Five tips for adopting Business Intelligence (BI)

Recent research conducted by sales-i revealed that 9 out of 10 B2B companies see Business Intelligence – along with other data-driven technologies – as integral to their future success, and it’s not hard to see why. It can boost the quality of your data collection and analysis, allow you to connect with customers and prospects more easily, and help you generate more revenue. Execute your strategy correctly and you’ll have a more informed, prepared, and intelligent team.

But successfully executing a Business Intelligence strategy can be a complicated undertaking. In the course of integrating it into your operations and processes, it’s easy to waste time, lose money, and frustrate yourself and your team. The benefits of BI are undeniable – but accessing them requires a coordinated effort across multiple fronts.

Keep these five tips in mind and you’ll lay the foundations for successful adoption.

Clean your data

BI can have a transformative effect on your organisation – but only if it’s working from a bedrock of reliable, accurate data.

It follows that the first step in your strategy should be to ensure that your database is as clean as it can possibly be. That means removing any old or irrelevant records: not only do you not need the previous address history of a one-time customer who last bought from you five years ago, keeping it is actively dragging down the quality of your insights. Get rid of it, and institute processes for getting rid of it regularly.

Then it’s time to get rid of any records with inaccuracies, inconsistencies, or missing information. If a customer is in your directory under a misspelt name, they’re liable to take offence when you message them; if their phone number or email address is wrong, nobody will ever hear or see what you have to say anyway. When you’ve gotten rid of these records, create specific data entry rules to avoid making mistakes like this in future.

And always, always know the provenance of your data. Just because you can buy data from third-parties doesn’t mean you should rely solely on it: it’s always better to maximise the information produced within your business rather than rely on third-party sources.

Create a clear Business Intelligence roadmap

Business Intelligence implementation isn’t a one-and-done thing: it’s a long-term endeavour and you can’t expect to see immediate results. The true benefits of this technology are measured in months and years, not days and weeks – and only if you’ve created a suitable roadmap for the entire organisation to follow.

This roadmap should start with a comprehensive understanding of your current situation. It’s quite likely that this will look very different from your BI setup five years from now: how might you improve it in the short and long-term? Who’s going to use it, and who has a stake in its success? Which technology and infrastructure will you need to put in place to facilitate it? What, in the end, are your objectives?

Don’t neglect the planning stage. Only when you’ve got a roadmap can you start moving towards your destination.

Educate your team

[clickToTweet tweet=”A good place to start is by letting them know how they’re supposed to use #BI #technology, and how it will specifically benefit them. Include them at an early stage, and ensure they receive the right #training. #Data #BusinessIntelligence #Strategy #BigData” quote=”A good place to start is by letting them know how they’re supposed to use BI technology, and how it will specifically benefit them. Include them at an early stage, and ensure they receive the right training.”]
Important as strategy is, no Business Intelligence plan survives the first contact with your team. Their concerns, their understanding of the technology, and their attitude towards it will determine your success – and you will need to make certain adjustments to accommodate this.

A good place to start is by letting them know how they’re supposed to use BI technology, and how it will specifically benefit them. Include them at an early stage, and ensure they receive the right training.

Above all, create a culture of data literacy – in which team members are encouraged to make decisions based on empirical insights, rather than educated guesses.

Integration, integration, integration

How your BI tool integrates with your existing IT infrastructure determines its ultimate success, so your choice of software should ultimately factor in its relationship to your ERP system.

Many data opportunities that might otherwise be lost can be recovered and capitalised on with the right integration. Certain tools, for example, make it possible to pull data directly from separate financial, logistical, and HR modules, amongst others: delivering superior analysis to several corners of the business. This makes your processes more connected and improves operational efficiency.

Monitor, evaluate, iterate

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Keep an eye on the way you’re using BI, apply some intelligence of your own in your evaluation, and iterate it so it keeps getting better. Implement reporting processes to demonstrate the positive impact it can have on your organisation, and thereby encourage wider adoption throughout the business. Develop recommendations – and follow them. Essentially: if you’re not using the technology to its fullest potential, figure out how you can.

Integrating BI into a busy organisation juggling a number of separate priorities is never going to be the most straightforward undertaking. But if you keep the above five tips in mind, you’ll enjoy a smooth deployment – and a smoother path to successful long-term customer acquisition and retention.

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