Putting The Business Back Into Business Intelligence: How BI Can Grow Your Bottom Line

Putting the Business Back Into Business Intelligence

Big data’s reputation is taking a hit for its tendency to overpromise and underdeliver. While this bad rap isn’t entirely unwarranted, maybe the problem isn’t with big data itself. Perhaps the problem is that we fail to properly utilize the data we collect.

In the corporate world, business intelligence platforms can amass limitless amounts of data. But possessing it is merely the first step. Knowing how to use it to your benefit is where the real money is made. If companies aren’t careful, those BI platforms can become nothing more than a fancy sports car that no one in your company knows how to drive.

Why are companies neglecting their bottom lines by leaving the “B” out of their BI?

Reeling in the ‘B’

The cards have been stacked against the business side of data collection since day one. BI used to require expensive equipment and high-priced data specialists. You had to make a formal request for an analysis, and due to the sheer volume of requests already in progress, you’d be lucky if it was ever fulfilled. There were always more requests than time to do them, so anything coming from outside the C-suite or a favored department was likely to be ignored.

But, like it always does, technology progressed. Cloud computing has made big data cheaper and more accessible than ever. As a result, BI extended beyond the realm of specialists and into self-service.

Leaders who empower everyone on their team to use BI tools can achieve a systemic increase in data-driven decision-making and a corresponding decrease in the use of outdated data and intuition.

Unleash the Power of BI With Engagement

Employee engagement is a make-or-break factor of successful BI. By extending the benefits of these methods to everyone, you’re putting your entire business back into big data and maximizing your ROI.

A crucial step toward building engagement is to create a cooperative environment around your BI. “Collaborative BI” has recently achieved buzzword status, but there’s a good reason for that. Employees don’t excel in isolation. The fact that a Workplace chat app called Slack is now worth .8 billion is clear evidence that collaboration is at an all-time high.

Getting your whole team engaged with BI is key to your success, so give them an on-ramp to analysis. While collaboration is good, if people don’t know what to collaborate on or where to go, it’s irrelevant. Implement an alerting layer so they get the information they need when they need it. It’s the simplest way to get them engaged, so make sure your platforms allow for this.

Support Your Strategy With Data

BI can provide mountains upon mountains of statistics, but companies should only focus on the data that’s relevant to their growth strategies. If you need to grow a certain demographic to hit your overall growth targets, devote your analysis to that demographic, and build useful success indicators for it.

Data can also be used to reveal inefficiencies like overstocked inventory or a broken link in your supply chain. For example, UPS utilized on-road navigation system data to optimize 10,000 truck routes and ended up saving 1.5 million gallons of fuel. This is just one example of how the proper combination of big data and BI can not only save a business money, but also give it the chance to receive positive publicity for its environmentally friendly findings.

But there are also plenty of ways to misuse your data.

What Not to Do With Data

Data can be distracting. It’s awesome that Google Maps lets you walk around the great pyramids, but it’s also totally irrelevant to helping you find the best route to the grocery store. The data itself doesn’t do any good if it isn’t meaningful, well interpreted, and properly integrated into the business. So don’t fall victim to “shiny ball syndrome” or suffer from data ADD. Stay the course.

google-data-pyramids

(Image Source: Google Maps)

When using data to analyze your employees, make sure you select proper performance indicators to track. One way to hurt employee engagement with BI is to improperly use it against them by assessing data that’s out of their control. Key performance indicators must be quantifiable, controllable, and repeatable. Nothing is quite as demoralizing — or embarrassing — as going through a complicated analysis and reaching a data-driven conclusion…only to find out that the inputs were dirty.

BI is a wonderful tool when used well. It’s no accident that the industry is projected to be worth more than $20 billion by 2018. But it’s not a foolproof. You can’t just launch a system and hope it works. A strategic implementation of BI takes a business-wide approach. It utilizes engaged employees and produces focused, goal-based, controllable data.

By Marius Moscovici

Marius is the founder and CEO of Metric Insights. He founded the company in 2010 to transform the way business intelligence is performed so organizations of any size can quickly and easily deploy powerful analytics. Marius has over 20 years of experience in analytics and data warehousing and was previously the co-founder and CEO of Integral Results, a leading business intelligence consulting company that was acquired by Idea Integration.

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