A Strategic 8-Step Approach to Successful Business Intelligence Deployments

Management’s ability to consistently make timely and accurate business decisions—at both strategic and operational levels—is extremely influential in determining whether the company surpasses, or gets surpassed by, competitors. Yet for too many business executives, decision making is often based on incomplete, inaccurate, irrelevant, or stale information … or on a gut feel approach that lacks replication, predictability, and scale of successful outcomes.

Compounding that is the fact that organizations often possess volumes of valuable data, albeit in different repositories like customer data in the CRM system, product and sales data in the ERP system, business plan and budget data in spreadsheets, and so on. Only when the data is consolidated can relationships, patterns, and insight be discovered.


The Business Solution:

Insights Driven by Curated Data

To better execute business strategies and outperform competitors, business leaders are pursuing a combination of processes and business intelligence (BI) software tools that synergize to better source, aggregate, contextualize, and deliver timely business details to knowledge workers, operational managers, and decision makers throughout the enterprise.

What’s optimum to start with is a curated data set that’s organized, managed, enriched, and inclusive of business logic and data correction rules. This ensures that the data accessed by users is relevant, accessible, and high quality. It minimizes the risk of analysts making incorrect assumptions or coming to faulty conclusions about the state of business operations.

A curated data set also serves as that “single version of the truth” that everyone goes to for analyzing business information rather than creating their own calculations from various “siloed” sources of information with numbers that don’t always match.

Beyond curated data, today’s decision makers also need solutions that allow them to spend less time retrieving and compiling historical information and more time analyzing information that supports their most pressing business initiatives. Such solutions also enable them to better plan for the future, quickly identify areas that need attention, and systemically deliver insight to key stakeholders to improve decisions.

If you are considering a move to a business intelligence solution, we encourage you to consider the following 8-step strategic approach to achieve predictable outcomes.

  1. Verify the Need for Change
  2. Quantify Stakeholder Objectives
  3. Dedicate Resources
  4. Determine Your Most Salient Metrics
  5. Select Your Tools / Vendor
  6. Clean Your Data
  7. Pursue a Phased Approach
  8. Measure & Refine to Boost ROI

Step 1: Verify the Need For Change

Successful BI deployments are driven by a pressure (or need) to change. Only when the opportunity associated with better decisions (or the pain of poor decisions) is clearly recognized will enough pressure exist to go the distance with a BI solution.

You should define up front what the problems are that you’re trying to solve, especially as they relate to the first stage of a new BI and reporting solution implementation. Then, determine the benefits you expect to receive in solving those problems. If you focus on identifying your issues, you’ll be better able to identify the best solution for meeting your present-day and future needs.

Step 2: Quantify Stakeholder Objectives

In determining stakeholder objectives it’s necessary to first define your stakeholders. As with all enterprise software deployments, visible and vocal executive sponsorship is a must, so soliciting executive team expectations early is paramount.

Beyond that, if you’re beginning with a departmental or line of business project, your stakeholders will likely include those business unit directors or managerial staff as well as line managers and support staff who are held to performance standards which materially affect the departments’ measurable objectives.

Each of these roles holds relevant firsthand information, is key to a successful deployment, and must be afforded the opportunity to identify their objectives. This human-centered approach to evaluating project needs helps you understand and manage user expectations, preventing possible issues in later project stages when seeking user adoption of the rolled-out solution. Not all objectives may make project scope, but all should be surfaced, heard, and considered.

Here are some examples of measurable objectives your stakeholders may identify in Step 2. These are goals that can be addressed with guidance from an advanced business intelligence and reporting solution.

  • Revenue Growth: Increase revenue by 20% over the next fiscal year.
  • Cost Reduction: Reduce operational costs by 15% within six months.
  • Customer Satisfaction: Improve customer satisfaction score by 10% in the next quarter.
  • Sales Performance: Boost sales performance by 30% in the next quarter.
  • Time to Market: Reduce time to market for new products by 20%.

Step 3: Dedicate Resources

While executives and decision makers seek business intelligence solutions that can be configured, tailored, and used without much IT involvement, it’s a mistake to select or attempt to implement a BI product without IT participation. IT understands data complexities that may not be apparent to other lines of business, and they can shed light on potential challenges.

Even with Software as a Service (SaaS) BI solutions, which are easily provisioned on-demand and more quickly deployed, BI requires data cleansing, data staging and transfer, and integrating and consolidating data from several disparate information systems and technologies. These tasks will certainly benefit from technical talent on the IT team, at least during the initial stages of the BI system’s implementation.

Similarly, BI solutions must align with business objectives, focus on business requirements, and deliver business and operational insight. Therefore, BI deployments should not be IT driven. Business intelligence is best accomplished by leveraging the highest and best skills from both IT and business staff, and ultimately results in a symbiotic relationship as each side is dependent upon the other for success.

BI tools are not just for top executives or a privileged few. The goal is to connect as many operational decision makers with operational data as possible. Wider participation leads to better decisions at more levels in the organization, increased operational alignment with the company’s top strategic goals, and a culture of learning. Consider naming a cross-functional team or committee to define the information strategy and decision support roadmap.

Steps 4 through 8

Steps 4 through 8 involve far more detail, from determining which KPIs to monitor to selecting a BI tool and vendor, cleaning up your data, and rolling out and refining your BI solution.  For your reading convenience, each of these steps is explored in Silvon’s recently published guide, “A Strategic, 8-Step Approach to Successful Business Intelligence Deployments.”  The guide also includes references to additional resources that can point you in the right direction to your own successful BI deployment.

Download the Guide Here

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