Unless you’re a member of the underground insurgents fighting the vast and powerful computers who rule the earth, the sheer concept of business intelligence can make you feel like a mere mortal navigating your way through The Matrix.
It’s ironic, actually. BI, complex as it is, will make certain aspects of your business a whole lot simpler. Fortunately, there are resources like Business Intelligence for Dummies to help guide you – or, at the very least, translate some of the language into a comprehensive form of English.
If you’re just beginning to familiarize yourself with BI, then this book is a great place to start. It’s an oldie but a goody, and some of the lessons learned are still very meaningful today. It’s a great first step toward understanding concepts, ideologies, and the benefits business intelligence may yield you and your company.
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Self-Service Business Intelligence
Just a short decade or so ago, non-IT execs were at the mercy of IT analysis and project managers to stay informed about BI. Not anymore. The demands of key executives in the offices of finance, sales and marketing have driven the call to IT to find proper solutions to help ‘crunch’ the numbers logically, quickly and with heightened insight.
Today, self-service BI puts significant power in the hands of the user and the non-IT executive, allowing them to sort and process high volumes of important data by building clear dashboards, modules and customized reports. Mobile, cloud and on-demand live reporting are also major improvements.
By delivering heightened levels of data in a clear, precise manner, execs eliminate the guess-work for their managers, who can then make confidently informed business decisions.
If you’re planning a BI implementation, be forewarned, it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s a challenge. It’s a beast. It must be a well-planned, orchestrated project, and it requires professional insight, acumen, collaboration, and, most of all, experience. That’s how you build a BI solution properly so it isn’t just well received, but so it’s successful in meeting your firm’s goals.
5 Critical Steps to a Successful BI Implementation
Key steps must be followed when implementing a business intelligence plan.
1 – Planning is critical to a successful BI implementation. This includes taking a comprehensive overview of needs, KPIs, existing architectural environment and infrastructure. After doing your best to define the problem and needs, so you can say, for the most part, you trust the path of least resistance, appoint a project manager. (Chapter 11 of the book, pay attention to the ‘Tips’ in particular on building a roadmap.)
Be warned – not everyone is going to be excited about BI, so prepare yourself to deal with resistance and naysayers using:
- Senior execs as champion to level them. (See Key People on the Team, page 307.)
- A capable project manager to corral all the stages and compiling of data.
- A BI firm with extensive years in the business, their credibility and know-how can help silence further resistance.
2 – Data Warehousing – the act of pulling all the critical source data together will be 75-80% of the entire BI effort. It is the most challenging stage because it requires an in-depth understanding of the business, its requirements, and how to collect the information to form a data warehouse. (See Data Overview, page 262, Key things to remember.)
3 – Organization – Determine precisely how the data will need to be collected, who will define all the data requirements. Take note of all the people and departments who will be required to cooperate. If each department’s data is not uniform, strive to standardize across the board – you’ll be glad you did in the long run. (Additional tips for gathering requirements can be found in chapter 20.)
4 – Building the Solution – When the time comes to build the solution, be sure to build a very forward-thinking foundation. That means accounting for future requirements so the solution can evolve as needed. Finding a BI partner to do the data warehousing is straight forward, but you also need to find a partner capable of anticipating future requirements—this is essential to long-term success. (Chapter 21 and Chapter 22 for additional reference)
5- Training and Support – GO LIVE
While everyone in the company may not need to know how the BI solution is being built, they do need to know how to use it when it’s ready. Training and support for key users is imperative. Consider an in-house news release to advise users (and non-users) of its go-live date, and schedule mandatory (and somewhat customized) training for each department.
Your business is unique, which means your BI needs will be just as unique. You need custom solutions for custom challenges. That said, sticking to these high-level business intelligence best practices will set you up for success.
When you properly build your business intelligence solution with future proofing, and embed common dimensions that may eventually be adapted enterprise-wide, you guarantee yourself a great “Aha!” moment with key stakeholders and power users.
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