Building a business intelligence strategy

Companies that can keep up with changing customer behaviour may seem superhuman. However, the reality is that they likely have a business intelligence strategy in place.

A business intelligence strategy is formed when approaches for storing, analysing, gathering and access to data have been collected and organised in such a way as to provide insight and help a company to make more informed decisions.


A BI strategy is, essentially, a tool that can be used to maintain your business. It is the master entity that defines your business. Without a BI, a business will always be 'shooting in the dark' as far as logic, truth, data and other elements are concerned.


When a BI isn't in use, many issues can arise with the quality of data a company obtains. Not only can the quality of data become an afterthought where it should be a focus, but it can leave a company in the dark as far as the effectiveness of the tools they use to generate revenue.


In companies without a BI strategy, much time can be wasted discussing where data has come from rather than interpreting that data. Without the presence of a BI strategy, data can originate from many sources, resulting in everyone trying to define a version of the truth.


Because no single entity is in place to clearly define data and its parameters, a business without a BI strategy can see their calculations having numerous definitions and names for the same things. Not only is this confusing, but these inconsistencies can cause bottlenecks in the flow of information as well as the flow of products and services to the customer.


Every effective BI strategy should include the following elements:

  • A perspective that includes the entire business
  • Be aligned with a company's overall IT strategy and company goals
  • Analyse a company's current and future state
  • A gap analysis between current and future states
  • Establish a body of governance
  • Documentation and analysis of any assumptions and constraints
  • Establish criteria for success

There are also several common, yet avoidable pitfalls to avoid. These include:

  • Beginning BI planning with a narrow vision
  • Understanding that BI involves much more than just technology
  • Focusing on more than data integration and modern BI tools
  • Using a 'big bag' instead of an iterative implementation

An effective BI strategy is a road map that includes risk management, priorities, dependencies, change management and communications, as well as strategic and tactical steps for achieving success. It also requires an understanding the factors that influence BI and learning the proper way to develop your strategy will be critical factors in the success of its implementation. Above all, a conscious approach that blends enterprise resources will result in the delivering of a piece of information that is not only predictable, but consistent, complete and reliable.

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