The who, what and why of BI




Everyone wants to be data driven, and lots of businesses think that they are data driven, but are we really data driven? How do you know if you are? I like to use the “data sniff test”, which goes something like this:



  1. How many individuals are regularly accessing dashboards/data?

  2. How frequently does the average user access dashboards/data?

  3. How many ad-hoc data requests do the analytics team have in the backlog?

  4. Is data a key and frequent element of decision making meetings?

Often when the answers to these questions aren’t great, it's easy to point to data literacy as the underlying cause of the problem. While data literacy can definitely play a part, much more frequently I see data tools that are not meeting the users needs. To solve that problem you need to consider the Who, What and Why of BI.


Who are your users?

Most organisations, want to have business users working closely with data, being able to self-serve answers to their own data questions. They may already have access to BI tools like PowerBI or Tableau. While these tools can provide the information business users need, these tools have not been designed with business user in mind.


The way that these BI tools need to be used, creates a barrier for business users. What they need, are tools that have been designed for the business user. It’s like giving me a formula one car. Sure I can drive, but I’m not going to feel comfortable behind the wheel and I definitely am not going to get the best out of the car. While it definitely works, it’s just not suited to my needs.


What questions do you want to ask?

It is important to bring the business users into the discussion early, to provide a deeper understanding of their key data questions, and how they want to best interact with the data.


Let’s take a Field Sales Rep as an example of a business user. A Sales Rep wants to be able to identify for each retailer in their territory, what the current product coverage is and how each product is performing, so that they can sell more volume and also expand the coverage. They may also want to be able to compare a retailer against one or more other retailers in their territory, or to compare product lines or possibly brands so they can identify which options would have the best chance of increased sales for each of their retailers. Oh, and they want to be able to access all this information on the road on their mobile or iPad.


This scenario identifies the core data of interest, as well as highlighting the many ways in which the Sales Rep is going to want to slice and dice the data. The scenario gives an indication that there may be some quite large volumes of data involved and they are going to often be on a mobile or an iPad device, out of the office.


ThoughtSpot - Search Driven Analytics For Business Users


It’s clear in this case that a static dashboard that doesn’t work well on a mobile device is never going to suit the Sales Rep’s needs and is a great example of why understanding your users and what they need, is so critical to successfully enabling data driven organisations.


Why are those insights important?

The why allows us to quantify the business impact of providing data to your business users. It takes the knowledge of how data will be used, and shifts it to the way in which data will be used to drive decision making within the business.


Data without action is pointless.


From our earlier Sales Rep example, why do we want to give our Field Sales teams access to data on their mobile device?

  • While on the road, the Sales Rep can identify Retailers that have lower sales or product coverage compared to similar retailers and prioritise visits to these retailers.

  • Before walking into a store, a Sales Rep can identify product lines that are over/under performing and provide advice the Retailer.

The question then becomes something like, if we could improve the bottom 5% of retailer performance by 5%, what impact would that have on the overall business? This provides an understanding of the business impact, of providing access to the data and a KPI to track performance against.


Conclusion

“The best-run companies are data-driven, and this skill sets businesses apart from their competition.” Tomasz Tunguz

A recent Deloitte study found that data driven businesses are twice as likely to exceed their business goals in comparison to less data driven businesses. I encourage you to run through the “data-sniff test” and really consider how data driven your business is:

  1. How many individuals are regularly accessing dashboards/data?

  2. How frequently does the average user access dashboards/data?

  3. How many ad-hoc data requests do the analytics team have in the backlog?

  4. Is data a key and frequent element of decision making meetings?

If there are some answers that are concerning, then give the Who, what and why of BI, a go. These 3 straightforward questions can help ensure that you are providing access to data in a way that works for your business users, and enables them to take actions, that can impact the bottom line and drive business performance.


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