How to derive Business value out of Business Intelligence?

By S Swaminathan, Co-Founder & CEO, Hansa Cequity

More often than not, Business Intelligence (BI) is seen as a technology or tool based decision within enterprises. A lot of time gets spent on selecting the right business tool. Very little time gets spent on pre-BI enterprise-wide behavioural and performance challenges. Post-BI change management measures should be adopted to ensure that the best business value is gotten out of a BI implementation. 

Defining the fundamental need of BI in an enterprise

The most important objective that BI has to fulfil is to measure and monitor how the company is executing its stated business goals. There are a variety of stakeholders who help an enterprise achieve its business goals. The key is to measure and track them and identify the leaders and laggards in achieving these goals. It must provide CXOs real time insights and predictive ability of what levers need to be pushed to accelerate business goals. 

There is not enough clarity of these criteria, insights and objectives in many companies. A tactical view of BI is taken for a roll-out and deemed as less impactful. It’s important to get this strategic alignment right in the early phase of a BI programme across stakeholders. 

BI – How to connect strategy to execution

Once the strategic alignment is done, the next critical phase is aligning BI to execution. Here are some key steps:

Step 1: Connecting business decisions to outcomes

BI dashboards throw out are a truck load of insights. The key is to connect this to critical outcomes and demand this of the stakeholders. If First Time Right (FTR) is a key measure that has been identified as a corporate goal to improve customer experience, then the key is to measure it and look at which of the stakeholders are getting it right.

Step 2: Connecting the business measures to performance measures

The business measures are agreed upon at early stages of the BI set-up phase but these aren’t always linked to people’s performance measures. Business measures remain as insights or scores that are reviewed regularly with no business impact or value as people’s performance measures and incentives are not aligned. Hence, people don’t see a penalty for moving up the business measures. It becomes critical to link business measures in the BI to people’s performance measures. The need to involve HR and ensure it is a part of people’s goals and KPIs is something that needs to get done. If BI strategy and implementation is relegated to IT implementation, then this tends to lose its importance; it doesn’t help in getting the necessary business value and loses its impact in an enterprise. 

Step 3: Connecting the BI performance measures through a top down approach

The key point of looking at BI measures and asking simple questions is important. It must be asked to every stakeholder who is key to achieving the larger corporate strategic goals. If customer satisfaction is key BI business measure and scores are found in the BI platform then the measures are low in one region vs the other. Asking these questions in this situation creates an action that is outcome oriented. These are the most difficult questions for people to answer. We also need to closely see what actions are being taken on the ground to ensure these measures improve leads to business value enhancement. 

Step 4: Connecting the BI technology and tool selection to a larger strategic goal

If the above actions and collaboration have to happen within the enterprises across departments which were previously siloed, then the BI tool or platform must be able to support these capabilities. The BI platform must be able to provide a single view and the various measures across departments on how they are performing against them. Hence, ease-of-access, portability of data, ability to view these measures across various platforms and devices, real time access etc. play a huge role in the adoption, usage and acceptance of BI. 

Step 5: Connecting the BI strategy to change management culture in the enterprise

It is important to assess the business culture of the enterprise and plan the change management needed within the enterprise once the BI platform goes live. It is important to be transparent to people about the obstacles that will come in the way of getting this adopted, and clarifying to them about the need for active collaboration amongst business users across various levels in the enterprise. 

To summarise, Business Intelligence must not be seen as an IT investment but as an accelerator of corporate business goals. The key is to build strategic alignment and ensure the strategy to execution gaps is minimised to get the best business value out of this investment.

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