You want to get the most value out of any new business system implementation. Whether its new insights, automating management reports, a new operational dashboard or some predictive analytics to help make better decisions.
From our experience, a roadmap and some planning before you start development will help avoid the common issues that can cripple a business intelligence project. Resolving a disconnect with a major stakeholder halfway into a project is a challenging situation and it can be financially costly and bad for customer satisfaction.
At Advance, we’ve been working on implementing business systems for over 20 years and have seen it all. We’ve picked up the pieces of some very poorly implemented projects. Many of the challenges are common to all projects and some simple planning in the beginning will provide the best opportunity for a successful outcome.
Avoid the common traps and follow these steps. Spending some time on good planning early on will pay off in the long term.
1 - Get the main stakeholders in the same room.
Set up a short 1-hour meeting, outline the benefits and examples of successful BI projects. Get people excited about the project and what it will deliver. BI can free employees from manual, inefficient and low-value work. Managers can keep their team accountable and gain new insights on performance. Business owners can see key performance indicators instantly, even on their mobile devices. Mobile BI with instant messaging can provide an avenue for instant feedback so you can begin corrective actions.
Getting the key stakeholders onboard early is a major success factor to any project.
2 - Agree on the key problems you want to solve
There will be several problems you want to solve. Agree with the stakeholders on the 5 most important problems they want to resolve.
Write them down, define how the ideal solution looks, is it measurable, achievable, timely. It needs to be measurable!
Based on the discussion, prioritise. Depending on the feedback you might pursue a quick win, like automating a daily report or look at something bigger like a new dashboard linking a number of key business systems. BI will provide an opportunity to connect data from different sources like Excel, SAP, MYOB, Xero and Salesforce for example. This means you can get a holistic view of the business and connect data, something that was not possible with data silos.
3 - Agree on how success is measured with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Think of KPIs as the mechanism to make effective, data-driven decisions. You are far more likely to improve what you can measure. This is what underpins a successful data driven business
Agreeing on the right KPIs will help in driving the efforts of the company towards a meaningful outcome. To rally the team, you need to measure the right things.
Don’t share too many KPIs, as a data analyst you will lose your audience and overwhelm the typical employee.
KPIs vary from each department. Agree on something achievable like 10 KPIs max. Below is a list of common finance KPIs relevant to most businesses:
• Working capital
• Operating cash flow
• Return on equity
• Quick ratio
• Debt to equity ratio
• Inventory turnover
• Accounts receivable turnover
• Gross profit margin
4 - Data
Getting access to the data is one of the first steps to building a BI solution. Map out the various systems used and get the ball rolling early on whether you have direct access or what data APIs will provide.
Access to the data can hold up any project. Dive in early to assess what you can get.
We say do this early as some systems will provide different levels of access and data quality. More mature enterprise systems like SAP will more likely provide access to everything you need while other less mature vendors often need far more manipulation to get what you need. Perfect data is unlikely and getting access as soon as possible will help reduce delays caused by waiting on 3rd party vendors.
A good data management framework will help to get the best possible data, the best data you can get will directly impact on insights. Test the answers and iron out any inconsistencies before rolling out the solution to a large audience.
Trust is hard to win back if the new system is not showing accurate information. Don't let this happen, if there is an issue, acknowledge it and resolve it.
5 - Action
Deploying a new system should drive new insights, new actions and opportunities. Use the new insights to make a positive step forward. Set up a system to action the data and new insights. First - Automate the delivery of reports, and have a clear strategy on what employees should do with this information. For sales teams, a weekly dashboard of KPIs will drive behaviours and actions. Make the most of this opportunity to get the team excited about new insights. Ensure the time to action KPIs is managed with clear deadlines.
Even if you achieve only a couple of the steps above, you will increase the likelihood of deploying a successful business intelligence solution.
We haven’t touched much on the software for BI and this really comes last. Each tool has its strengths and we tend to lean towards Power BI and Qlik just to be transparent. Most modern BI tools can get the desired outcome and some planning early in the cycle will make a big impact.
Like to know more? Contact us here or check out our blog on two leading BI solutions - Power BI and Qlik - Some interesting changes at Qlik and what to look for in a business intelligence solution.