Most companies today understand the importance of business intelligence – using the huge amounts of data that is accumulated through day-to-day business, and presenting it summarised and analysed in ways that support the efficient and effective running of an organization.
Business Intelligence is not a passing fad. According to a special report by the Economist, organizations that use data to make decisions are more successful, and those that don’t use data begin to fall behind.
CGAP, amongst others, has highlighted the relevance of using big data to drive financial inclusion: “using demographic and geographic information to decide who to target; and using income, credit history, age and other factors to make credit judgements.”
With more and more data now available – through electronic channels and generated in real time – business intelligence tools are have the potential to drive more and more critical decisions. Just randomly extracting and reporting on data isn’t going to tell you much though – you need to leverage on business intelligence as a strategic planning tool requires some forward planning:
What do you want data to tell you?
Today, it’s fairly easy to produce charts and graphs around collected data, but if it does not follow a strategic agenda it only provides information for its own sake. Start with questions: should we be doing XYZ? Are our products more successful with women or men? Has our marketing plan been effective in certain areas and demographics, and why? By starting with clear business goals, your data can reveal solutions and reveal faulty assumptions to conclusively tell you whether you’re right or wrong.
Put a solid governance foundation in place
In order to use data to improve operational efficiency and gain a competitive advantage, organizations need to understand what data is available from internal and external sources, as well as the value this data has on process improvement, decision making, and development of new products or services. business intelligence governance covers rules and processes pertaining to report creation, ownership, distribution, and usage.
Prioritize your goals
Know your options and match them to your business goals. Some business intelligence platforms are free, but take a longer time to properly set up. Others are subscription-based, but can be installed in a much shorter time span. Determine whether your objectives are more focused on cost or time concerns. Start small with one or two goals, then add additional goals once the initial integration is complete.
Identify key metrics
Before implementing business intelligence software, it is a good idea to determine what data you need and what format you want to receive it in. Look for technology solutions that can deliver clean data with actionable insight.
Establishing a data warehouse isn’t enough
Work towards a data strategy that combines a data warehouse with the ability to synthesize and organize that data into the applications where it’s needed, and apply data visualization capabilities.
Use the right tool for the job
There are so many types of visualizations available, it is often difficult to know the right way to display information. Here are some of the most commonly used visualization types, and how to use them:
Bar chart is used for comparing one measure
Scatterplot for comparing two or more measures
Line chart (or time series) for tracking data over time
A map for geographic data
- A table for detailed data
Every good data strategy starts with clean, consistent data culled from across the organisation. Ask yourself: What data is the most important, and what do I have available? It’s critical to identify the areas of the business where analytical decision making will have the biggest impact, and focus on those. With the above tips in mind, you should be well on your way to improving business intelligence for your organization.
Some useful reading materials, plus pointers to a number of easy-to-use business intelligence tools are available for download in our library.
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