Data-based corporate strategy and development
At the same time, Business Intelligence systems bring more knowledge into your business. They provide valuable input for strategic corporate planning and product development. Analytics make it possible to evaluate future scenarios: with predictive analytics, for example, maintenance cycles can be proactively recorded and provided. Early-warning systems that highlight critical trends can also be integrated, allowing management to react more quickly.
If you want to make use of these benefits for yourself and your company’s development, you need time and someone to develop and maintain the project, because data management is a process, not a one-off occasion.
Three steps to introduce a Business Intelligence system
What do you need to do if you want to implement a data management system?
- Analysis of business processes: which KPIs do we have and which ones do we need?
The quality of the initial data is decisive for the quality of the findings from Business Intelligence. The first step is an inventory that systematically and thoroughly collates all the important and interesting data, the data type and the data source. This is not about collecting all the data available, but rather that which is strategically relevant. That might also include data from external sources or data that is not yet digitally processed within the company.
- Create a requirements analysis: where is the data? How should it be connected? What questions should it answer?
For the analysis, all areas of the company define their expectations, which questions they want to answer with BI and what analyses and reports they would like. This understanding of the specific requirements and applications makes clear where data silos exist, what links between the departments are needed and what interfaces have to be established.
- Cost-benefit analysis to decide on a system: which one suits our requirements?
As with any purchasing decision, it helps to know what you need. On the one hand, this includes functional requirements such as ad hoc and real-time analyses, the option of your own enquiries (self-service BI), dashboard adjustments for different user groups and flexibility in scaling data quantities, interfaces and analyses. On the other hand, it includes governance and security requirements, service and support wishes and the budget available. A personal presentation by the provider and a test run are also options to help you select the right product.
BI providers: from big and strong to small and flexible
Even start-ups use BI to display, monitor and manage their processes in KPIs at an early stage. So there is no company too small to make use of the benefits, although there can be solutions that are too big. But that is becoming less and less the case. The major providers such as IBM, Microsoft, SAP and Oracle also offer small solutions that work well for companies with 20, 50 or 100 employees.
There are now also many new, small providers with special BI solutions such as MicroStrategy and Tableau software, as well as open-source providers, including BIRT Qlik, Knime and Knowage. The software itself costs nothing in those cases, but the set-up and orientation take time. There is even a free starter package for Power BI from Microsoft.
Slow to begin with, but secure
Business Intelligence is not available as a plug-and-play solution. The change from the Excel world to analytical reporting means changing your way of working. In order to ensure you don’t fail to meet expectations, the introduction should take place in phases. In other words, don’t integrate everything at once and offer all functions immediately, but rather increase the complexity gradually.
As a first step, instead of Excel tables, interactive reports presented graphically could help users get used to the new possibilities, for example. It is also advisable to train employees at an early stage. Training with the new tool supports practical implementation.
Check, adjust and expand regularly
Digitalisation is always an ongoing process. New data to be collected is generated every day within a company. New sources of data that you want to use appear. Over the course of time, new questions arise that can only be answered with new formulas and connections. Everything develops further, which means Business Intelligence and analytics need to be continuously maintained and expanded. Three simple questions can help with this process: are there new sources that are important for our business? How about new questions? And new interfaces?
How data as a resource changes companies
Investment in Business Intelligence is and will remain considerable. If not in budget terms, then in terms of effort, because the path from the idea to implementation is a lot of work. But once you are aware of how important data as a resource is for company success, you will recognise the opportunities and use the instrument in a sensible way. In this context, it is not all about numbers, graphics can also lead you astray. We always have to think for ourselves and view what the data is telling us from a critical standpoint.
This means Business Intelligence also becomes a cultural topic. The data does not spit out findings of its own accord. It is our questions that turn the data analyses into interesting findings. Anyone who wants to use BI will, sooner or later, also have data management and a data strategy, and will work in a data-driven way – whether they bake bread, provide care services or fix drains.