Thanks to software vendors investing heavily in making their applications easier-to-use, accessible via the Web and more affordable, business intelligence (BI) software is now a viable option for employees in sales, marketing, operations, and other departments to utilize.
But with the proliferation of these tools, business leaders will have to rethink how they address business intelligence governance, or the roles, responsibilities and guidelines it provides its users to ensure BI tools are utilized correctly and appropriately. When it comes to setting up these new BI teams for success, leaders should consider these steps.
- Establish Governance to Provide Structure, Guidance and Boundaries
Myron Weber, founder of business intelligence consulting firm Northwood Advisors, notes that establishing a hierarchy of roles and responsibilities is an essential first-step in any organization when deploying a new BI application, but that not enough organizations give governance the attention it deserves.
“It’s absolutely essential that stakeholders know what they can and cannot do, what they should and should not do,” says Weber. While there isn’t a simple formula to go about defining governance, your system should be dictated by your current management structure.
For example, larger organizations with a strict chain-of-command would be well served putting together a “BI Bible,” or written guidelines that define who should initiative a project or report, and when. Smaller organizations can drive the direction of its BI users with regular meetings to discuss current and future analyses.
- Anoint Internal or External Domain Experts
While users in sales and marketing positions may contain more domain knowledge, they often lack the technical expertise to utilize BI tools to their full potential. For these reasons, it’s important to identify technical experts to assist users with selecting the right regression to run or most appropriate data to pull.
These experts can be internal employees or external resources. David Handmaker, CEO of Next Day Flyers, relies on a senior analyst to assist members of his sales and marketing team when they need to devise a new report or prepare a statistical model for the first time.
Organizations can alternatively rely on vendor support teams. This is a good option for organizations without the personnel to adequately assist BI users at the time of deployment.
- Allow Business Users to Manage Data
Finally, organizations should ensure that they are correctly balancing resources to accurately capture data, while at the same time not needlessly trying to achieve what Weber calls “perfect data.” He questions, “If directionality is all that is necessary for action, why obsess over data accuracy?”
Unfortunately, it’s hard for IT to know where to push for accuracy and where to be more lenient when it comes to data collection and cleansing standards. Weber suggestions bringing in the business users to the IT-side of data collection to help make these decisions. Handmaker did this at Next Day Flyers by placing a business analyst in charge of the nightly Extract, Transform, and Load (ETL) of its Web visitor and sales data.
- Pivot Successful BI Processes to Solve Bigger Problems
Businesses that provide guidance, leadership and set-up BI analysts for success have the potential to create one of the more power, strategic groups within the organization–a resource that is often underutilized. Weber suggests that the most successful business intelligence organizations he work with “evolve their charters over time,” and apply their processes to find (and answer) new questions.