Best BI practices include focus on value

When adding business intelligence (BI) to a company's offerings, it can sometimes be hard to keep track of exactly what the systems are there to accomplish. TechTarget's Wayne Eckerson, however, recently spoke to several leaders in the analytics field who confirmed that a renewed focus on business value and the long-term goals of a project are conducive to getting results from BI. It is not enough to collect and mine data, so companies should decide why they are doing it and what they hope to accomplish.

Key goals in mind
Business processes are useless unless they actually do something for a company that contributes to the overall mission. BI can be very helpful in several regards, but users should stay aware of what they want so they do not let their projects become wasteful. Ken Rudin, Facebook's analytics leader, told Eckerson that BI users should measure the worth of their results by whether anything actually changes or shifts as a result of their reports. The new insights given by good analytics can encourage promising directions for firms. If they do not, that might be a sign that a change is needed.

Rudin suggested treating analysis experts like salespeople who are paid on commission. When a BI program turns up a new way to do something that has a material impact on the bottom line, that is the goal. The simple presence of many facts and figures does not indicate that users have discovered anything of value.

Consultant David Leonard told Eckerson that a great BI user is not, strictly speaking, an IT employee. He suggested that to be taken seriously, these workers should slip into hybrid roles, using technology in service of the bottom line. This means explaining things in terms sales executives can understand and focusing on the things BI can accomplish, rather than the stats-oriented details of how that will happen.

Becoming common
The decision about what to do with business intelligence and analytics is being made at companies around the world. Recent overviews demonstrate large and growing enthusiasm for the technology. According to Information Management, analytics has been one of the defining tech trends of 2012. Along with social, mobility and the cloud, it has defined the CIO procurement agenda. The source noted that users are now ready to push for simple, resonant analytics information – results that are easy to parse quickly.

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