Top 10 tips to make better use of business intelligence

Business intelligence is getting a lot of attention amid the economic downturn as organisations try to use data they gather to become more efficient and compete more effectively with rivals.

With this in mind, has picked the brains of analysts specialising in BI to come up with some top tips about how you can make the most out of this growing area.

1. Know what you want to get out of it
“The point is, businesses need to understand what they are lacking, and what they are trying to achieve first, and then see how it might be addressed, rather than starting with a piece of software and seeing how they can fit around it.”
Martin Atherton, research director, Freeform Dynamics

2. Make it relevant
“Some kind of link or integration is required between the strategy and dashboard. Without this link there is little way to know whether the information and indicators being displayed are the most appropriate.”
Sarah Burnett, lead BI analyst, Butler Group

3. Share the knowledge you have
“Consider setting up a BI competency centre (BICC) – to engender a more strategic approach to BI and analytics that is formalised, auditable and its benefits measurable. The BICC addresses not just technology but (perhaps more importantly) people and processes. It provides a centralised base for standardisation and consolidation of BI tools and technologies’ assets, as well as a bank of best practices around methodologies, processes, definitions and skills for effective knowledge transfer and reuse.”
Madan Sheina, principal analyst, Ovum

4. Start small
“Break up BI initiatives into lots of small projects with a maximum length of about three months. But keep an overall strategy in mind – don’t create information silos on top of your application silos. BI projects need to be delivered quickly, otherwise the business requirement may change, or users will start to find other ways of obtaining information.
Alys Woodward, programme manager, European business analytics markets and strategies, IDC

5. Work out what you’re already doing
“Revisit how you use your existing system. Are some users over or under provisioned? Are the reports the business gets really adding value, or telling it things it needed to know sooner? At the moment, for example, is the CEO getting their monthly financial reports, while the customer retention team is crying out for better visibility?”
Martin Atherton, Freeform Dynamics

6. Don’t baffle the users
“The information that BI delivers should be displayed in an easily digestible manner and with maximum impact to help expedite the decision-making process. For example, the information displayed on a dashboard should not just be a ‘free-for-all’; it needs to be reflective of the organisation’s strategy and of the user’s role within the organisation. This means that the information has to be specific, relevant and analysable.”
Sarah Burnett, Butler Group

“Anything that requires a user to keep going back to administrators or IT to provide new reports is not responsive enough to the business’ needs. Look at making sure that the tool can access all the various data stores that a user will need to connect to – including Excel spreadsheets. Make sure that the way a person can identify and deal with data is simple – they should not need to understand anything to do with SQL, for example.”
Clive Longbottom, business process analysis service director, Quocirca

7. Keep it clean
“Manage data quality. Once users lose trust in the data in the BI system it can be almost impossible to get it back. Make sure there is a communication path for users to report data quality errors – even if there is no underlying problem with the data but only misinterpretation by users, this can lead to bad decision-making so it needs to be sorted out.”
Alys Woodward, IDC

“Cleansing data, ensuring that multiple versions of an entity are rationalised, is important. Moving to master data management will give ongoing benefits and move away from the need for major data cleansing on an ongoing basis. Reporting then becomes far easier, and so BI becomes a great deal more simple. ”
Clive Longbottom, Quocirca

8. Share your knowledge
“Developing BI expertise takes time – often requiring BI specialists to work with subject matter experts. If some expertise has already been developed in-house then it is a good idea to make the knowledge available to other parts of the organisation, for example through a BI competency centre. The centre can also act as a central hub for managing/maintaining BI suppliers/products and licences.”
Sarah Burnett, Butler Group

9. Open up to others
“Open up the BI environment – a business no longer can be constrained within its own four walls, so should be looking at how BI can be used in a secure and suitable manner with its suppliers and customers.”
Clive Longbottom, Quocirca

10. Keep your eye on use
“Monitor who logs onto your BI system and what they look at. This will give you invaluable information about what users are using, and how often. Design issues such as over-complexity are often spotted through usage monitoring, as are training issues. It will also help you plan for capacity.”
Alys Woodward, IDC


About Andy Painter

A passionate Information and Data Architect with experience of the financial services industry, Andy’s background spans pharmaceuticals, publishing, e-commerce, retail banking and insurance, but always with a focus on data. One of Andy’s principle philosophies is that data is a key business asset.
This entry was posted in Business Intelligence, Intelligent Enterprise and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Top 10 tips to make better use of business intelligence

  1. Pingback: Other interesting blog posts (June 23/2009) « Analytical Mind

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