About to Kick Off a BI Consulting Project?

It’s almost impossible to read a newspaper or magazine without seeing the term Big Data. Stroll through any major airport, and you’ll see billboards blaring the need for your company to tame its information. And pay attention to reports from major analyst firms, and you’ll hear how spending on data governance is expected to top $20 billion by the end of the decade.

So it’s fair to say that you’re more than familiar with the concept. But the real question is what you’re going to do with all this data. For many companies, large and small, it’s challenging to know where to start, and which steps are needed to progress from information overload to true business intelligence (BI). Here are five questions to ask to get you going:

1) Have you taken stock of your systems?

What applications does your IT/IS team already use to collect, aggregate and interpret data? It could be that you have the right combination of tools to provide the data capture, visualization and reporting you require without further spending. Another consideration is how easy it is to use, manage and customize your data-centric applications. If a system lacks an intuitive interface or makes it tricky to design and publish new reports, it’s likely to alienate your user base and end up as shelfware.

2) Who are your people?

Before you rush out to hire BI consultants, it’s a good idea to first take a look at your in-house resources and the training programs for your consultants. Sure, you may not have a dedicated staff of data scientists, but perhaps there are team members with experience in BI who can help kick start or revive your data governance initiative. As with your systems, evaluating the people you already have will help you better gauge the resources you’re lacking.

3) Have you standardized collection and reporting?

To provide useful insights into potential new revenue streams, cost savings and process efficiencies, data must be standardized in some fashion. If, like many companies, your information is scattered across multiple repositories and databases and is entered and reported on haphazardly, it’s going to be tricky to identify trends and make correlations, even with a talented team and cutting-edge software. Try to determine how your data is being collected, where it’s housed, who has access to it and what they’re doing with the information.

4) Are you predicting, or just reacting?

In order to perform prescriptive and predictive analysis, you must have access to historical data and real-time insight into today’s information. Few organizations check both these boxes, so they’re left merely reacting to issues as they arrive, rather than seeing potholes in the road and swerving around them. This puts you on the back foot, no matter what industry you’re in. The first step forward should be getting a handle on historical information so that you can start to see what you’ve been doing right and where there is room for improvement. Then begin finding ways to get data into your BI system as quickly as possible, so you can gain up-to-the-minute insights that will give you an advantage over your competitors.

5) What do you see when you look at your data?

Even if you’ve got a BI strategy in place, it’s not going to make much of an impact unless data is visually represented in an accessible manner. You and your colleagues have a million and one things to do, and don’t have time to be sifting through complex, static reports line by line. Instead, you need dynamic, visually rich dashboards to give a one-look snapshot that you can access anywhere, any time and on any device. To see inside your data, you’ve got to be able to see your data.

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