3 signs of a great Business Intelligence system

  • Richard Thelwell
  • January 21, 2015

business intelligence system 3 great signsIt’s not difficult to acquire a Business Intelligence capability. Choose a vendor, pay for the requisite software licences and hardware, and implement the solution. Or, for an even more simply acquired Business Intelligence capability, engage consultants to carry out the implementation. Either way, the result is a Business Intelligence solution.

But is it a good Business Intelligence solution? Or, better still, a great Business Intelligence solution? That’s an entirely different question.

And to answer it, it’s necessary to first of all define quite what a good—or even better, great—Business Intelligence capability looks like.

So let’s look at exactly what constitutes a good—or great—Business Intelligence solution.

Is it making a difference?

It sounds obvious, but all too often Business Intelligence systems—especially traditional, server-based ‘on-premise’ Business Intelligence systems—don’t really make a difference.

They’ve been bought. They’ve been implemented. But it’s next to impossible to identify specific significant improvements in performance that can be attributed to them.

Business intelligence system performance
With a great Business Intelligence system, there will be a discernible improvement in performance

Have sales improved? Not really. Have margins increased, thanks to pricing insights? Again, not really. Have inventory turns improved? Are forecasts more accurate? Are stockouts fewer? No, no, and no.

So what has changed? Well, there’s a Business Intelligence system, sitting humming on a server….

How widespread is adoption?

Look at the root causes of such indifferent outcomes, and one obvious ‘smoking gun’ is poor user adoption. Simply put, the Business Intelligence system is in place, but no one is really using it.

Oh, people might be receiving reports—either in their e-mail in-box, or as paper documents. And people might even have dashboards on their desktop computer.

But are they the right people? And do enough people have those reports and dashboards? At the right level of seniority? And in the right business functions? And in particular, are there active users outside the finance function?

Because, if people aren’t using a Business Intelligence system—and they’re not the right people, in sufficient numbers—then it’s difficult to expect the Business Intelligence system to make a difference.

Does it drive the right behaviours?

But level of usage—and the type of users—is only part the story. Just as important is the question of behaviour propagation.

Simply put, for a Business Intelligence system to make a difference, it has to drive not just changes in behaviour, but appropriate changes in behaviour. Otherwise, things will just drift on, as before.

Why might those changes in behaviour not be occurring?

One culprit is dashboards and reports that are difficult to use, and which don’t immediately make apparent what’s going one. Prime culprits: poorly-designed dashboards and reports, cluttered dashboards and reports, and dashboards and reports that omit critical pieces of information.

Another culprit: poor direction from the top. Because if the business’s senior people don’t see the Business Intelligence system as a way of making changes and improvements, then the people lower down the organisation are unlikely to pay adequate attention to it.

business intelligence system executive confidence
It is important that senior executives have confidence in the Business Intelligence system in order to drive a behavioral change within an organisation

Result? Yet again, a Business Intelligence system that isn’t making a difference.

The bottom line.

Selecting a Business Intelligence system isn’t difficult. Implementing a Business Intelligence system isn’t difficult.

But building a truly great Business Intelligence system is another matter.

And the road to success lies not with the system itself, but those who use it.

To find out more about implementing a great Business Intelligence system, download our free guide today