10 errors to avoid when using Business Intelligence
Business intelligence. Some have been using it for a few years, others are just starting to use it. However, everyone agrees that it is a necessity in today’s world.
Indeed, BI as we call it, represents a worldwide market of more than 15 billion dollars, and this is only the beginning.
Properly used, BI allows a company to analyze the data at its disposal in order to make more intelligent and profitable business decisions. Most of the time, it relies on IT tools that highlight certain aspects of a specific characteristic of the data.
As part of the BI process, organizations:
- Collect data from internal IT systems and external sources,
- Prepare it for analysis,
- Run queries on the data,
- Create BI dashboards and reports
All this will allow to give the results of the analysis to business users for operational decision-making and strategic planning.
As quickly as BI can become useful, misused it can be horribly counterproductive.
In this article, we will go through a set of 10 critical mistakes not to be reproduced when using this formidable but often misused tool.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of the most important concepts and their most common pitfalls. The goal is to make the reader think and to warn him that BI is not a miraculous tool, but a tool to be used in an intelligent way.
1. Not using the right BI tool
The most common mistake to avoid is with Excel. Although convenient and comfortable, the inevitable child of Microsoft should never become the center of a BI. This tool was simply not created with this goal in mind.
The defects are numerous and some of them are easily identifiable: the integrity of the data, a usually offline set of data… Sharing the data becomes a real headache and the maintenance and updating of these same data becomes a Herculean task.
2. No patience for the development
As explained before, it is not a miraculous tool but a method to be used with thought and that takes time to install in a system where it is missing. Therefore, do not expect immediate results. It is better to start small, perhaps with a branch of the business, in order to be able to adapt or backpedal if necessary.
Of course, this goes hand in hand with access restrictions. Indeed, you quickly expose yourself to disorder without a clear governance and trainings on the tool. This is in line with the general point of this paragraph: it will take time.
3. Not aiming for quality data
BI works with data. Data can be compared to the fuel that makes the machine work. With poor fuel, the machine does not work well or not as well as it should. Collecting quality data is at the heart of BI. It is a key factor that will lead to more trustworthy dashboards. To do this, two things:
- The first is that you need to implement, if you haven’t already, a quality control system for the data passing through the enterprise.
- Second, you need a team. This team will have the mission to maintain the data at a certain level of quality.
Once these two factors are met, we can start to trust the data used and therefore the results provided by the BI.
4. Not having the right person for the job
BI is good but it cannot be used to the detriment of the project it is used on. One of the points mentioned above talks about who will work on BI in the company. Here, this choice will be deepened and constrained to a person who, in addition to being trained in the use of BI as mentioned, must have extensive knowledge of the project on which to apply this BI. Indeed, it is important to have employees involved in the projects to benefit from the views and details they have collected.
5. Not expanding the scope
Once the BI is more established, it becomes counterproductive to keep it small. Indeed, to start it is smarter to restrict yourself to a small branch of the business. Once this step is accomplished and the results are positive, the next step is to develop the tool continuously until it reaches the whole company.
In this way, better results can be obtained since more parameters will be taken into account. It goes without saying that you have to be careful about who uses the BI tool and in what way.
The choice of the software and the method of use must be adapted to the strategy and the qualifications of the employees. The IT department, as it is quite often the case, should not be responsible for all the BI in the company as it would collide with the fact that the BI for a project should be handled by people close to the project.
6. Not informing about all the benefits of BI in trainings
When we look at the BI training offered by many companies, we notice that there is a large percentage in which the usefulness of BI is not mentioned.
Indeed, it has been proven that when people are not informed of the benefits of implementing BI, it becomes a waste of time that brings no visible advantages. It is therefore important to take time in the training to show the kind of results that can be obtained when we implement these processes, even if they are resource intensive.
7. Not caring for the data security
Another point is the need for security of the data used for BI. Indeed, it is mathematically clear that more quality data gives more trustworthy results. For example, there is a tendency to collect them on devices that may not be as secure. This is where the danger comes in because this data modified by an outsider can alter and degrade the results given by the BI. It is therefore necessary to be vigilant in its data collection, a principle already mentioned, in order to ensure the quality of the data. The quantity of data should not be at the expense of its quality.
8. Not applying BI insights
It’s good to create beautiful dashboards, but you have to use them!
A lot of companies that use BI seem to ignore the advice given by the tool. Indeed, whether it is by skepticism or convenience, there is no good reason to be negligent on the results brought by BI. Applying this advice to the heart of the business strategy can have a significant and positive impact.
9. Not producing siloed reports
While data should not be used by people who do not work on it, in order to ensure that BI projects are executed by people who are familiar with the data being processed, it is vital that reports cross departmental boundaries.
Reports are often the subject of localized studies in the department concerned. This can diminish the positive impact of BI and sometimes have a redundant effect. By working on similar data in a similar context, it is possible to use previously concluded results to save time. It is therefore important that everyone has access to a global overview of what is being done in the company.
10. Not making the dashboards understandable
This last mistake goes hand in hand with the previous one and will have a global impact on the company. Indeed, a discussion on the choice of tool has already been held above. What emerged was that the qualifications of the employees who could use the tool were of primary importance in this choice:
- A very programming-oriented tool would not be suitable for someone with a more high-level business background. The opposite would also frustrate the programmer.
- The same applies to the creation of dashboards. Indeed, while this article has just explained that it is important to share BI results across the different departments of the company, it is important to build dashboards keeping in mind that they can be read by more people than those for whom they were originally intended.
This implies that, perhaps even through training, the BI user within the company will have to be able to make his message simple and effective enough to be transmitted. Thus, a real flow of information can be created.
In conclusion, the two most important notions in this article are “reflection“ and “time“.
It is indeed important to think it through, whether it is to find a suitable tool or to apply the advice gathered by BI within one’s business strategy. And of course, as we’ve said many times, time is an essential and unavoidable factor when implementing BI in your business. Things must be done in order and progressively, there are no shortcuts.
BI, although effective in many situations, can become counterproductive and jeopardize the performance of a poorly informed company. Resources are not to be neglected either. Whether it’s the data, the fuel of the BI machine, which must be of high quality, or the users, who must necessarily be trained.
BI is only fully effective when the company that wants to benefit from it is fully mature and in control of the projects it undertakes.
The implementation and use of BI can be quite complex. It deserves thorough thinking and certainly expert advice. Of course if you need help, HeadMind Partners experts will be happy to support you in your projects. Don’t hesitate to contact us!
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