Business Intelligence 2: What to Plan For When Implementing BI

In our previous article, we discussed how Business Intelligence (BI) uses software and services to convert your data into action. Basically, by collecting, organizing, and visualizing the data that your company collects, you can gain valuable insight into your operations and determine how to improve on them. 

At this point, if your organization has decided to go ahead with a business intelligence implementation, there are a number of things you need to consider during the planning process.

The Challenges of Business Intelligence Implementation

There are a few challenges to be aware of when beginning the process of a BI implementation:

1. Quality vs. Quantity of Data

Your business intelligence is only as good as the data it’s built on. Yes, our society has reached a point where we can basically quantify everything, but having such a glut of data can come at a cost.

Two issues arise when it comes to BI data overload. The first is that important data can get buried deep inside of systems, apps, etc. and may not get the attention it deserves. Secondly, many BI systems can end up delivering poor and even inaccurate data that does nothing except waste your company precious time and money. 

Before beginning your BI implementation, it’s imperative to identify the proper Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you want to monitor. Yes, having a lot of data at your disposal is great. But by focusing on the critical metrics you want to track, you will ensure that your BI implementation is a success. This can certainly be expanded upon later.

2. Who Owns the Data?

The second challenge that you will face is determining who owns the data within your organization. What do we mean by data ownership? Well, your finance department will typically own your Chart of Accounts, meaning that they’re accountable for how anyone in your organization is going to aggregate, present, or use the financial data. Thus, any BI initiative will need to involve them when it comes to financial data. 

Another example is customer data. Your sales department probably thinks they own this data, but so does accounts receivable—so, there is a shared ownership. For sales, they monitor current and prospective customers. For accounts receivable, they monitor paying customers and credit worthiness. As such, you need to correctly classify your customers so that each department knows what components of customer data they are responsible for. 

The final issue with data ownership is determining the relationships between the data. For example, your purchasing department can’t do a whole lot without accounts payable properly defining the vendor’s attributes. It’s important that you understand the relationship between your master data (e.g. chart of accounts, customer, supplier data) and transactional data (data that is captured when a product is purchased, received, sold, or accounted for financially). Making sure that both master and transactional data are high quality will ensure the accuracy of the data you can use so that you can make sound business decisions.  

Connecting BI Data with ERP and Other Applications

With the challenges understood and your team fully on-board for a business intelligence implementation, it’s time to connect your BI tool to your ERP and other applications. 

Typically, your ERP will contain key master data for your company. This can include information like: your customers, suppliers, chart of accounts, assets, and a variety of other sets of data that define how the detailed transactional data will be recorded. 

It’s important to remember that your other systems are usually dependent on this master data. So, for example, in order for your asset management (EAM) system to work properly, it will need data from an ERP system such as  asset IDs, and a chart of accounts to schedule equipment maintenance, and to provide asset data to your BI tool. Another example is how your CRM needs customer information to send sales to the ERP that’s going to be billed. Either the CRM or the ERP could then provide this data to the BI tool. 

With both of these examples, the EAM and CRM typically contain details that are not in your ERP. A BI tool, on the other hand, can bring that data together for proper analysis for these systems and many others. 

Long Term Considerations

In spite of your eagerness to get your BI implementation going as soon as possible, there are some long term considerations that must be made in order to ensure a quality BI solution. 

First and foremost, it’s important to define the overall governance and oversight of your BI system. Yes, your IT department can own the tool and facilitate the overall process of the implementation, but it’s imperative that the business is the one that knows what the data means and how it should be utilized. 

Secondly, ownership of the data never ends and, just like the previous point, your business, not IT department, should take charge of this. BI must be maintained on a constant basis and it’s important to balance data retention with new added data. 

Finally—and perhaps most importantly—you should start your implementation small and then thoughtfully build on that. The last thing you want to do is build a “Franken-system” with numerous disconnected parts and teams that are not on the same page. Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor should your comprehensive BI implementation. 

This was the second of a three-part series on Business Intelligence. You can check out the first article here. The third article which will be available in a couple of weeks will give insights on how to find the right BI tool and implementation partner for your company. As always, we look forward to your comments and feedback.

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If you’re ready to consider a Business Intelligence software implementation and strategy, we invite you to learn more by contacting us at sales@ctrworld.com and letting us know what your needs and concerns are.