Business intelligence is a strong and growing trend in all business sectors and has proven itself over the past 15 years. Data collection, information organization, exploitation and analysis; business intelligence is now considered as a specialization in itself in order to provide business leaders with the tools they need to make informed decisions.
In the past, many companies had analysts who spent 80% of their time collecting data and 20% of their time analyzing it. Today, thanks to technology, business intelligence aims to reverse these figures; 20% data collection for 80% analysis to simplify the management process and accelerate decision making.
But business intelligence also means digital shift, software architecture and information management. How to be successful? That’s what we explain in this article.
Business Intelligence Definition
Business intelligence is a set of strategies, technologies and apps that deepen the knowledge of a company through data analysis.
It represents the ability to transform data into information, and this information into knowledge, in order to optimize the decision-making process.
4 Key Elements to Optimize Business Intelligence in Your Company
1. Collect the Right Information
Before you start collecting data, take the time to ask yourself the following questions: What is the end goal? What answers do you want to get? What performance indicators do you want to track?
Information collected to help make decisions can be of any nature within the company; finance, sales, marketing, production and productivity, human resources, etc. The idea here is to focus on the information needed to track progress towards specific goals. If the information collected does not add value to the decision, it is not worth collecting it diligently.
Data quality is also an essential element to plan for in a business intelligence implementation process. Distorted data at the input will only produce distorted results at the output. How do you do it? It all depends on the type of data you are looking to measure. If it’s numerical data, you and your teams need to be clear on the nomenclature, frequency and manner of collecting and reporting this information.
Furthermore, if we are talking about organizational performance indicators, it is essential to communicate the business rules to those responsible for collecting the information and to ensure that they are rigorous in this regard. Finally, since the goal is to have an overall vision of a company’s many key factors, it goes without saying that a silo approach is counterproductive when it comes to business intelligence.
At the same time, as Howard Dresner, known for inventing the term “business intelligence” while he was an analyst at Gartner, points out, business intelligence is not the responsibility of an organization’s IT. He believes that a narrow view of business intelligence, based on a few individuals, is one of the greatest dangers of failure of such a project. To get a global vision, it is essential to integrate several data from different branches and to involve several employees and functions within a company.
Let’s rephrase: you need to break down the silos to get integrated data that has real value. Before jumping into an exhaustive process of implementing business intelligence in your company, it is essential to take the time to ask yourself the right questions, to validate the quality of the available data, to determine precisely what information you want to get and, above all, to work in close collaboration with employees from several departments.
2. Structure Information
Business intelligence requires the implementation and use of a good number of software programs that collect and structure the various information. Whether it’s for financial tracking, sales, project management, marketing campaigns, employee retention or anything else, it is inconceivable to want to do business intelligence manually in an Excel file – no matter how fabulously structured it is.
To obtain a real global vision of a company in order to support strategic decision making, a company must implement or optimize the various daily management software within its different branches.
As an official partner of Zoho’s integrated software suite, it goes without saying that Cofinia uses Zoho when it comes to business intelligence. However, several other integrated or piecemeal software packages exist: it really depends on your needs.
In our opinion, opting for an integrated software suite is by far the best option in order to maximize the possibilities of analysis, dashboards and global information. The idea here is that it is absolutely not necessary to implement everything at once; you can select a few apps, prioritize their implementation and adjust the implementation velocity and priorities according to your company’s real and specific needs.
For example, start with Zoho Books to provide a solid structure for your company’s financial management, continue with Zoho CRM to further refine your sales pipeline, and then follow up with Zoho Project to meticulously track the progress of your ongoing projects. Then you could add Zoho Champaign and Zoho Social for integrated marketing management, Zoho Recruit and Zoho People for human resources management, and finally Zoho Analytics to push the boundaries of your business knowledge.
Finally, the idea is that without versatile and comprehensive apps and software suites, implementing business intelligence in your company can be a waste of time and energy.
3. Manage Change
Business intelligence, software implementation, changes in the way information is collected and managed, also means managing changes in work methods! And we know that humans are not the biggest fans of change in their work habits! Therefore, the success of the implementation of business intelligence within your company is intimately linked to the participation and support of your teams.
Change management, as complex as it may be, relies on 2 key elements:
As a business leader or member of the management team, you have an overview of a multitude of components within the company; you have a global understanding of the issues and have a vision of the strategies to be implemented.
As mentioned above, business intelligence requires that management clearly establish the objectives and the data to be collected. At the same time, work teams will be responsible for enforcing business rules, collecting data and ensuring the rigor of the collection. The management team can select the software tools to structure the data, but ultimately, it is the employees and project managers who will use them on a daily basis.
To share an idea, an opinion, to make them one’s own” is the definition of the term “adherence”.
The idea is simple; if you want your work teams to adhere to these new ways of working, to the use of these new software tools and to be rigorous in data entry, they must take ownership of the project, they must participate in its development and understand the objectives behind its implementation.
The second thing to discuss is communication! The watchword here is “you can never communicate too much” when you are trying to deploy a large-scale project that will change the work habits of an organization. And the more often and effectively you communicate, the easier it will be to manage the change.
Announce beforehand, describe the different steps planned, explain the next step, invite comments and ideas, establish your goals and validate their coherence with the teams, verbalize your strategy; demonstrate your openness to participation, comments and questioning. By doing so, your teams will be more inclined to point out obstacles, inconsistencies and possible solutions rather than simply finding a workaround strategy.
Just as an architect can draw the most beautiful plans, if he never sets foot on the construction site, there is a good chance that many elements will differ from the original plan. Once again, communication strategies are multiple, diverse, formal or informal… in other words, there is something for everyone.
One last thing to think about: if you, as a leader or member of the management team, are not open to changing, adapting or abandoning certain work habits in favor of new ones, you can’t expect your teams to be. Openness to change is a contagious state of mind.
4. Deliver Your Project
To deliver a quality project that truly meets your needs, you must apply the previous tips on effective data collection, strategies for structuring information and change management for employees.
In the software development and Agile management world, there is the concept of the “Definition of Done” (DoD) which is established at the very beginning of a project. The goal behind the DoD is to define beforehand what quality criteria are necessary in order to be able to declare that a project is completed. This concept allows us to clearly define the expectations, to avoid going back on our steps and to make sure that the project will really meet the needs of the client (internal, in our case).
Cofinia team’s advice: adapt this concept to your project, it will save you a lot of energy and management time.
In addition to managing expectations, one of the factors that has the most impact on the success of a business intelligence project is the length of the project. Business intelligence implementation projects that last between 1 and 3 months are twice as likely to succeed in the mid to long term. After 6 months, the project is likely to fail. Why is that? Because the scope of the project will tend to change, team buy-in will diminish, political conflicts and administrative problems will slowly begin to emerge.
Hence the importance of breaking your business intelligence project into smaller projects, involving various members of different departments, choosing the right data for each small project and going app by app. Ultimately, the workload will be spread across many managers and their multi-disciplinary team with one or two very clear objectives. It is the sum of all these projects and goals that will enable the sustainable implementation of effective business intelligence within an enterprise.
But in order to achieve this, it is essential to target the right data, to work as a team, to ensure that employees are change agents and that they embrace the new ways of working. We’re repeating ourselves here, but it’s important.
In conclusion, business intelligence has a huge potential to support business managers in their decision making, by giving them access to a multitude of data and information in real time. That being said, an effective strategy built around a company’s own goals is essential to the success of this type of large-scale and transformational project.
Cofinia has more than 20 years of experience in business intelligence for small and medium-sized businesses and has completed more than 50 implementation, migration, support and optimization mandates for the Zoho integrated software suite. Do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to know more!