How to Create a Business Intelligence Strategy

Professional consultant using tablet to show data

Entrepreneurs, managers and other high-level personnel may feel like they are missing out on making appropriate business decisions by not instituting business intelligence (BI) into daily operations – and in today's competitive climate, they would probably be right.

This is because business intelligence is an invaluable tool for growth and success. Through the gathering and analysis of relevant data, it allows business owners to extract actionable insights and make informed business decisions. From client behaviours to marketing ROI, there are many ways to employ BI solutions for business development, and garner a competitive edge in a crowded market.

While the benefits are clear, however, devising and implementing a BI strategy is not. Therefore, we have compiled a list of nine ways to produce and execute a business intelligence strategy that will ensure maximum returns for your enterprise.

This is the roadmap you should follow:

1. Learn New Business Intelligence Technologies

Business intelligence has evolved significantly since its infancy, with a wealth of new software programmes and tools now available. Before you devise your strategy, it is imperative to learn about these technologies and how they can allow you to execute your campaign effectively. Staying up to date also ensures that you are exposed to the very latest BI capabilities, with producers regularly upgrading tool suites or implementing new concepts.

Some useful and widely used tools are:

  • Sisene: Software that helps businesses collect, analyse and view data to facilitate the decision-making process.
  • Looker: A web-based interface that enhances the data exploration experience, and allows you to construct analytic modules and design visualisations.
  • Zoho Analytics: Software that speeds up report generation, simplifies data visualisation and restructures the aggregation of data from various sources.
  • YellowFin: End-to-end business intelligence solution that provides real-time automated insights through machine learning.
  • Microsoft Power BI: Popular (and free) web-based analytics tool suite that functions by identifying trends in real-time. Accessible anywhere.

Of course, these programmes are only the tip of the BI iceberg, but they serve as an excellent starting point for newcomers.

2. List Data Sources

When you are working with such a vast catalogue of data – as you invariably will be – you will encounter many different sources. This means that you will need to do three things: learn what data sources you have, what data is relevant from each source, and how you can analyse them for your business needs.

Typically, you should separate your data sources into three distinct categories:

  • Core: Data produced by your business (website).
  • External: Data gathered from outside your company (third-party analysis).
  • Peripheral: Data created from goods and services (customer relationship management).

With the right BI tools at your disposal, you can also create sub-categories to provide even more clarity on where your data has come from – an important aspect of modern data collation.

3. Choose Your KPIs

A key performance indicator (KPI), is a pre-defined measurement of how well your campaigns, efforts and overall strategies are doing. There are hundreds of established KPIs that can help you understand whether you are succeeding or failing in your endeavours, but not all of these will be relevant to your business. Therefore, to fully understand how your business is performing, you need to identify the right metrics.

Here are some ways in which you can do that:

  • Industry KPIs: You can use your wider industry as a benchmark, by examining the return on investments (ROIs), profit margins, and quarterly sales of your competitors.
  • Custom KPIs: This is a more advanced approach, but it is possible to generate business-specific metrics to monitor. You should ideally engage with a BI expert who can point you in the right direction.
  • History: Do you want a snapshot of your company over a period of time? Historical data can be relevant to your present-day operations, giving you the information to specify where you have struggled and what strategies you employed to resolve these difficulties.

Ultimately, to extract the most insight, you need to settle on a list of the most suitable metrics for your needs.

4. Identify Your Company Problems

Companies use BI tools for many different reasons, and, when used correctly, various components can help to solve particular difficulties. Some of the more common issues that companies tackle through the use of BI include:

  • Slow market response to your product or service
  • Upheaval in day-to-day operations
  • Poor performance management of current metrics
  • A decline in customers or users
  • Limited data availability

Once you identify your hurdles, you can learn how to overcome them with the relevant BI tool and strategy.

5. Gather a BI Team

Whether you are new to the world of business intelligence or you already possess knowledge of the technology, you will likely need to assemble a dedicated BI team – especially if you are a large organisation. 

Every member of your BI team will provide specialised knowledge that contributes to your overall strategy, from data interpretation to customer relationship management. Indeed, there are several BI positions that can bring your roadmap to life. These include:

  • Data Analyst: Expert on data verification, processing and visualisation.
  • BI Engineer: Confident in building, configuring and installing BI systems that integrate various data methods.
  • BI Manager: If you have the scope, a BI manager possesses technical, practical and theoretical expertise that can make key decisions to foster implementation.

If you have the resources to gather a BI team, then you will undoubtedly find it a worthwhile investment.

6. Trial Different Software

For the most part, business intelligence services and software come with trial periods. If you wish to incorporate a BI mechanism that focuses on B2B communications, for instance, then you can try it out with a 60-day free trial. If you are satisfied, then you can utilise it; if you are not, then you can give another programme a trial run.

As with any technology that you implement, your BI software should begin with a trial run. This is the only real way to determine if it is right for you, your business and your employees.

7. Establish a Feedback Loop

You might be sceptical of the idea of yet another meeting in your busy schedule. However, a feedback loop in this context is vital.

Indeed, many entrepreneurs claim that daily feedback loops have contributed to the success of their projects. Whether you hold daily powwows or biweekly meetings with your BI team, you can determine the status of a project, how the task is progressing with the BI tools in use, and whether any interruptions or resource constraints can be addressed.

An effective feedback loop should involve you:

  • Outlining the issue (such as customer complaints or insufficient data)
  • Gathering information about the issue
  • Actioning the problem to the relevant person or department
  • Solving the hiccup with proper resolution

When done correctly and efficiently, BI feedback loops can represent one of the most productive meetings of your workday or week.

8. Consider Long-Term Implications

Business intelligence strategies are, for the most part, not designed to be a quick fix. Instead, they are meant to provide a long-term and sustainable roadmap to revenue generation and profit-making.

An effective BI campaign should also give you the information you need to tailor your business operations, decisions and needs to what the available data is telling you. In other words, if the data suggests that particular trends are developing in a certain sector of your market, or your enterprise is failing in a specific area, then it is up to you to adapt and find reasonable solutions that address such issues.

This is why the early stages of your BI strategy are critical. After all, you need to know what you want to achieve in the long-term, not just tomorrow or next month.

9. Review Your BI Strategy

Whether it is monthly or quarterly, it is essential to review your BI strategy. By doing so, you can gain a better understanding of whether you are effectively streamlining operations, exploiting your treasure trove of data in the right way, or meeting your targets and ensuring you are steering the business in the right direction.

If these objectives are not being achieved, then it's important to stand back and re-assess. If you have made strides with your current BI strategy, then you might want to tweak some things. Your resources will likely be finite, so it is a good idea to start small when delving into BI.

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By creating and incorporating a business intelligence solution into your everyday operations, you can potentially solve a lot of headaches that might otherwise prevent your company from reaching that next level.

Whether it is abysmal customer service or high costs of social media marketing, every corporate entity – large and small – can integrate effective and affordable BI platforms, tools and services into their business model.

What else should a business intelligence strategy include? Let us know your views in the comment section below!