Posted by: A.R. Cherian | March 2, 2010

What it takes to compete with Business Intelligence

In my previous post, I mentioned some of the the benefits of BI. I said that BI is not as easy as buying new hardware and software and flipping a switch. It is not automatic and it is not easy. It takes time and money and most importantly, a proper organizational culture that is suited for it.

Here are some things that your company must have in order to use BI effectively:

  • Know where your company stands right now in terms of using data for decision making (ex. just creating reports)
  • Decide where your company wants to be in using data for decision making (ex. statistical forecasting or predicting level)
  • Right culture (ready to use data). All decision-makers have buy-in to the idea that BI is critical for success.
  • Top-management/CEO support. You know you have this when leaders start saying “bring data or facts to support your belief.”
  • BI should be employed and visible at enterprise level, not just departmental level.
  • The right metrics have to be developed to measure what your company needs to stay on top in its industry.
  • Strategies are built around BI. CEO’s should tout it and make it very public.
  • BI should be implemented in response to a weakness in your company. Identify specific business objectives that data analysis can help meet. (ex. Wal-Mart focusing solely on supply chain)
  • Right people (skills)
  • Right Software: DBMS, Analysis: SAS, etc., , ETL software, ERP, Data Warehouses, and much more
  • Right Hardware: High-end servers, fast processors, lots of memory, lots of disk space
  • Willingness to conduct experiments (such as Harrah’s)
  • Lots of data (internal, external, structured, unstructured)
  • Distinctive competency (or desire for one)
  • Willingness and a structure to maintain the system and make sure your people use it.
  • Ongoing commitment. People have to use the data the system produces for decision making and money and time must be allocated to maintain the system on an ongoing basis.

In order to use BI successfully you have to make sure all the necessary pieces are in place first. A comprehensive evaluation of where your company stands on each of these points and data strategy plan should be conducted before taking any BI initiative. Lastly, I can’t stress this enough. Top-management has to support and publicize it (“this is the way we’re doing business now”). So many BI initiatives have failed because top-management only gave lip-service to the notion of using BI to compete.

Lastly, please note: not every company needs or can sustain BI if they don’t have these qualities. Don’t sell them the hype!


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