Making Business Intelligence Work for You

This is an article from Actuate about business intelligence. You should check out their product which includes BIRT.

Companies large and small can benefit from a well thought out business intelligence (URL: … igence.asp) strategy, but developing that strategy can sometimes be more challenging than implementing a business intelligence program. To make sure that your company is getting the most out of your BI program, make sure that you define your goals and have a plan for the information you generate before you start collecting and analyzing data.

First Steps

Assess your current system of data collection. How you collect your data will make a difference in how complete your information is, which will in turn affect the results of your business intelligence program. Make sure that if you need historical data on your company or customers that you know where it is and how to access it. You?ll also need to take some time to understand your business needs and make a rough road map for how you would like your business to transform. Focus your attention on a few operational objective that can be achieved both short and long term.

Planning Your Strategy

Start with your vision of where you would like your company to be in 3 to 5 years. Pick specific goals that can be achieved with the assistance of a good business intelligence program. These goals should have measurable success rates or key performance indicators. You will use your key performance indicators (KPIs) as milestones for how close you are to accomplishing your goals. You can then set up your information infrastructure to collect the necessary data that can be analyzed and turned into information, which can be used to make effective decisions for your company.
In order to pick the most worthwhile goals, you must understand what the desired end result is. You will have to ask yourself what you will do with the business intelligence information your program generates once you have it. Otherwise, you will have a vast amount of information and no way to strategize around it. In companies without a comprehensive long-term plan, decision makers react to the information they get from their data without understanding the far-reaching consequences of their actions.

Another important thing to think about before you implement your program is what your options are once you have the information. Often companies have an idea of how they want to move forward and are looking to the business intelligence information generated by their BI program to support their current strategy. They soon learn that the information is not always in line with their current plan. Brainstorm all possible outcomes of your business intelligence program and think of ways that your company can improve based on the different results. You probably won?t be able to come up with every single possibility, but you will be prepared to think creatively when your BI program starts to generate useful information.

Lastly, remember why you are implementing this program. Business intelligence can be a huge asset to your business, but if you focus on the data and not on what the data can do for your company, your energy is misplaced. Before you become overwhelmed with data warehousing and data integration initiatives, take a step back and refocus on your company?s goals.

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