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7 keys to a successful business intelligence strategy

BI success requires more than just a strong technology platform. It takes laser focus on processes and personnel — and a business-first approach to gaining insights from data.

A business intelligence strategy is key to staying competitive, but there’s more to it than just implementing technology. That’s the easy part, according to Boris Evelson, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. It will require a firm strategy, regular maintenance and constant improvement.
Here are seven essential steps for creating a successful business intelligence strategy, according to experts.
Give business ownership over BI
While business intelligence technology typically falls under IT’s domain, most tools are intuitive enough for non-IT business users to navigate. When departments need data in real time, it makes sense to give them direct access to business intelligence tools instead of leaving them solely under IT’s control.
Monitor BI use and adjust as necessary
Evelson suggests monitoring business intelligence usage to find patterns and to see which tools are being utilized and how they can be improved. These insights allow IT to adjust priorities to make sure the most-used tools get the right attention.
Validate, validate, validate
It’s tempting to deploy multiple tools at once, but you want to go for quality over quantity, says Chris Hagans, vice president of operations for WCI Consulting. It’s important to trust the tools accessing company data – and you also want to be able to trust the data those tools produce.
Focus on business problems first, then on data
To avoid getting trapped under too much data, Evelson suggests starting with a top-down approach. Identify a business problem first and then determine which metrics you’ll use to measure and pull the data to address the issue.
Prioritize – and build in processes for improvement
A good business intelligence strategy evolves and grows over time, it’s not something you can implement and ignore. You want to go into it with firm priorities but expect those priorities to shift and change. The strategy should evolve with the needs of the users and the growth of the business, says Hagans.
Upskill “citizen” data scientists
There aren’t enough data scientists to go around, but there’s a good chance you have a citizen data scientist somewhere in your ranks. Cindi Howson, a research vice president at Gartner, says to look for “inquisitive workers with analytical skills who like to ask questions.”
Empower staff to tell stories with data
Data is only useful if it’s being analyzed, so Todd Nash, president and principal of CBGI Consulting suggests encouraging employees to think creatively and develop narratives around data. It can help make connections between data and business priorities, so everyone can see and understand the value of data.