For years, company executives have yearned for more detailed facts and figures that would shed light on the deficiencies, highlights and challenges responsible for fluctuating business metrics. Searching for underlying causes that explain things like decreases in sales numbers, success rates of marketing campaigns and budget deviations seemed nearly impossible. Extracting that level of detail from the multitude of disparate systems used throughout their companies, if possible at all, was much too time-intensive to make the effort worthwhile.
Fortunately, with the prevalence of modern Business Intelligence (BI) tools, this conundrum has largely been resolved. However, in its place is the challenge of how best to use these tools to efficiently manage big data and obtain the precise intelligence desired. The tools enable access to an endless amount of information, however, implementing them with proper focus and purpose can be an overwhelming task without the right preparation.
The good news is that there is a definitive solution to this issue, and it resides with the executive team, not the data team. Effective results from BI and big data are dependent on clearly defined goals, a documented plan, and distinct expectations. A BI project done with proper planning and forethought will produce tangible reports from which you can identify trends and implement actionable change throughout your organization.
Let’s look at a few guiding principles to keep in mind as you prepare for your first BI project.
With so much data that can be analyzed, the question becomes what should be analyzed. Better yet, what needs to be analyzed? Don’t try to accomplish everything in your first project. Including too much right out of the gate creates unnecessary challenges and introduces room for error. Instead, focus on the specific data sets that are most imperative to accomplishing your goals.
Identify clear business objectives and the type of data you need to capture in order to identify opportunities for improvement. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking about the sources from which you will need to pull. That mindset often limits the scope of your project. It is only after you define the data you need to incorporate that you should consider which systems will be best able to provide that information. Be crystal clear on what you intend to uncover and how you plan to use that data to improve your business.
Focus on Results
By starting with a plan and mapping your needs to appropriate data sources, you’re setting yourself up for a successful project. Once you identify the right structure for your BI project and successfully extract the data you require for analysis, the possibilities are endless. This is an iterative process. You can continue to add data sets or modify your current project as often as necessary.
By following best practices for your big data project, you gain a significant competitive advantage. Keep in mind, you must be prepared to act on the data once you have identified needed changes. The value of any great BI project is in the resulting changes that drive enhanced efficiency, improved customer experience or a financial increase to your bottom line.
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