Business intelligence is more than just a buzzword. Today’s BI apps and offerings give companies the edge they need to stay competitive in a market where customers increasingly tune out information that’s not tailored to their likes, needs, and desires. But implementing a business intelligence strategy is a resource-intensive process, and getting it right takes proper planning.
What Is Business Intelligence?
Business intelligence is the process of leveraging data to improve back-office efficiency, spot competitive advantages, and implement profitable behavioral marketing initiatives. Organizations that fail to institute proper business intelligence strategies:
- Miss out on strategic growth opportunities
- Routinely fall short on customer satisfaction
- Overspend on promotional projects with little ROI
- Remain reactive instead of proactive
Why Do We Need a Business Intelligence Strategy?
Business intelligence initiatives are not plug-and-play propositions, and instituting a BI process without a proper plan is like setting sail with broken navigational equipment. Sure, you can use the sun as a general guide, but the chance of landing at your exact destination is between slim and none. The same goes for businesses without clear and defined BI strategies. Departments will inevitably veer off course and toil toward different ends, and the data quality almost always suffers.
Seven Steps to a Successful BI Strategy
Now that we’ve established why business intelligence strategies are so important, how do you get started when implementing one? Consider these seven critical steps when defining your roadmap.
Step #1: Survey the Landscape
One of the biggest mistakes companies make when embarking down a BI path is failing to survey the landscape. It may sound cliche, but understanding where you are in relation to your desired destination is of paramount importance. During this stage, answer questions like:
- What obstacles are we likely to face during this process?
- Where are our competitors, and what are they doing that we’re not?
- What resources are available that fit our budget?
- How can we leverage data to increase sales and improve efficiency?
Step #2: Identify Objectives
Once you’ve got a handle on your niche’s market topography, it’s time to set goals. Too often, organizations and companies don’t get specific enough in this phase. While “making more money” or “securing more members” are, technically, goals, they’re too broad. During this stage, drill down your objectives. By how much do you want to grow your customer base? What is a reasonable expectation given market conditions? What metrics will you use to measure progress?
Step #3: Build the Right Team
The goals are in place. Next is team-building. The ideal BI working group is multi-disciplinary. Not only do you need a strong IT arm to handle and transform unstructured data, but it’s also important to include representatives from all the departments that will be using the information.
Step #4: Define the Vision
Defining a BI vision is similar to identifying objectives but not quite the same. In this step, members of the working group share their departmental processes and map out the ideal data flow. Defining objectives deals with end goals; vision mapping is about implementation practicalities. Which departments will receive it and when? How will they get it? Is there a roll-out hierarchy? How will the data be used?
Step #5: Build the Digital Infrastructure
Once the roadmap has been drawn, it’s time to start crafting the data pipeline. This step is mainly the responsibility of either an in-house IT department or a third-party data analytics platform. The ultimate objective of this step is to produce clean data that are distributed to the right people in a useful format.
Step #6: Launch Your Solution
It’s time to launch your system! Yes, by this point, you’ve likely held dozens of meetings — if not more — and tested your data pipeline and reporting systems like there’s no tomorrow. Yet, there’s still a 99.9 percent chance that you’ll need to make adjustments after launch. Expect it and plan for it.
Step #7: Implement a Yearly Review Process
Pat the team members on their backs. Developing and implementing a business intelligence strategy is no small feat. But also understand that things will change. Your market may shift; your target demographic’s wants and needs will evolve — as will the technology. As such, it’s essential to review your strategy, data pipeline architecture, and goals yearly.
While this roadmap is by no means entirely exhaustive, business intelligence is a must-have in today’s marketplace. Having the technology isn’t enough. Meticulously mapping out a comprehensive strategy is what makes your BI initiative profitable and successful in the long run.