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The Harte Hanks Blog

Using Business Intelligence: Keep It Real, Find Your Sweet Spot (Part 1)

Using business intelligence While they’re not broadcasting it (surprise!), most organizations still struggle with effectively using business intelligence to get the desired results out of their investments. One of the most interesting stats I’ve seen stated that 70-80% of BI projects fail. That’s just plain terrifying, especially if you’re getting ready to start developing a report or establishing a BI ecosystem.

The challenge (like so many) lies in the expectations of BI stakeholders versus the reality. While many marketers have traditionally viewed business intelligence as a one-directional, static tool, advances in technology have changed the paradigm of BI to a system that, when all bases are properly covered, is an ongoing, freeform dialogue between the marketers and their data.

A BI implementation is a complex, living, evolving organism, with many layers of architecture, data, and technology involved. So it’s become increasingly important to define your goals clearly and allow some time for the proper design. Here are some fundamental things to consider on your path to BI success.

1. Consider your business needs first

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients say “show me these metrics in a report” without thinking about:

  1. How they need to be organized in meaningful correlation
  2. How they’ll draw insight
  3. How they’ll use the information to some action they can control.

Those implementations almost always result in a report that only one person can read, that stakeholders spend more time on explaining and debating than on actually taking action. What you plan to DO with the information is equally as important as the information itself, and by nature needs to be developed with the same weight.

2. Align on metrics that will help you meet those needs

When I say align, I mean get in a room and don’t leave until you’re all singing kumbaya. Agreeing on “The Truth” about how things are measured across different units, divisions and hierarchies within your business in this global economy can be an ugly tug-o-war. It can threaten to upend your entire outlook on your business’s success. But the up-front sacrifice will pay dividends and is the key to enabling a data-driven culture within your org.

3. Keep it simple, stupid

Okay, I know you’re not stupid. But it’s really easy for requirements to start to snowball. What was once a manageable, streamlined view of your data turns into something that looks as granular, jumbled and convoluted as the raw data itself. If you end up here, take a few steps into the air and look down at the bigger picture (your business). If that picture doesn’t make sense, start there. Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” To enable simplicity, make sure that your reporting is graphical and intuitive. Intuitive outputs can help guarantee stakeholders are looking at (and understanding) the “right” data to influence business decisions.

4. Facilitate do-it-yourself analysis

Today’s most successful BI Tools are leading because of usability, but a usable environment goes beyond that sleek software interface to the data depths below. Teach your users to fish, but also make sure to create as many dashboards and reports as necessary to provide the right analysis to the right people. The starting dashboards almost always need changes, but without a starting point many users don’t know what to look at. Start by building a strong data and reporting foundation and allow for quicker response to isolate problems, guide where to dig deeper and ultimately take meaningful action.

5. Collaborate across teams

Don’t be a data hoarder. Sharing is caring! The most important reason to invest in getting insight out of your data is to spread that insight around. Share the wealth. Know your audience and make sure that the right people from across your organization have a seat at the table for input at each phase of your BI design, build, roll-out and usage of the tool moving forward.

Check out more tips on using business intelligence

Using business intelligence just became a little easier, right? These first five steps ought to give you plenty to get started on. When you’re ready, check out the next six tips to maximize your BI investment.

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