Business intelligence (BI) is something that every company knows that they need to leverage. You are looking for an edge to not only ensure your survival, but also an edge to help you position yourself for success. Every company that I have had the pleasure of working with wants BI but surprisingly few companies know what it really is much less how to make use of it.
Let me start off by telling you what business intelligence is not.
- It is not just a report or series of reports. Many people fall into the trap of believing that if they are running reports they are using BI. Not true.
- It is not a crystal ball that simply provides you the answers. You must know your business and must know the questions to ask. If you know the questions BI can guide you to the answer.
- It is not a replacement for common sense. Your BI is only as good as your understanding of your business, your understanding of your market and it’s current state, your ability to know what questions to ask, and the quality and quantity of the data you have at your fingertips. BI will provide you information, use common sense before blindly following the information your BI is providing.
- It’s not something that you define once and walk away from. Your market is constantly changing and evolving, you must always reflect upon those changes and adjust your BI suite to fit the new information, to know the new sets of questions you need answered. Everything is in motion, those that stand still will not exists for long.
If you want to get serious about leveraging business intellgence you must step back and plan. Here are my thoughts for how you can successfully leverage BI in your business:
- Can you define the state of your business now? If you ask most executive teams to answer the following questions you will likely get different answers from different team members. Get on the same page by asking some simple questions:
- What is the fundamental mission of your business?
- What markets are you focused within?
- What are your core business strengths?
- What are your core business weaknesses?
- What does the company need to accomplish this year to achieve it’s core objectives?
- After some discussion you should have a better understanding of where you are. Where is the company going? Define concrete examples of what the business should look like in 2 or 3 years. If you cannot project that far into the future consider what the business looks like in 18 months. Make sure you have a concrete definition of what the business will look like, not something vague like “becoming the thought leader for wireless power emissions in the known universe”. (wanted to see if you were paying attention).
- You know where you are and where you’re going. Good. Now the hard part begins. What are your key business metrics that will lead to actionable next steps? When you sit down with the team what #s do you need to look at to ensure your company is headed in the right direction? These metrics might include the number of users signing up for your service, the number of new activities people are adding to your CRM system, the number of calls per week, etc.. Think carefully about your business and define these metrics.
- Begin collecting all the data you need.
- Build automated reports that show the metrics you care about. However, don’t simply write reports that show the raw numbers, build reports that attempt to look across multiple datapoints and point out positives or negatives with the businsess.
- Review the data, discuss what it’s telling you, iterate. You won’t get it right the first time or the second time either. This is a process which enables you to better understand your business and help you navigate your individual path to success.
Let me know what you feel I’ve left out and keep challenging yourselves.