Five easy steps to gain support from your company leaders to invest in developing a Business Intelligence infrastructure
Today, the increased demand for big data has resulted in Business Intelligence being in high demand. According to a 2019 article by Beroe Inc., the demand for data-as-a-service and personalized BI capabilities are also drivers of increased growth in BI. Many industries and large companies have adopted BI to improve decision making and help realize goals. The role Business Intelligence plays in the success of the enterprise is not a new concept, but it is still foreign to many small businesses that operate by relying on experience and intuition.
The question then is: How do you sell the importance of Business Intelligence to such a company? Here are 5 steps to get BI’s foot in the door with your company!
1. Define BI and how it applies to your company.
2. Provide statistics and information from similar companies and/or similar industries.
3. Determine the required tools and the initial investment.
4. Provide a strategic vision of how BI will look short-term and long-term.
5. Provide a set of measurable expected outcomes and a timeline.
- Tableau, a leader in data visualization software, defines Business Intelligence as “the combination and utilization of data mining, data analytics, and data visualization to make data-driven decisions.” This is a rather broad description and there are many use cases. To convince your company to make both a financial and cultural investment in BI, you’ll need to be specific about how BI applies to your organization.
First, identify processes or strategies within your organization that could be improved with data. The most obvious are strategies based on intuition or tradition, and departments or business units that suffer from inefficient workflows. Don’t hesitate to ask your company leaders for feedback on where they’d like better quality information.
Once you identify these areas of potential, explain the difference BI can make. For example, many sales organizations have had the same go-to-market strategy for decades: Contact clients as often as possible so they remember our products when it’s time to buy. This will bring some level of growth, but it lacks scalability and adaptability in changing markets. BI can help identify customer preferences, business requirements, areas of opportunity, and more.
The new strategy, driven by Business Intelligence, will be centered on more substantial interactions that match that customer’s unique requirements. “Your sales team can walk into customer meetings better prepared to respond to questions, discuss potential opportunities for cost savings, introduce new products they can use to increase sales, and review current stock levels to avoid inventory challenges.” (Paul Robertson, head of digital marketing at Phocas Software)
- Explaining the benefits and providing compelling examples are great, but department heads and leaders of business units need to see numbers. It is imperative to provide relevant statistics. If your company happens to operate in a sector that has become more data-driven, there’s a chance you’ll be able to find statistics related to BI implementation for the large companies. If you are unable to find the data for a company like yours, explore other relationships beyond your industry or the size of the company such, as similar customer profiles or partners.
For example, if your company uses a well-known CRM or POS software, you won’t have too much trouble finding how other users are leveraging BI to get the most out of their current software. One such software is Salesforce.Com (SFDC). SFDC is the #1 CRM provider in the world (2020 SFDC Press Release). They invest heavily in their analytics platform and maintain a library of data from customer surveys that they share with other customers.
- As previously mentioned, CRM or POS software tools can be a great source of information to validate investment in BI. If your company does not have these tools, you will need to determine the initial investment required. Other tools that are more specific to data analytics, such as Tableau, may be the best option. Your research, paired with your understanding of your company’s needs, will be critical. Since buy-in from other leaders within the company will be important, it is important to gather information on expected ROI. Well-known software providers, such as the ones mentioned, will have information on ROI and the impact on revenue.
Tools aren’t limited to software. Part of investing in BI is developing the infrastructure to support and manage it. This can include adding staff or securing partnerships with companies that specialize in BI. Whichever route you choose, it will need to make sense financially to have the support of your colleagues.
- Now that you’ve laid the groundwork for what BI will provide and how much it will cost, it’s time to share the vision. Each company is different and, therefore, will use BI differently. Provide your colleagues with a detailed “playbook” of the BI platform through the stages of development so they have a clear understanding of what to expect.
The short-term vision, depending on how much historical data is available, largely will focus on data collection and organization. Building a reliable database is the most important action item for the long-term success of BI. Detail the new processes and workflows to be implemented to support this and how it will affect day-to-day activities for those involved.
Highlight opportunities for “easy-wins” during this short-term since those will be critical for maintaining confidence and momentum. Easy wins are areas where real-time data from collection efforts will provide immediate benefits (such as identifying new or high-quality clients, successful product combinations, etc.). In the short-term, you won’t have enough historical information to build predictive insights or identify trends.
Next, explain the long-term vision, the ideal scenario for BI and your company. These are the trends you hope to identify, the areas of the business you plan to impact, the predictions you expect to make, and the effect on revenue and performance you reasonably can expect.
The success and tangibility of the long-term plan will contain a level of uncertainty, but it is important to share this vision with your company leaders to expose them to the possibilities of BI. Get them thinking outside the box and excited for how BI can positively impact them and the company.
- The last of the five steps is setting realistic expectations and the implementation timeline. The last thing you’ll want is misalignment regarding when colleagues can expect to see value or have a working process. The goal should be to have software implemented, staff hired and trained, and internal procedures completed within the first six to 12 months. During this time, data collection needs to occur so that once the BI infrastructure is in place, you will have a solid backlog of data to work with. As previously mentioned, identify potential “easy wins,” and estimate the impact these will have in the first year. Identify not only areas of revenue value, but also any time savings or efficiency-driven impact you can expect.
Follow these 5 steps when introducing your company to Business Intelligence and you will paint a captivating picture of the endless possibilities and benefits it can have for your enterprise.