How to build a successful Business Intelligence (BI) strategy

When an organisation embarks on a Business Intelligence (BI) initiative, the initial focus is usually on the technology choices. What is often forgotten is the end game of any BI system – organisational change.

A good Business Intelligence strategy will put in place the necessary framework to ensure a successful and widely adopted BI system that seamlessly integrates into the business’ decision making process, irrespective of the technology that supports it.

However, if the wider business context is not taken into account, even the most technically excellent and well-designed BI system can be a complete failure.

The lack of a BI strategy is one of the biggest flaws and causes of failure in BI implementations. In one often cited study, less than 10% of Australian organisations that use BI have a documented BI strategy. This begs the question: how many users of BI are actually successful users of BI?

This is not to discount the value of an objective review of available technologies and their pros and cons, but it must not take centre stage. This shift in focus from ‘issues of technology’ to ‘issues of culture’ is important for anyone charged with steering the organisation’s significant investment in BI solutions.

A poor BI implementation is rarely due to technological issues. So what are the key components of a BI strategy that should be considered from the outset?


Keys to a successful Business Intelligence strategy

Keys to a successful business intelligence strategy: Key in lock


Sponsorship

  • Who is supporting BI in the organisation and why are they doing it?
  • How is BI being funded?
  • What is expected of the sponsor?


Business Value Assessment

  • Why are we implementing BI?
  • What is the business justification and what do we expect to get out of BI?
  • How does BI align with our corporate strategic objectives?


Governance

  • What organisational structures are there in place to control BI?
  • How are user interests represented?
  • How do we agree that we are building the right things to deliver value?


Architecture

  • What BI platform will we be using?
  • Where is the data being sourced from?
  • How is data quality being addressed?


Methodologies

  • How are users engaged in the process?
  • How will we get requirements and prototype?
  • What project management method will be applied?


Skills

  • Who will be doing the development?
  • Can we use or train internal staff?
  • What areas will we need outside help with?


Carefully read that table again. Technology is only directly related to the architecture of a BI system. If you are only thinking of software products and platforms you are leaving everything else to chance.


Phases of a Business Intelligence strategy

When building a strategy, there are 3 distinct phases:

How do we get from current state to desired state

Current state

When engaging in any type of planning, it is very important to determine the current state. QMetrix does this through a situational analysis. This takes the form of surveys, interviews and technical analysis with stakeholders to determine the way things are done right now in each of the important areas outlined previously.

Desired state

Next, we conduct a series of customer specific workshops to discuss the current state, and outline and document a desired state. This can include specific aspects such as:

  • We would like our sales team to have daily email updates of key customer performance against budgets and to be able to investigate the cause of variances with an intuitive interface in just a few clicks.
  • We would like our executive team to have access to a dashboard featuring key business metrics on sales, profitability and operations without needing any manual effort to produce.
  • We would like our procurement manager to receive email alerts when an inventory item is forecasted to dip below the minimum stock threshold.

We also analyse what the future opportunities are for BI in the organisation and discuss what is possible considering the latest trends. This helps stakeholders evaluate what may be appropriate for their organisation, and can feed their BI vision.

How do we get there?

At this point, we conduct a gap analysis. This determines what the delta between the current and desired state is, which then provides an outline or set of small initiatives that can be taken towards the vision. This essentially becomes your roadmap which can be presented to the wider organisation. It also sets expectations by demonstrating roughly when things will happen, and can also make clear that certain things may not happen.

Having a strategy can help your projects stay on track, engage your stakeholders and show that you have a real plan for success.  Setting up a strategy doesn’t have to be a large and expensive exercise and its value can be easily seen by giving you a clear vision and roadmap, whether you are a small, medium or large organisation.

If you’re interested in Business Intelligence and Analytics for your organisation, QMetrix can help you design and implement a strategy and solution that ensures maximum value from your BI investment. Let’s start with a chat.

This post was originally published on 18 November 2013 and updated since.

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