Business intelligence (BI) is often misunderstood in the business world. Of course, you want your business to make smart, intelligent decisions but it also has a deeper significance. Business intelligence is the practice of collecting your data into insights and future actions. While you may want to rely on experience and intuition, business intelligence provides unbiased results using only data.
In fact, more and more businesses are relying on business intelligence to make sound decisions, as 54% of businesses agree that business intelligence is vital to their current and future initiatives.
But where do you start when it comes to developing a sound business intelligence strategy? Jumping into a mountain of data can seem confusing and in other cases, just downright intimidating. Today, we’re going to run over the basics about developing your business intelligence strategy and how you can make the most out of it.
Business Intelligence and Analytics
Instead of jumping into the strategy section, we need to review how business intelligence and analytics intertwine. After all, data analytics has shown to make decision-making five times faster for businesses.
The two most common terms that are mixed with business intelligence are predictive analytics and descriptive analytics. Predictive analytics comes after the business intelligence process while descriptive analytics is an active part of business intelligence.
Predictive analytics is based on forecasting the future using past data. Predictive analytics will take a look at a data set and make predictions about what will happen over the next weeks, months, or even years.
Descriptive analytics, on the other hand, is a detailed review of a business’s current outlook, internal processes, and market. Descriptive analytics looks at both past and current data to paint a picture or tell a story. Those typical business meetings of “let’s look at our last quarter performance” involving an old-school projector and a laser pointer is a perfect example of descriptive analytics.
Lastly, prescriptive analytics comes after predictive analytics and is the method of recommending solutions to current business problems and areas. Currently, prescriptive analytics is only available with advanced tools and isn’t considered reliable.
Starting Your Strategy
All good strategies start with a step zero, right?
Before you start collecting data, you need to introduce BI to your staff and any other important figures in your business. This could be through a comprehensive digital audit to measure your business or simply laying out an outline.
Depending on the size of your business, that could be an executive team, stakeholders, or a board of directors.
Here, you can start to lay out a vision of why you need a strategy.
- What are your main goals?
- What is your vision for this project?
- How do these goals align with the overall business strategy?
- Are you looking back and trying to find out why the last quarter underperformed?
- Are you gathering data to make changes for the future?
You will also need to ask some practical questions as well, such as:
- Who do you need to have on your team?
- How is data currently handled?
- What will coordination look like?
Let’s run through these questions to help you narrow down your next steps.
What’s your vision?
Going sort of hand-in-hand with the idea of making a goal, but you should have a direct answer to this question. Not only to keep you and your team members focused, but also when it comes to reporting on your findings. Gathering data for the sake of gathering data isn’t going to turn the needle.
You need to be able to present your findings in a way that has real ROI. Stakeholders, board members, and directors may not be interested in the nuanced statistics but want to know how these statistics and data will help increase company profit and success.
Is your strategy aligned with the overall business strategy?
What is your business trying to accomplish this month, quarter, or year? Are you trying to launch a new service? Grow in a new market?
Making sure these goals align with what the business is trying to accomplish allows you to pinpoint your data and zero in on certain aspects. You’ll also be able to provide more accurate results when the time for reporting comes.
The Practical Side
You’ll have to start building up your business intelligence team and decide who will be a part of the project. This requires planning as you’ll have to think about what data you will need from whom along the way. No one likes to be informed on a random Wednesday that they need to provide a big report without any warning.
Think about who will be a part of your immediate team and who you will need assistance from. There may also need to be training on various business intelligence methods or tools before beginning. Having this all laid out ahead of time will only make your life easier.
You are going to need strong support from your IT staff and someone in an exec role to help oversee the project. You might also have analysts on staff that can assist with business intelligence work, but that can vary.
Look Outside the Scope of IT
Your IT staff will undoubtedly play a huge role in your business intelligence, but remember that business intelligence is more than just technology. IT is likely going to handle numerous areas, such as data transfer, integrity, data governance, and more. But to succeed with your strategy you need support from all over the business itself.
Generally speaking, you want to make sure your strategy covers three main areas:
By having individuals that specialize in those areas, you can ensure that your business intelligence reports are customized for different branches. It also helps to give various viewpoints on data collected as multiple people may have different, unique ideas for how to proceed.
Decide to Go Custom or Use Tools
If you’re familiar with business intelligence, then you might be familiar with some of the most popular tools out there. If not, here’s a quick list:
- Power BI
- Oracle Analytics
- Yellowfin BI
With your vision and goals in mind, it’s going to be much easier to decide what tools you may need for proper data analysis. Smaller businesses tend to go with a set tool (or tools) while larger, enterprise organizations sometimes decide to build their own custom tool for internal use.
Deciding the top tool is entirely up to you and we’ll leave you to do your own research for the best option for you.
If you’re thinking about the custom route, here are some things to consider:
- Do you have the tools or means to build a custom business intelligence tool? Building the right tool may take time and take members of your IT team away from current projects. You might turn to a custom software development company.
- Is there a tool out there that adheres to your specific needs? It’s worth checking around to see if there’s a tool for your specific industry before committing to the custom option.
- Understand the scope of your data. Off-the-shelf tools are fantastic for many small businesses, but will they be able to process a large amount of data for your enterprise-level solution?
