Nowadays it is often hard for companies to stay afloat. The market is overloaded, and there are too many competitors to deal with. That’s why more and more firms are implementing business intelligence (or BI, if short). And if you haven’t done the same yet, we highly recommend you to handle this situation. Business intelligence is a way to improve your business decision making and, therefore, make the company more profitable. We are here to share with you business intelligence best practices.
But before we move to them, let us quickly explain to you what business intelligence is. So, this term applies to practices, technologies and applications for collecting, integrating, analyzing and presenting the business information. Apart from better decisions and higher profits, the main advantages of business intelligence implementation include getting a competitive advantage and improving operational efficiency. Besides, business intelligence can help to enhance risk management and improve customer service.
Now, when you know what business intelligence is and what benefits it offers, it is time to share with you the business intelligence best practices.
Step into next level for business intelligence best practices
1. Collect the Reporting Requirements
The first thing to do when you want to make your business intelligent is to identify the target audience of your reports. Create a list of your stakeholders and decision makers, and talk to them to figure out their reporting requirements. It doesn’t matter if you conduct these meetings in person or via Skype, for instance. However, we recommend you to invite your data analysts, executives and managers to these sessions. In this way, you will get the right requirements.
It would be great to have a meeting with all the stakeholders at the same time. You will easily identify if there are any contradictory requirements and solve this problem away. But even if the general assembly is not possible, it is still better to avoid written communication. Sure, you can write an email to schedule a meeting, but a meeting itself should be conducted in real time. As a result, you will prevent potential misunderstandings.
Here are some questions you may want to discuss during meetings with the stakeholders:
- Are there any reports currently in use?
- Is there a need for another report?
- If yes, why a report is actually needed?
- Who and how frequently will use the report?
2. Start With the Crucial Things
We guess you have a lot of questions to answer and decisions to make, but starting with big data is not the best idea ever. You may get lost very quickly or, what is even worse, gain the wrong insights. That’s why we recommend you to shorten your list of questions and situations to solve, and focus only on the most important ones. Which decisions have to be made immediately? Which of them will have the biggest impact on your company’s future? Answer these two questions, and you will understand what to start with.
Then, try to make these decisions using the data you already have. If this is not possible, decide on which data sources to use. Collect the information, find your answers, test them and then repeat everything from the very beginning. Discuss the requirements, decide which questions to answer, find the data sources, if necessary, and so on. Agile business intelligence methodology is a way to go, as its iterative approach involves the stakeholders constantly. Therefore, the output will be more efficient.
3. Identify and Develop KPIs
Key performance indicators (or KPIs) are measurable values used to demonstrate how successful the company is on the way to its business goals. KPIs may focus both on the firm’s overall performance and achievements of specific departments.
Now, develop a list of KPIs and related metrics you would like to see in each of your reports. To do this, identify which KPIs and metrics are already monitored, and which reports are used for this. Then, decide which data it is essential to add to these reports or to remove. Again, it is important to discuss these questions with your stakeholders. At the end you will completely understand the current situation and know what improvements have to be done.
After this stage, there are several more questions to answer, but you are already familiar with them. It is essential to check the availability of the data, identify the data sources, and so on.
4. Hire Data Analysts or Outsource the BI Tasks
Obviously, you want your business analytics to be as efficient as possible. That’s why it is important to make sure that you have experienced analysts on your team. If your company is big, it may already have an analytics department. But small businesses usually lack skilled professionals, and if you are one of them, you need a solution. The first option is a so-called self-service BI using diverse tools and technologies. Such tools are easy to use, so you won’t waste loads of time on trying to find out how they function. This option is the cheapest one, but you may still make a lot of mistakes due to lack of experience.
The second way is hiring in-house data analysts. They will provide you with advanced analytics, but head-hunting can be pretty time-consuming. Besides, hiring such experts on a full-time basis will cost you a lot.
And, finally, the third option — outsourcing. It is also expensive, but still cheaper than the previous way, while the results can be virtually even better. However, finding a reliable outsourced company can be a challenge, and in certain cases you will also have to deal with the time difference and language barrier.
In any case, we recommend you to choose between outsourcing and hiring the experts. These options are the most reliable ones.
5. Don’t Stop on Data Warehousing and BI System Administration
Data warehousing and system administration are very important things to do, but we recommend you to go further. Don’t stop on collecting and organizing the data — uncover patterns and get the most of it. This process is called data mining, and it helps to identify patterns which can’t be found when only processing the data. The warehousing technique can significantly simplify the reporting, but if you want to achieve the best results, go for data mining after the warehousing.
6. Choose the Best BI Visualization Tools
When it comes to presenting the information, it is important to visualize the data. Choose visualization tools wisely! There are loads of chart templates available, but this doesn’t mean that each of them will suit your needs perfectly. Here is an example for you — it is essential to visualize the revenues for the past 10 months. You have all the data, you only need to decide which chart to use. We would recommend a bar chart, as with its help your audience will immediately understand when the revenues were higher, and when — lower.
But if you choose, for instance, a pie chart, they will spend more time on getting the information. They will have to check the chart first, and then take a look at the legend. And then again and again until all the sections will be checked. That’s why you should choose wisely. If you don’t, in the best case your audience will get bored and irritated. And in the worst, you may face confusion and misunderstanding.
Business Intelligence best practices to Sum Up
We are entering a new era of business intelligence, and it would be great if you join it. We shared with you the most crucial recommendations, so now you know how to do this. But if you still have any questions, feel free to ask them. As always, we are here to make your business more efficient and profitable.