How To Enable an Effective Business Intelligence Strategy
In the modern digital age, businesses have access to more data than ever before. However, the data can be overwhelming if not managed properly. To prevent this, every business needs an effective business intelligence (BI) strategy designed to capture, process, and visualize all of the data that’s available to them.
In the past, a majority of this analytical data capture and processing was solely the domain of IT departments. However, new tools and platforms are allowing this work to be done throughout an organization.
A Gartner report showed that 67% of the CEOs they polled want this type of technology work to happen within business functions and not just within IT.  That means a modern BI strategy must be accessible across departments and by various management and team members at all levels of operations.
Below, we’ll outline the steps needed to create and implement a modern BI strategy that works for businesses of any size.
What is an effective business intelligence strategy
An effective business intelligence strategy is a series of methods and protocols for capturing critical data and processing that data to reveal key trends and opportunities. This is done through data mining and data visualization to allow executives and managers access to the data as well as to create their own queries.
Why BI is relevant to small businesses
One misconception is that BI is a tool mostly for large corporations due to its perceived complexity. However, this is not true, and often small businesses have the most gain from a BI strategy.
Small businesses are more sensitive and more at risk from damage caused by poor decisions, inefficiency, or quickly changing market conditions. Larger corporations can often weather sustained losses due to these events. But a small business has fewer resources to weather such situations. This means that being nimble and mitigating risk is something that a small business needs to prioritize, and a sound BI strategy allows them to do that.
Before implementing a business intelligence strategy, it’s important to consider the key areas where you need to be successful.
Flexibility and accessibility
Modern BI is not just meant for business analysts or confined to the domain of IT and data science. Newer tools allow managers and executives throughout an organization to access the data easily and submit their own queries.
This creates an environment where different departments can operate independently to find their own solutions and opportunities instead of waiting for guidance from higher-level management or outside analysts.
Integration and data delivery
Your BI tools need to be able to integrate with your existing systems. This likely involves multiple data sources that each must deliver information to your BI tool or platform.
When the data is captured, it must then be delivered in a way that your business and team members can use. This involves basic visualization, but it also should go beyond that so managers without extensive analytical training can dive into the data and find it useful.
How to create an effective business intelligence strategy
Set the goals and vision for your strategy
Not all organizations will require the same strategy. Some may be more focused on internal analytics while others may be more interested in competitor analysis to help them find areas where they can match or exceed others in the marketplace.
Setting the scope and goals for your strategy is critical to prevent data collection and analysis from becoming overwhelming and causing more harm than good.
By having a clearly defined scope and goal, targeting data collection can help provide much more accurate forecasting and actionable information.
It’s also important for determining the ROI of your BI strategy and spending. Without knowing what areas of your business you want to improve through BI, it’s impossible to quantify the benefits for the purpose of ROI analysis.
Choose your team
You’ll first need to choose an executive sponsor. This will be the person tasked with overseeing the strategy and ensuring that the various components stay on track during the implementation. This executive can also be the Chief Data Officer, or they can appoint one if different departments will be involved in reporting.
You’ll also want to bring in managers and other department members who will be accessing the data. For implementation, this will likely be the responsibility of your IT department and assigning roles to key points of contact to various tasks such as platform selection, security, and deployment.
Select a BI solution
During this process, you want to find the tools and platform that best fit your strategy and goals. Start by comparing BI tools so you can understand any overlapping features, such as data visualization and other common modules, and any budget constraints.
Finally, you’ll want to determine if you are going to implement a traditional BI strategy or a self-service strategy. This will mostly depend on your internal business structure, such as whether you have an IT department capable of conducting a complex implementation. You’ll also base this on your budget and goals for your BI strategy. Keep in mind that simpler goals and a smaller scope may only require a self-service approach.
Build your strategy roadmap
By now, you should have everything you need to start to map out your implementation of both your strategy and your BI tools of choice. This involves things such as mapping out your data structure and preparing it for your strategy.
Each step in your roadmap should have a reasonable date or timeframe for completion and is accepted by other stakeholders. Make sure every step has a clearly defined milestone attached to it that signifies its completion and overall progress.
Launch and measure
Launching your strategy will involve two key phases to ensure all data is being processed correctly and is accurate.
User acceptance testing (UAT): This first phase tests any data processing or transformations to make sure they are accurate and that the proper reports are being produced.
Training end users: This can be the individual managers or executives who will be interacting with the system. The software vendor you chose for your BI tools should offer training to assist with this step. You can also create your own training materials based on your specific environment.
Review your goals
Review your process to ensure your strategy is achieving the goals set out earlier. This can be a measure of ROI on your total BI spending compared to the goals. For example, if the goal was to reduce waste during shipping by 5%, that cost can be calculated and compared against your BI spending.
This final step is vital, especially for small businesses. Additional software expenditures can often be met with skepticism as they can add complexity and cost to your business without knowing if any results have been achieved.
By always measuring your spending and comparing it to the goals that you originally identified, it becomes easy to determine the ROI. This is also why setting your initial goals for your BI strategy is important, so make sure to be as specific as possible.
Additional BI implementation considerations
For most organizations, much of this implementation will be handled by their IT department. It’s important that the IT staff understands who they report to, which is usually a member of the BI team.
Since the implementation will require new cooperation across the business, it should be clear how each department and the BI team fit into the overall organizational structure.
Security also needs to be a priority during this process. BI involves capturing and processing large amounts of data, some of which may be sensitive. Security and permissions need to be carefully written so that the flow of data is securely available to only those individuals and applications who need it.
Getting started with a BI strategy
Implementing a BI strategy may seem difficult, but as ABI becomes a core part of business operations, it’s vital that companies adopt a strategy that allows them to make informed decisions that lead to positive results with reduced risk.
By segmenting the BI implementation process and carefully outlining the goals and scope of your strategy, the entire process becomes easier.
During your BI strategy research, make sure to leverage online resources such as those offered by Software Advice to learn more about BI platforms. These resources help you compare BI software tools as well as look into reviews by other businesses that have had experience with them.