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing between a custom solution or a well-known tool, but you should definitely look into both options.
Consider Third-Party Services
Even if you’re not going to develop your own custom BI solution, then you can always go through with a third-party service.
Opting for a third-party service will require you to provide potentially sensitive data, but it could be a much faster, more reliant option. Especially if you haven’t worked with business intelligence, analytics, or tools before.
You will be able to save both time and money on training, tools, and more. It may make sense if you don’t want to spend time trying to formulate your own strategy, team, and documentation. It’s a way to take the weight off your shoulders and put it in the hands of experts.
Build Your Strategy Map
Marketers use content calendars and business intelligence experts have strategy maps. This strategy map is a visual document that lays out the stages of your business intelligence strategy. It can be broken up by weeks, months, or quarters.
No strategy map is created equal and you can lay out large business goals down to very specific instances. In order to create a successful strategy map, you should make it visible to both internal and external users. Internal users being those that are part of your business intelligence team and external users are those you may be reporting to in the future.
It can be hard to bridge the gap between technical terms and processes and make it easy to understand. Those invested in the project will want to see what’s being done and if they can’t understand it, might become frustrated or try to change something.
Having a strategy map will also help you divide tasks and have people complete certain tasks simultaneously, borrowing a bit of methodology from agile project management.
You should also make sure your milestones and deliverables are clearly marked. Not only do they help members remember important dates, but they are important for external users as well.
Running right alongside building your strategy map, documenting your progress and any milestones should be vital. If you don’t document what you are doing or what you are accomplishing, then it’s hard to see any real progress on your work.
Here are some things you should be documenting when for your strategy and reporting.
Sources of Data
Where are you getting your data from? It could be from Google Analytics, your CRM like HubSpot or vCita, your ERP, or some other source entirely. This may cause you to stretch your work over multiple departments, from your marketing team to your web team.
When documenting data and information, you must set standards so your reporting is uniform across multiple departments. That way, you’re not double reporting or missing a vital piece of data due to oversight.
Key performance indicators are vital to any business and documenting them with your business intelligence reports is a must. These KPIs, much like your strategy map, can be narrowed down or something broader. These can come from internal discussion or be an offshoot of your larger, corporate goals.
The Strategy Itself
It’s not sufficient to throw a bunch of numbers and figures on a report to turn it in. To make a successful report, you should be planning a comprehensive document that covers all areas of your business intelligence strategy.
Here’s a quick outline/example of what you can do:
- Top-level summary: much like the thesis of a research paper, the top-level summary is for the executive team members that provide an overview of your strategies and methodologies. It should include the time frame, your KPIs, and more.
- The BI Strategy and Corporate Strategy: external members will want to know how this aligns with the overall corporate strategy. How does this data and project help with what the business is trying to accomplish as a whole?
- Processes: it’s time to get to the meat of your work. While not every line may be read completely (much like a research paper), it’s important to explain what you’ve done and why you’ve done it. After processes, we get to…
- Results and assessment: what did you find? What are you seeing from this mass collection of data?
In the world of business intelligence, it’s always best to leave a detailed paper trail. Because you should also…
Updating Your Strategy
Updates may come every quarter or year, but just because something was effective last year doesn’t mean that it will also be effective in the upcoming year. Corporate strategies change, businesses evolve, and you may be wanting to examine separate data.
One important process of updating your strategy is cleaning your data. Measuring data quality is not easy, but it can help you achieve the best operational activities possible and provide top-level decision-making choices.
Hopefully, with each passing year, you’re diving into a deeper understanding of your business, the important data, and what you have learned. That way, you can find different methods to improve upon, alter, or discard entirely.
Staying with the status quo just won’t do.
Your Business Intelligence Strategy Layout
If you’re looking for a TLDR, then here are the basics of your strategy.
- Assessment: You’re going to want to start at the top by analyzing business structure, processes, goals, and overall strategy. Before you can jump into the BI strategy, you need to understand the business first. Ask lots of questions and make all possible preparations.
- Team-building: Who is going to be working with you in the business intelligence sector? Outside of the IT team, who are you going to need? Will there be a senior executive member working with you? Or, will you be going with a third-party service?
- Tools: Here, many businesses come at a fork-in-the-road moment. Which tool do we use? There are plenty of tools out there and choosing the best one requires plenty of research. Or, you could always go the custom route.
- The strategy map: It’s time to lay out what you’ll be doing and when you expect to hit certain milestones. This document should be something that both BI professionals and external members can understand and comprehend. Don’t make it overly complicated!
- Document and organization: From here, your goal should be consistent documentation and reporting. Set standards early so you can make sure your team is pursuing the same goals in the same manner.
- Get to work: Once you’ve laid out your strategy, it’s time to talk less and start doing!
- Updates: Practice makes perfect and you may not hit the nail on the head the first time around. Make sure you’re updating your plans with the overall business goals and any changing parameters.
Many businesses may be interested in diving into the realm of business intelligence and analytics but aren’t sure where to start. That’s where a third-party service like Atiba can come in. As business intelligence experts, we have worked with numerous companies, both large and small, to develop a business intelligence strategy and provide companies with the data they need.