The decision to invest in business intelligence (BI) tools can and should be an easy one. To put it quite simply, good information and intelligence is required by every organization. In an era where competition is fierce, having ‘accurate’ information in hand can act as a catalyst for building competitive advantages. It can also help an organization to make quicker and more logical decisions, which in the long run leads to a more profitable bottom line.
The decision as to exactly how to invest in BI, however, can be quite involved. With so many established BI software providers – including SAP, SAS, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle – how can you determine which tool will give you the most bang for your buck? How can you maximize the return on your Business Intelligence Investment?
Every organization has different needs for business intelligence tools. For large organizations with tens of thousands of employees among several business channels, the absolute necessity of a collaborative business intelligence tool will likely justify the investment. For others, sophisticated business intelligence tools that offer many capabilities may not be necessary. Depending on your organization’s needs, it would be a good decision to explore the offerings of both the large BI players and the smaller ones.
It is useless to drive a Ferrari when the allowable speed limit in your area is only 50km/hour.
Bear in mind that even the most sophisticated of BI tools are unable to address all of today’s complex business requirements. Many still rely on customized desktop applications, such as MS Excel and MS Access, to do some analysis for their own areas or departments. The appropriate BI tool for your company will be well aligned with your company’s strategy and organizational capabilities.
Having a BI tool suitable to the organization solves many issues associated with the data itself. Gone are the days of inaccurate data, incomplete information, data error, inconsistent data formatting, and the like. But just how useful is this data anyway? The ability for an organization to draw accurate conclusions from the available information depends on who is actually retrieving the data and performing the analysis. Experienced and knowledgeable staff can make all the difference. To obtain accurate analyses and meaningful insights, your staff must have a strong knowledge of the business as well as sufficient technical experience in using the software tool and its advanced analytics. If someone lacks knowledge of the business, or if they are unfamiliar with the software or best data analysis practices, the conclusions may be inaccurate.
Finding the right talent is the key so that real value can be brought out from having the BI tool.
To ensure that a BI tool is continuously being used to its full potential, it is imperative that staff get necessary training during implementation supported by effective change management practices. Post implementation, it is important that users have a robust source for ongoing support for questions and issues.
Finally, working with obsolete software or inefficient processes will not help your business sustain the competitive advantages that it has previously worked so hard to build. As businesses evolve, BI tools are often required to develop too, through software modifications and enhancements. And since many organizations still rely on customized desktop applications, these changes can create some problems down the road when the application needs to be updated or new features need to be added. It is important then that the new implementation and subsequent upgrades follow well documented processes to avoid inefficiencies or worse – analysis that results from corrupt data.
Business Intelligence = Software Tools + Knowledge Management Processes
BI software tools are needed by every organization to make better and wiser decisions. And there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all BI tool. Each organization needs to weigh the benefits against the costs of deploying a particular BI tool and opt for the most favourable alternative. Chances are the optimal BI tool for one organization won’t be the same as the optimal one for another. Furthermore, organizations need appropriate knowledge management processes and they need to ensure the right people are analyzing the right data in the right ways. Keeping in mind the 3 key factors listed here will bring you that much closer to success in your Business Intelligence System implementation.
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