Is your Business Intelligence humming and if not why not; or do you actually need it?

If you are a business manager or information provider and don’t think you have or need a BI system you may find it there anyway but it is just called your reports. Then ask yourself the imagehumming  part of the question.

If you find reporting is slow, fragmented and hard to access; or it is  hard to drill into or do meaningful analysis and does not delver the information you need to move quickly on decisions, then it needs attention.

One acid test is to ask yourself “does it constrain your ability respond to and understand the market behavior and constrain how quick you are to be able respond to it compared to your competitors.

I agree with Lachlan James who talks about maintaining a healthy fully utilized Business Intelligence (BI) as a cyclical, never-ending process

Traditionally any branded retailer, for example, knows good analytics and business intelligence are mandatory for category planning. Hence good BI systems with potent analytics capabilities are vital and must be kept up to date.

Now days so do the Hospitality, Food and Beverage Industry, Banks and Logistics companies and in-fact many more with mass market businesses as do all multifaceted high-volume sales organizations. But not everyone one has so-called Business Intelligence tools or even know what they are. So this must be cleared up first before we can start to debate on how to maintain quality.

In both front line management and leader second chair roles e.g. CFO, IT HR or even as advisors, we all know well good information is vital to our business. Good reporting and analytics defines and shapes the business by its very nature to show where it has been and where it may be going in terms of both its market place and planning relative growth

In one way or another every business must do some reporting and analytics of some sort be-it systematic or or sporadic. Product mix, profitability client and sales activity, capital and operating expenses, projects and so on must always under constant watch. As must all mission critical aspects of their business and the market. 

As you consider updating your BI system give some serious thought to a performance management based business intelligence system that can help you with budgeting and planning too and can sit on top of all your data so you have assess and can use it well.

Once you have one or plan to get one or grade what you have that is clearly defined it must evolve with the needs and the company itself. In his writings Lachlan goes on to say that maintaining in a BI platform is like maintaining a vintage car so its body keeps sparkling, and the interior always permeates a new car smell.

His original is post linked here and is also below the fold, with the 9 key ways listed to ensure an always successful BI: As an advisor at Sherwood Group Consulting as with many others who do this work, these are mantra’s for our clients success to always be current.

    1. The secret to a healthy Business Intelligence (BI) environment is to ensure it remains relevant.
      To remain relevant, and continue to be fully utilized, a BI tool must evolve with a companies reporting and analytics needs and the company itself.
      But how do you achieve this I hear you inquire?
      It’s like maintaining a vintage car – just give it some judicious TLC.
      So, here are nine ways to keep your BI environment humming, its body sparkling, and interior permeating that new car smell, to ensure it’s every bit as usable and desirable as the first day it hit the road.
      1. Stick to intermediate targets
      Failure to adhere to a raft of ongoing maintenance targets can result in major deadlines being missed. Timelines for scheduled upgrades, meetings, training and reviews must be adhered to.
      2. Avoid budget blowouts
      Whilst quality data ensures the success of your BI tool, the success of the BI project is governed by sufficient funding, and executive support. It’s not enough to complete a thorough budgetary estimate for the implementation stage of a BI rollout. You must carefully consider and identify all the elements involved in ongoing maintenance. This is especially important if after the implementation stage, the final rollout is different from what was originally planned, as this will obviously affect continuing costs. Consider:

      • The volume of data and number of data sources being processed, over what timeframe, and compare that to what was originally intended.
      • The number of different functions your BI system performs – is it more than originally planned? If so, this will effect timelines and costs.

      3. Pay careful attention to your data

      Ensure that the data your BI tool is reporting off remains reliable. If the data collected no longer reflects your company’s operational environment, the BI tool will be rendered inoperable – unable to deliver relevant, actionable insights. Ensure your data is usable by:

      • Guaranteeing data quality
        • Data is complete
        • Data is in a uniform format
      • Guaranteeing data integrity
        • Disparate data is cleansed before using or combining it with other data / data sources
        • The information you receive is accurate and represents what it is supposed to, not what you think it represents


      4. Lessons learned from implementation: Do’s and don’ts

      Develop a formal tracking system for recording successful and unsuccessful aspects of your initial BI implementation process and apply, or avoid them, when maintaining your BI system.

      5. Build and maintain expertise within your BI team

      Persevering knowledge accumulated within your BI team is crucial to ensure the success, and smooth operation of, your BI project over the long haul. To assist this process, you should:

      • Develop a mentoring program within your BI team to ensure lessons learned are passed on
      • Insist that each programmer documents and explains their code so that others can understand their work
      • Document your processes so that they are repeatable

      6. Document what didn’t get done the first time
      During the initial rollout, certain aspects you intended on including in the original BI implementation will have been left by the wayside – it was too difficult to include all desirable aspects from the start. Keep track of those features that didn’t quite make the cut the first time, so that they can be included in the overall setup at a later date, as part of routine maintenance and upgrade processes.

      7. Monitoring: The BI tool, business users, and business environment

      Constant monitoring is an absolute necessity for the ongoing success of any BI project. Your BI team should:

      • Monitor your BI tool’s performance to make sure its running smoothly, and ensure any glitches are quickly attended to with appropriate updates, before larger problems arise
      • Make sure business users are actually utilizing the tool and its full range of functionality (as far as practically possible), and that they are satisfied with the features provided
      • Ensure that the reports and data analysis generated are still serving their intended purpose. The reporting and analytics needs of a business will change as the business grows and changes. Are you still delivering something useful to business users and executives for current and future strategic planning?

      8. Provide adequate end-user training
      Hopefully you provided comprehensive training for your end-users when you introduced your BI tool. After all, what good is a reporting tool if nobody’s using it? But training is cyclical – it doesn’t stop there. End-users must be appropriately and adequately educated about new features as they are introduced. Otherwise, end-user drop-off rates will climb, and your BI tool will be made irrelevant.

      9. Communicate changes

      Develop a comprehensive communications plan to inform users and the executive team about changes and enhancements to your BI tool, and how those changes will benefit them. This will ensure ongoing widespread end-user adoption, and that new features and functions are utilized, not wasted.

      Conclusion

      Maintaining a healthy BI system is a cyclical, ongoing, never-ending process.
      BI helps companies adapt to changing market conditions. But BI is more than just knowledge generation. BI itself must be adaptive to move with organizations as they change, to enable them to continue evolving, and be able to support and address consequent changes in data analysis and reporting needs.

      As the father of evolutionary theorem, Charles Darwin, said “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptive to change.”

      This statement can be appropriately and aptly applied to BI.

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