In Part I of the Business Intelligence in Plain English we looked at what BI is, who needs is, where it is successful and when it is the right approach. We continue with more details on why and how to use BI for understanding the performance of your organization.
BI information is used to help you understand how your company operates, and why. A mature BI program generates actionable information that people are equipped to use for daily decision-making. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for maturity to get some benefit from BI.
To implement a successful BI program at your company, your first steps are to invest time and brainpower to define your business and how it works. This detailed process of question and answer can be a challenge, but it is also a great gift. Only by defining your business processes first can you understand how your business performs, and why changes occur.
This crucial process of business and technical evaluation is what we like to call Phase 0 of the BI program. The results of Phase 0 help clarify what a company wants to measure, and how to measure each element. We use Phase 0 to help our clients survey existing architecture, draw up a model of existing business data and processes, and develop a roadmap of measurable objectives.
The BI roadmap is an incremental plan for long-term BI program development. By incremental, we mean each Phase of the BI program is designed to proceed at a sustainable pace, with short-term gains in functionality. The incremental approach favors flexibility to changing business requirements, and fosters long-term company visibility for the BI program. (Remember, people are essential to BI success.)
Every BI program can be leveraged as soon as launched to broaden knowledge about company operations. As soon as you begin asking how your company operates and why, you’ll gain valuable insight. Like the sages said, “Know thyself.”
Because you want to understand company performance. In the words of Stephen R. Covey: Begin with the End in Mind. If you’re asking yourself, “Why BI?” consider: “What do I want to measure?”
A BI program may include some reports, but it is not reporting – BI is intelligent information. Manual reporting processes are inefficient for gathering, compiling, and producing actionable information, and can produce inconsistent and often unverifiable information. I.e. if the numbers don’t match among reports or departments, then one, some, or possibly all results are incorrect. (We don’t like numbers that don’t match – we like our data real and verifiable.)
BI has the capacity to deliver company-wide concurrency and integration of measurements. A successful BI program begins with creating a model of existing business data and processes, and understanding what your company wants to measure. Next, you can leverage your BI platform to ensure all departments have a common, consistent, and readily available dataset for queries, reports, and analysis.
Business Intelligence is not a far-off destination years down the road, but a method of understanding performance that produces value from day one. Seabeck Systems advocates an incremental approach to BI development, which supports short-term gains in functionality, and promotes long-term program visibility. We also like to have a plan, which brings us to our next point…
Coming up: the BI roadmap. In a future blog series we’ll share planning steps for BI program development. Each phase on the BI roadmap will address the essential elements of people, processes, tools, and benefits.