions between experts and architects which tool to use for a certain project. This prevents you from having a lean and truly learning BI department.
6. Classify your BI reports and monitor the life cycle
The life cycle of BI reports can be short. Let’s take the example of process mining. Suppose your employees are not working efficiently. Data analysis has shown the reasons why. You introduce a set of reports by employee that enable them to prioritize their work better. After some months, changes are made in the core (transaction) system. The BI-reports that have proven their added value then become obsolete.
7. Keep communication lines with business departments and clients open
A lot of analysts tend to sit behind their computer screen, looking for new insights and models. They often consider talking to business managers and attending meetings and conference calls as a waste of time. So special attention should be made to have enough resources available that help telling the story, gather user requirements and understand resistance in business departments with the introduction of new BI-reports.
I hope the above mentioned ideas help you to drive more value from your organization’s data. Any question or remark, feel free to ask.