December 14, 2015

Top BI Business Blunders

It’s a fact: Data is “a game changing asset” and 58% business execs recognize it as an important decision-making tool, with 14% saying data has completely transformed their business.*

But is access to all this information a case of too much of a good thing? Nearly one in four companies struggle to make sense of the data coming at them and 54% of executive say they probably leverage only half of their valuable data*.

With businesses seeming to fail to successfully tap into the power at their fingertips, it seems a little strange that there’s a parallel view that business leaders don’t need help to roll out effective business intelligence (BI) initiatives because they can use one of the new self-service software tools promising to make it easy for companies to capture and analyze their data.

Simply follow the wizard and all your data woes will be solved.

Is it really that easy?

Our experience shows that costly mistakes can be made if data collection, analysis and reporting isn’t set up right.  Even costlier mistakes arise when acting on faulty data (and you might not even know you’ve made errors).

Business intelligence efforts may need business to succeed but they will certainly fail without IT, who can bring order to the data chaos.

Our top 5 blunders look at common mistakes made when “going it alone” in the BI world:

  1. Thinking the wrong data is the right data.  Finding the right data that captures the information you are seeking can be tricky. Knowing what questions to ask might seem simple but “how many donations did we get last month” requires you to dig deeper … do you want donations pledged or money received, and does this align with corporation reporting procedures.  Or, you want a sales report but instead of net sales you click the wrong column selecting gross sales including tax and your report is now inaccurate. Knowing what information you really need for reports takes time and skill.
  2. Not understanding your data (or where to find the data you need). Using the previous example, pulling a sales report sounds easy, right? Click on sales and voila, instant useful report. Except that you forgot to include returns or cancelled sales so your sales figure is grossly inflated; an issue compounded when businesses make decisions based on bad information.
  3. Simple tools not so simple. New BI software tools have made reporting and data analysis easier for mere mortals, but it can still be tricky. If you don’t understand the underlying terminology and functions, those self-service BI wizards will only help you make mistakes faster.
  4. Breaching security unintentionally or otherwise.  Insider security breaches are on the rise (and yes, I mean rogue employees doing a data dump and stealing your information). Data can also be put at risk if an employee downloads data to a USB drive then loses it.  If you don’t know how to secure your database, limit access to information and protect this mission critical business asset (aka your data), you could be putting your business at significant (but unnecessary) risk.  You face further risks if you haven’t set access rights properly, letting staff make changes to your raw data (even if they don’t mean to).
  5. Performance takes a hit. If your data analytics causes transactional systems to slow to a crawl, chances are you haven’t set up your BI systems in the best possible way.  Database and system architecture, when properly established, can ensure reporting and analytics don’t interfere with day-to-day operations.

If you try to throw a tool at your data without understanding it fully, you too could make one (or more) of these top blunders.  Expert help can get you started on the right foot and turn a mass of data confusion into powerfully competitive weapon.

* Source: Economist Insights