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Three steps to help realize the potential of business intelligence


As Business Intelligence (BI) matures, we are starting to see tools that are extremely powerful and robust. BI tools have emerged everywhere from Microsoft Excel to higher-end platforms, each with their own distinct strengths. Now, more than ever, anyone can start a BI practice, allowing an organization to easily see information about their sales, product inventory, marketing, etc. in one place. Reports can be created quickly and with new user interfaces, eliminating the delay of waiting for IT to create new reports.

We shouldn't be surprised by this new power that we now hold. From companies like Google to Travelocity and Netflix, more access to information has been made available than ever before. The question is whether all of that information has improved our lives and the decisions we make. Has the information helped us or been more of a distraction? Similarly, organizations have piles of data about their daily operations, but how has it been used to their benefit? If companies are to capture the true power of the information that the organization holds, the way that BI is managed must be changed.

The future of BI is to bring superior tools forward to create business discovery opportunities and not reams of reports. The goal is to bring together the technical expertise of BI as well as the discovery methods of Six Sigma. As we move forward, BI needs to be given back to the users of the data, whether it is executive teams, mid-level managers or individual contributors. The discovery needs to be built into the reports and dashboards so that historical data is used to make educated assumptions about the future.

BI designers have the ability to change the way user interfaces, dashboards and reports are developed, depending on what data the organization seeks. Using the three steps outlined below, BI's full potential can be realized, presenting valuable opportunities to the organization.

Define organizational goals: What are the goals of the organization? What key information must users fully understand to predict the future? Lastly, in what manner is the available information clearly portrayed so that users understand the goals of the organization?

Evaluate levers: Once the goals of the organization have been defined, what can executive teams, mid-level managers and individual contributors do to affect those goals? What individual aspects of the organization can be broken down into a single chart so that everyone can see how their behavior affects the goals of the organization?

Identify opportunities for improvement: Lastly, and most important, what can be done to continually encourage improvement? Now that the goals of the organization are known and the individual behaviors that directly affect goals are understood, what improvements can be made and which would be most beneficial to the organization?

BI tools are everywhere, but are we truly getting everything that we can from them? Using this three-step approach to manage a BI practice allows organizations to focus on the real reason to care about information: to improve the organization using lessons learned from the past.