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Business Intelligence in Plain English Part II

October 28th, 2020

Elitsa Vacheva

In Part I of the Business Intelligence in Plain English we looked at what BI is, who needs is, where it is successful and when it is the right approach. We continue with more details on why and how to use BI for understanding the performance of your organization.

5. How is BI used?

BI information is used to help you understand how your company operates, and why. A mature BI program generates actionable information that people are equipped to use for daily decision-making. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for maturity to get some benefit from BI.

To implement a successful BI program at your company, your first steps are to invest time and brainpower to define your business and how it works. This detailed process of question and answer can be a challenge, but it is also a great gift. Only by defining your business processes first can you understand how your business performs, and why changes occur.

This crucial process of business and technical evaluation is what we like to call Phase 0 of the BI program. The results of Phase 0 help clarify what a company wants to measure, and how to measure each element. We use Phase 0 to help our clients survey existing architecture, draw up a model of existing business data and processes, and develop a roadmap of measurable objectives.

The BI roadmap is an incremental plan for long-term BI program development. By incremental, we mean each Phase of the BI program is designed to proceed at a sustainable pace, with short-term gains in functionality. The incremental approach favors flexibility to changing business requirements, and fosters long-term company visibility for the BI program. (Remember, people are essential to BI success.)

Every BI program can be leveraged as soon as launched to broaden knowledge about company operations. As soon as you begin asking how your company operates and why, you’ll gain valuable insight. Like the sages said, “Know thyself.”

6. Why BI?

Because you want to understand company performance. In the words of Stephen R. Covey: Begin with the End in Mind. If you’re asking yourself, “Why BI?” consider: “What do I want to measure?

Actionable Information

A BI program may include some reports, but it is not reporting – BI is intelligent information. Manual reporting processes are inefficient for gathering, compiling, and producing actionable information, and can produce inconsistent and often unverifiable information. I.e. if the numbers don’t match among reports or departments, then one, some, or possibly all results are incorrect. (We don’t like numbers that don’t match – we like our data real and verifiable.)

Consistent Dataset

BI has the capacity to deliver company-wide concurrency and integration of measurements. A successful BI program begins with creating a model of existing business data and processes, and understanding what your company wants to measure. Next, you can leverage your BI platform to ensure all departments have a common, consistent, and readily available dataset for queries, reports, and analysis.

Business Intelligence is not a far-off destination years down the road, but a method of understanding performance that produces value from day one. Seabeck Systems advocates an incremental approach to BI development, which supports short-term gains in functionality, and promotes long-term program visibility. We also like to have a plan, which brings us to our next point…

Coming up: the BI roadmap. In a future blog series we’ll share planning steps for BI program development. Each phase on the BI roadmap will address the essential elements of people, processes, tools, and benefits. Stay tuned!

Got more questions? Tell us in the comments.

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Business Intelligence in Plain English Part I

October 28th, 2020

Elitsa Vacheva

Business Intelligence (BI) helps you understand how your company is doing so you can adapt and adjust. Successful BI requires the support of well-engaged people from across the organization, understanding and defining your business goals, and defining the measurements for each goal.

When we talk with people about Business Intelligence (BI) programs, we almost always hear these two questions first:

a) “What is Business Intelligence?”
b) “Is BI right for my organization?”

If you have these questions, this BI Basics post is for you.

1. Who needs BI?

If you want to understand company performance, how is your organization doing and why, then BI is for you.
People use BI to answer questions like:

  • How is our business performing?
  • Are we doing our best?
  • Where can we make changes that will help us achieve our new objective?
  • How does our performance today compare with how we were doing 15 days ago? 30 days? 1 year?
  • If we’re at the top of our game, where do we go next?

2. What is BI?

Business Intelligence (BI) is a set of systems and processes designed to generate timely, accurate, relevant, and actionable information. People use BI information to understand and improve company performance.

The rise of Artificial intelligence and Machine learning can expand an organization’s ability to leverage BI information – but people, a.k.a. Human In The Loop (HITL) – remain an important component in some information processing.

Remember: Smart automation cannot replace essential activities implemented by well-informed people. It is the people (not the technologies) at your company who can use information generated by BI to create actionable steps for managing company performance.

3. Where is BI successful?

Success is achieved where people know how to (and actually do) use BI information to support daily decision-making. No matter how well constructed, your BI program cannot succeed if people do not take advantage of the information that BI yields.

A healthy BI program needs champions who can help sustain interest and solicit input. A Federated BI Team ensures engagement and support across the company, including representatives from business and technical groups.

Department Champions
A thriving BI program needs champions: people who can actively promote the program to raise awareness and stir excitement. Your BI champions encourage everyone to learn, participate and make use of BI information for daily decision making. People who participate in the BI program as it evolves provide critical feedback that enhances ongoing BI development, and ensures the relevancy of end results.

Federated BI Team
BI is not the purview of one group. Rather, success is forged by the Federated BI Team, which consists of people from across the organization who understand (are trained in) BI systems and processes. Your Federated BI Team has the capacity to identify knowledge-holders and bring them to the table, break down input and ideas, build user stories, prioritize requirements, and identify the specific objectives required to work toward each goal.

4. When is BI the right approach?

When you need a complete picture of company performance to help you understand trends while they occur, you need BI.

Business Intelligence is a systematic approach for analyzing company performance data in real time. BI information helps to establish a baseline of normal operations, so companies can compensate for any operational inconsistencies.

This is essential: once a company defines a baseline for operations, it’s easier to see fluctuations earlier, understand which adjustments are needed, and then measure the effects of each action.

Continue to Part II of Business Intelligence in Plain English to learn about why and how to use BI in your organization.

Got more questions? Tell us in the comments.

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