What makes for a truly successful business intelligence implementation? One that delivers meaningful value to the business, and which unlocks genuine operational improvement opportunities?
Clearly, the choice of business intelligence solution plays a part—although a smaller one than many businesses realise. Instead, the answer turns out to be a mix of factors: system selection, project management, platform choice, an operational focus, and ease of end-user access.
Taken together, these form a set of business intelligence best practices that collectively unlock a superior ROI.
The best practices in question? Let’s take a look.
Business intelligence best practice #1: Lower the cost of acquisition.
Make a capital investment in business intelligence software, and there’s obviously the cost of the software itself to consider. There are also ancillary costs (such as installation, hardware, consultancy, support, and staff) to be budgeted for—typically at between 300-700% of the license cost.
So anything that you can do to reduce that upfront cost will positively impact the ROI.
And at Matillion, we reckon that the best way to do that is to opt for Cloud BI—a ‘software as a service’ business intelligence solution that is delivered through an affordable monthly subscription.
Business intelligence best practice #2: Speed-up the ‘time to gain’.
How long does it take for a business intelligence project to deliver? Slash that time, and benefits will flow through to the bottom line sooner, enhancing the ROI. Again, choosing Cloud BI has an impact here.
Statistics show that the average on-premise business intelligence project takes 12-24 months to come to fruition. But here at Matillion, we reckon to deliver an effective, enterprise quality, cloud business intelligence project in just a few weeks.
Business intelligence best practice #3: Power to the people!
We’ve all heard of business intelligence projects that quickly become the personal fiefdom of a small group of power users. Equally, many of us have encountered business intelligence projects where it takes weeks—or even months—for report-writing requests to be sanctioned and actioned.
In each case, what happens is that a barrier has been put between the business’s business intelligence system and the people who can use it to do their jobs better.
The answer? Self-service reporting, using simple BI report-creation tools. At a stroke, you’re giving people the power to use business intelligence how they want, and when they want. And not when—and how—power users and resource constraints dictate.
Business intelligence best practice #4: Target operational improvements.
Yes, you can deploy a business intelligence system and use it exclusively within the finance system, as a financial reporting and analysis tool. Lots of businesses do.
But that’s like buying a sports car and never getting out of second gear. Or a 4×4, and never going off-road.
Business intelligence can deliver much more than finance-related insights. So to get the biggest impact with business intelligence, focus it on operational improvements—production, purchasing, inventory management, and sales. For as American bank robber Willie Sutton used to say, “That’s where the money is.”
Business intelligence best practice #5: Business leadership, not IT leadership.
Who should run and manage a business intelligence project? Here’s a clue: it’s not the IT folks. Yes, IT is an important part of the equation. And yes, an effective IT contribution makes a real difference.
But ultimately, business intelligence is about delivering value for the business—and so it is business people, from finance or operations, who should lead the project, and provide its strategic guidance.
That way, the decisions that are made—about priorities, platforms, and processes—are driven by the needs of the business, and not the IT function.
If I ignore these business intelligence best practices, will my project fail?
No, not necessarily. Although you are more likely to find that you’ve spent more money than you would otherwise have done, and incurred more risk. Neither of which is good for a project’s ROI.
What’s almost certain, though, is that you’ll have delivered less. Which—with equal certainty—also saps a project’s ROI.
The recipe for success? A business-led, low-cost, rapidly implemented, operationally-focused project—and one that delivers business intelligence to where it matters most: the people who are making decisions.