4 Keys to Building a Successful Business Intelligence Strategy

Devin Pickell
Devin Pickell  |  May 3, 2019

If you’re a company with high-growth aspirations, I’m sure you’ve considered looking into business intelligence at least once or twice.

When done right, business intelligence leads to faster and more confident decision-making; mainly because these decisions are backed by data. It can save time, money, effort, and open new opportunities.

But business intelligence takes commitment and buy-in from others in the company. It requires the right implementation and strategy.

Of course, business intelligence software helps immensely, but even then, you’ll need to narrow down the right software for your company’s unique requirements.

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Business intelligence is definitely an undertaking, but you don’t have to go at it alone. Before going with a solution, see how successful strategies are first implemented, and then consider if it’s right for your company.

Building a business intelligence strategy

For this guide, we crowdsourced the insights of business intelligence professionals to hear how software, metrics, and people-alignment are crucial to the success of business intelligence.

The first insight touches on establishing a solid foundation before jumping into a tool.

1. Establish a solid foundation for business intelligence

Chai Mamdur, Data & BI Architect at People.ai

business intelligence foundationChai begins by stating business leaders must always keep two things in the back of their mind when considering business intelligence.

1. Begin with a goal in mind

“Purchasing a multi-year contract for a product you don’t have a need for is not only wasteful but can be distracting from more pressing business needs. Rather, business leaders should start with the key performance indicators (KPIs) they would like to measure, monitor, and optimize and seek the business intelligence solution which best supports that initiative.”

2. Align the tech landscape with work culture

“This one is important, and here’s an example why. If all the Engineering and GTM teams are using cloud solutions, the field for selecting new software/processes becomes narrower. Similarly, if the company is focused on having a quick time to deliver in initial periods, a managed services solution will be a better fit.”

Finding the right business intelligence solution takes time. Business leaders that keep the above two points in mind are more likely to establish a solid foundation and set its teams up for greater success down the road.

Give me the G2: Learn more about People.ai's revenue intelligence system by reading some real-user reviews.

2. List objectives for business intelligence to solve

Tim Parkin, Analytics & Digital Strategy Consultant at timparkin.com

business intelligence objectivesOnce you ideate ways to build a solid foundation, it’s time to list out the objectives for business intelligence to solve. These objectives will form your KPIs. Tim mentions the best way to establish objectives is to start with questions and then data.

“Too many organizations overwhelm themselves with a data-first approach without a clear objective and end up in a state of analysis paralysis – lots of numbers but no real pragmatic insights.

The performance of every business can be summarized by a handful of carefully chosen KPIs. Having too many KPIs erodes their usefulness and prevents the organization from focusing on the primary drivers of performance. Figuring out the right set of KPIs can take some time and experimentation, but doing so is transformative.

Focusing on both leading and lagging indicators is essential in a successful business intelligence strategy. It’s just as important to understand where you’re going as it is to realize how you ended up where you are.”

Tim goes on to say that every team playing a role in the business intelligence implementation should accept some responsibility for meeting a set of KPIs. This also ensures the proper data sources are aggregated when it comes time to select a tool.

Related Content: Read more about KPIs and how organizations typically establish them. This will help inform your decision-making.

3. Prep your data for business intelligence

Tiffany Schreane, Marketing & Advertising Professor at The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT)

business intelligence- dataEvery company has a wealth of sales, marketing, and product data on-hand. Whether or not this data is clean and easily accessible, however, can vary from one company to another. Tiffany offers one way to prep data for business intelligence.

“How do you collaborate to ensure everything runs smooth? I recommend establishing a center of intelligence – this is essentially a committee where different people are appointed to different elements of the business intelligence group. A couple of responsibilities can include:

1. Establish a data cleaning process to ensure that all data is attributed and collected accurately.

2. Data collection.

3. Ensure the correct parameters are in place. One major thing here to call out is to ensure the time period being measured is like-for-like – adding in additional quarters, weeks, etc. that isn’t comparable to the baseline could cause skewed results.”

The takeaway in all of this? A solid foundation and list of objectives are only as strong as the data in which business intelligence relies on. So, while you want to start with questions and establish KPIs, you’ll also want to go back and look at data provenance.

4. Find the right business intelligence tool

Daniel Jebaraj, Vice President at Syncfusion

business intelligence toolsAfter you’ve thoroughly gone through the previous three phases, you’re now ready to look into actual business intelligence software. Daniel, an expert with over 17 years experience running a product line of .NET and business intelligence products, was nice enough to piece together a checklist to consider during your tool search:

  • I recommend preparing a feature matrix and matching against available options. This reduces the chance that key features will be missed at a later stage.
  • Consider software for implementing data integration and cleanup. This may be where you spend most of your time.
  • Avoid custom scripts except when needed since these can be hard to maintain.
  • Prepare security requirements and validate that your shortlisted vendors support your requirements. Consider software that integrates into existing authentication infrastructure such as Office 365 if this is a possibility for your needs.
  • Business intelligence solutions should be deployed across a business unit or organization. They should not be limited to small silos. All stakeholders need to have a unified view. Consider using software that is available for an affordable price when deployed across a business unit or organization. If you do not plan for the complete scope of deployment up front, you may pay for very expensive licensing options down the road.
  • Check sites such as G2.com for reviews.
  • Check if the product user interface is modern and user-friendly. Users will not use even extremely capable software that appears out of date and is not user-friendly.
  • Evaluate the availability of mobile interface for the software you plan to go with.
  • If complementary solutions such as those for data integration or big data processing are needed, be sure to factor in their costs.
  • Evaluate the support options that are available. If custom work is needed, make sure that you understand pricing for such custom work.

Finding the right tool can be a lengthy process, but considering the checklist above will save you time, money, and effort in the long run. Most of all, it’ll empower your team to do their best work.

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Better decision-making with business intelligence

Recapping our four business intelligence strategies above, you are now more aware of:

  • Establishing a solid foundation in terms of goal-setting and aligning your tech landscape with the existing work culture.
  • Listing out clear objectives you’d like to solve with business intelligence. These will inform your KPIs later on.
  • Prepping relevant data – like sales, marketing, product, and others – so it’s the best fit for a business intelligence tool.
  • Finding the right tool that satisfies your unique business requirements. This doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive or feature-rich tool, so refer to Daniel’s checklist when searching.

Ready to learn more about business intelligence? Check out our full rundown of BI for those just getting started, and see how other industries are applying it to be more data-driven.

Devin Pickell
Author

Devin Pickell

Devin is a Content Marketing Specialist at G2 Crowd writing about data, analytics, and digital marketing. Prior to G2, he helped scale early-stage startups out of Chicago's booming tech scene. Outside of work, he enjoys watching his beloved Cubs, playing baseball, and gaming.