Best Practices for Successful Business Intelligence

Few, if any, companies doubt BI’s value to their internal and customer-facing operations and the crucial role it plays in making accurate, lightning-fast tactical and strategic decisions that affect the business’ competitive position. The difficult bit is ensuring that BI’s deployment in your company is fetching the best data, crunching it in a timely fashion and presenting actionable insights to the right decision makers at the right time.

The team at Optimus have traversed this path before and have several tips that will ensure a quick start and maximum return from your BI projects.

Get Everyone On Board

Once you develop a unique strategic vision around your BI project, share it with anyone who has a stake in its outcome. The ensuing discussions will crystallize short-term tactical and long-term strategic goals and produce a detailed roadmap with a timeline for development and installation.

Understand Your Data’s Context

As project functional requirements are shared across stakeholders, issues are bound to arise relative to which data is procured, how it is captured, stored and processed. These issues will differ depending on the nature of the data and its source. For instance, customer data must meet regulatory compliance. Other data may have restrictions on distribution and still other data streams will have format or periodicity characteristics that create technical problems.

Assigning technical personnel to the requirements gathering process as early as possible with a mission to uncover such issues will increase the likelihood that they are dealt with in the most efficient manner.

Aim for Agility

Approach the next phases – requirements gathering, specification, development, testing and deployment – with an eye toward flexibility and agility. Although it is theoretically possible to anticipate all the omissions, glitches and miscalculations in the requirements stage, in practice it never works out that way.

To mitigate this fact of life, take a page from agile software development methodologies. Break the project into small, independent components and apply short iterations over progressively more functionality. This approach yields continuous results while avoiding lengthy and disruptive project halts when inevitable technical hurdles arise.

Produce Measurable Solutions

At all times, keep in mind that the project should be producing not just functionality but measurable solutions to problems within the company. It is easy to check off features, but more difficult to judge the value of each feature to the end solution, which may be, in part, judged by subjective criteria.

Various methods to deal with this aspect include the use of working wireframe mock-ups along with usability tests, identifying and validating action loops, the use of responsibility matrix models and the development of user personas. Separately or together, these techniques are used to validate the BI system’s usefulness and ease of use.

Ensure Maximum Accessibility

One of the most invaluable improvements in BI over the decades has been increased accessibility of business intelligence tools across an enterprise. Whereas in the early days of BI, data experts were required to collect, massage and interpret data, modern BI software automates those processes. Today, non-experts possess the ability to develop actionable reports and dashboards relevant to their job function right at their desk.

One caveat is in order however. Although your new BI project should facilitate maximum accessibility as an end goal, do not distribute it widely until the bugs are shaken out. Furthermore, where possible, augment existing processes, workflows, apps or websites with your solution in lieu of creating a standalone app that is easier to ignore. On the other hand, develop a mobile app version of your project for those employees who typically work away from the office.

Plan for Training

Training is essential to your project in order to raise awareness among employees, tout its value and increase usage. Assigning one or more technical evangelists to spread the word is a superb way to start. These project ambassadors must be backed up with a suite of training material including downloadable multimedia content, ready-made presentations for department leaders and face-to-face classes as necessary.

Conclusion

Start your BI project development by ensuring everyone is on the same page with regard to the vision and the benefits of your BI solution. Collect stakeholder input to ensure a fuller set of requirements.

Deal with technical issues to your solution, its development and deployment through short-cycle agile methods, while bearing in mind it should result in maximum accessibility and collaboration when it is finished.

Finally, plan well ahead for the training necessary for maximum uptake and efficient usage of the project whether it be a plug-in, standalone app or a web-based tool.

Transforming your company into a fast-acting, data-driven organization that stays two steps ahead of the competition is not a task for the faint of heart. It is made infinitely harder by not following several tried and true approaches that raise your chances of success.