Managing a successful organization is a journey full of goals and objectives, both short and long-term. Left unmanaged, they can sidetrack its progress, or worse, leave it stranded in a proverbial ditch.
Imagine for a moment that you’re planning a three-day road trip from Orlando, Florida to Dayton, Ohio, having never been north of Alabama. Would you travel with a map or use GPS? Would you arrange for an overnight stay, maybe two, in various cities along the way? Would you bring along provisions to avoid the expense of on-the-road meals and loss of travel time? If your goal is to reach Dayton within three days, assuming you intend to do so before running out of money or patience, these factors would almost certainly have to be considered.
The variables most critical to the success of any journey or endeavor are worthy of careful scrutiny
Making decisions that positively impact your business is all about strategic planning. A powerful set of tools known as Business Intelligence (BI) is at its heart. This collection of technologies, applications, processes, and practices can help keep your organization on a predictable course. You can transform the raw data it produces into actionable information and use it to make the types of decisions critical to your organization’s bottom line.
For example, a retail company may need to dissect inventory levels across products and vendors to avoid shortages of top-selling products, or to identify demand trends resulting in excess stock that may be difficult to liquidate.
A services organization might need to slice billable hours or expenses across departments and billing cycles to analyze how individuals are performing, or to look for ways to reduce costs. Each organization has unique business needs that BI solutions can address.
A well-designed and implemented BI solution can provide organizations with a competitive edge through the process of discovery. Highly effective business leaders learn which assets to leverage to maximize revenue and increase profit— the results of which can be transformational.
Before you try to start implementing a BI solution of your own, you should first consider the most common roadblocks
Plan. The levels of commitment and sponsorship of BI projects are typically reflected in the planning of their initial stages. A thorough analysis of business processes and needs, IT requirements, end-user training, and a reasonable timeline for adoption will define the strategy for success. Without clear objectives and requirements, your BI solution may never leave the driveway.
Technology Tools and Costs. The level of complexity of the BI tool is nearly as important as the initial planning. When the organization’s users are constantly discouraged and challenged by a particular tool, they may be turned off and become reluctant to return to it. This can happen anytime a new piece of software is introduced without adequate training. For BI to be successfully adopted and integrated in an organization, it requires a low barrier of entry and must be backed by a strong community of supporters. Many customers of Microsoft, especially those with Enterprise Agreements, may already own some or all of the technology tools necessary to begin a BI initiative. Microsoft Office, SharePoint, and SQL Server all allow organizations to build cost-effective BI solutions on technology that may have been previously purchased, but is not currently being optimized.
Data. The most important factor related to a solution's success should be the data it uses. Without good, clean data, a team’s motivation or plan to support it matters little. Even the most elegant and sophisticated BI implementation will fail to provide information suitable for the purpose of making ROI-critical business decisions without well-collected, high-quality data.
Adoption. According to a 2011 Business Intelligence Success Survey, very few reported involvement with BI projects that were determined to have failed. At the same time, only 25% of respondents reported having a strong willingness to adopt BI methods in their daily work. Across the organizations surveyed, results suggest that users who rely on BI tools to make decisions lack the information necessary to do so accurately.
In today’s climate, companies are continuously collecting data
Whether it’s stored in flat files, spreadsheets, or databases, the information that businesses collect can provide invaluable insight into the way in which a company functions. Data represents more than just a history of what was sold yesterday, last week, or last month. It can be used to make decisions that are critical to the bottom line of a business.
Trend data, for example, can be used to plan marketing campaigns or to decide what resources to allocate to specific sales teams. It can be used to evaluate market trends to ensure that the right products are in the right place at the right time. You can use trend data to plan for the expansion of your business and to analyze consumer habits and preferences.
Data collection in all of its various forms can be used to render sound judgments across a host of variables critical to the success of an organization. The point here being: The data a business collects and examines can and should be used to maximize revenue and increase profits.
Trying to manage a business without BI tools and processes today is like trying to navigate a sailboat across the ocean on a moonless night without a compass. Some of the key benefits
Fast and accurate reporting
- Valuable business insights
- Competitive analysis
Better data quality
Increased customer satisfaction
Identifying market trends
- Increased operational efficiency
- Improved, accurate decisions
Company leaders should work to foster the type of climate that encourages staff members to transform the data they regularly access into blocks of high-quality information. This gives businesses the necessary tools to drive research, development, and growth-based initiatives across all areas of business.