How to Create a Business Intelligence Plan

Posted by Dave Fisher on 12.15.16
Dave Fisher
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Business intelligence boils down to one thing: squeezing your data sources for actionable insights.This is a real challenge today. Enterprises have more data at their fingertips than ever before. You can track, monitor, and visualize just about anything—from financial figures to web traffic—and this glut of information has actually made it harder, not easier, to make good business decisions.

Deciding what data to track and how to use it can be daunting, and without a good BI plan you can end up spinning your wheels and wasting a lot of time. Here are a few tips on how to make a coherent plan.

Assess the Business Intelligence Tools You Have.

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Before building a plan from scratch, think about the BI you have in place. What data are you tracking and why are you tracking it? Which indicators will give you the greatest understanding of your organization’s health and trends that will impact the future? Which useful indicators are you not tracking right now? Considering where your BI plan is today will help you to see how far you have to go.

C-Suite Should Spearhead the Plan, Not IT.

This may come as a shock to some people, but putting a business intelligence plan together is a task that belongs at the C-level, not IT.

Even though setup and management of data sources is a technical process, and IT will likely handle the implementation, the planning and development phase should be managed by an executive who has a big picture understanding of organizational objectives and which insights will help you succeed. Once the BI plan is deployed, this person should also help other stakeholders learn how to get what they need from the data.

Limit Your KPIs

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are "key" because they are exceptional. You can track a lot of indicators, but KPIs are the VIPs - the important pieces of data people need to do their jobs better.

You may already have an idea of what your KPIs are, but if you don't, take a look at your corporate mission, strategy, and objectives, and determine which metrics are most critical to measuring performance. Just remember to limit your KPIs to only the most important items on the list. If you get too granular with your focus, you risk diluting the valuable story they tell. That will make it harder to get the insights you are looking for.

Use a Data Visualization Tool Like Microsoft Power BI 

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Implementing the right business intelligence software can make your overall strategy more effective and easier to manage. Microsoft Power BI is a premium cloud-based business analytics suite that collects raw data from multiple sources and turns it into easy-to-read, highly actionable visualizations.

Power BI offers several advantages over other enterprise analytics solutions:

Integration With Office 365

Part of Microsoft’s ever-growing Office 365 suite, Power BI is integrated with software your employees are likely already using, like Excel.

Affordable Pricing

Microsoft currently offers two versions of Power BI, the basic free software and the paid pro version. The differences between the two include greater capacity and more frequent data refreshes in the pro version, and if your needs exceed the free version, you will find a paid subscription pretty reasonable at $12 per month/user. 

Sharing and Governance

One of the most powerful features of Power BI is the control over how information is shared. Of course you can access and share reports on any device, but you can also segment the users based on information you want them to see. For instance, you might want to share only certain metrics within a report to vendors and other outside entities. Power BI allows you to set permissions on what data can be accessed by whom.

Like most aspects of a dynamic business today, managing a business intelligence plan is a process that never ends. The best way to begin is to start small and scale your strategy as the company evolves. And by using tools that allow you to instantly understand and act on trends the data conveys, you can finally stop going blind on spreadsheets and get some real work done. 

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Topics: Power BI, Business Intelligence, Big Data

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