7 Signs Your BI Strategy is Failing Your Business Objectives

  • Richard Thelwell
  • September 28, 2015

bi strategy failing business objectivesThe chances are, you’ve got a BI strategy. These days, most businesses do—even if it’s fairly rudimentary. But, rudimentary or sophisticated, there’s no guarantee that a business’s BI strategy is going to do what any sensible strategy ought to do—namely, support the business’s overarching business objectives.

And there’s a reason for that. Which is this: almost certainly, your BI strategy hasn’t been developed by working backwards from your top-level business objectives, as they were articulated by the Board and senior management.

In fact, it’s surprisingly common for businesses’ BI strategies to evolve in the opposite direction—taking the BI situation today as the starting point, and moving forward. Often, such BI strategies are expressed in terms of technologies and budgets, rather than outcomes or capabilities.

And the danger in this is obvious. By taking today’s BI capabilities and successively adding to them, there’s no guarantee that the end point will be one that necessarily dovetails with the overall business’s business objectives.

Indeed, the gap between the two could be quite significant—significant enough, at times, for the BI strategy to consequently materially affect the achievement of those overall business objectives.

The good news: the signs to alert you to such a situation aren’t difficult to discern. Here’s what to look out for.

Sign #1: Critical information is missing.

Whatever your overarching business objectives, a BI strategy should aim to provide the information to help you meet those objectives faster, and measure your progress to the goal.

bi strategy missing information
Missing, or incomplete information can severely hinder your BI strategy

The problem? It turns out that you haven’t actually got the information you need, with critical pieces being simply not available.

At which point, you’re flying partially blind.

Sign #2: Information is slow to arrive, or out of date.

Of course, not all the vital information that you need will be missing. But those pieces of data that you do have, might be arriving too late to be of maximum value.

Reports that are run weekly, for example. Worse, reports that are run monthly.

Or perhaps, reports run only ‘on demand’, when people remember to ask for them.

Sign #3: Just running those reports overloads IT resource.

And it can be very productive to ask why those reports are run so infrequently.

Often, the answer boils down to the impact that they have on IT resource.

Perhaps the reports need specially setting-up by an IT analyst, and can’t be set to run automatically, or be called up on-demand by end users.

bi strategy IT bottlenecks
Traditional BI can place great strain on IT resource, causing bottlenecks to form.

Or perhaps—as we at Matillion have seen many times—report running can overload antiquated servers and elderly ERP systems, leading to sluggish response times.

Either way, it’s not good news: information that should be flowing freely, isn’t.

Sign #4: BI outputs are largely just reports.

And in today’s business world, don’t forget, a sensible BI strategy should do more than just rely on reports.

Reports are static, and don’t help their readers to home in on root causes and underlying symptoms.

These days, a basic ‘drill down’ capability is a must. A report tells you there’s a problem—but drill-down tells you what’s causing it.

Sign #5: Too many people rely on homebrew spreadsheets.

Another sign that the business’s BI strategy isn’t supporting its business objectives is when end users are forced to resort to multiple spreadsheets in order to get their jobs done.

Again, this isn’t good news. For one thing, they’re spending their time building and maintaining spreadsheets, instead of productively working. That hardly contributes to the business’s overall objectives.

bi strategy spreadsheet error
A heavy reliance on manual, error-prone spreadsheets can be detrimental for your BI strategy.

For another thing, those spreadsheets might be flawed. Research shows that alarming numbers of spreadsheets do contain errors.

And finally, another common occurrence is different people producing different spreadsheets, each purporting to tell the same story. The result? Meetings spent arguing not over what to do, but over whose spreadsheet is correct.

Sign #6: No dashboards, visualisations, or other modern analysis tools.

Just as importantly, neither spreadsheets nor reports lend themselves to modern day data analysis and interpretation techniques.

Because in today’s business world, busy managers don’t always have time to plough through reports or spreadsheets.

Instead, what they need is a ‘dashboard’ on their desktop computer screen or tablet. Or advanced analytic visualisations.

That way, they can quickly see what needs doing—and do it.

Sign #7: Your business objectives aren’t being achieved.

Finally, it’s time to ask if those business objectives are being achieved.

They’re not?

In which case, it could be time to take a look at your BI strategy, to see if it’s actually helping you to progress to those objectives.

If you’re looking to boost your BI strategy, download our free guide to explore the different solutions that are available, and how to implement them successfully.