Take These 4 Steps Before You Select a BI Tool
If you’re thinking about getting a BI tool or overhauling your current one, you might also be wondering what makes a tool successful and useful. There are lots of features to consider and many providers provide similar functionality. You may also want to think about industry specific needs. Especially if you are restarting your analytics initiative, the most important thing is to make sure whatever tool you choose can carry out your defined strategy.
In order to develop that strategy, here are four stages of development your implementation will go through. Each one has some exercises to complete, so copy this article into a doc or grab a pen and paper and follow along!
Of course, you need to gather your data somehow. If you’re not an IT person, you’ll need to consult one to develop this stage. Consider the following:
- What data sources do you use? Will you be changing those programs/platforms in the future? Can they adapt to your needs and can you extract data from them?
- Do you have a data warehousing solution? Is it robust enough to hold all of the data you need to evaluate and will it scale with growth?
- Does the BI platform you’re considering using have support for any data sources to save on server space?
- Do you have any immediate security issues? Do you plan to import PII (personally identifiable information) between platforms and what training do you need to minimize potential exposure?
- Are the data entry practices at your company stable, reliable and accurate? Do you need to retrain current employee to improve the quality of your data?
- Do you have in house employees that are capable of updating/fixing your data sources or repository? Can you partner with a consultant for this if not? Does the platform you are considering have affiliates or partner they can recommend?
Of course, all of this data and preparation is no good without insights. Don’t underestimate the number of business leaders that believe data alone will “solve problems.” This is just simply not the case. All the data in the world can’t create knowledge without an end user looking for trends to create insights.
- Does your potential BI platform create charts and graphs that are easy to read and distribute?
- Do you already know which reports you will need? Can you consult with an expert to get started? Can you contract further support with them once you feel more comfortable with the platform or as the industry changes?
- Do you have an existing strategy that can be supported by insights? Is it written down? Have all the departments involved had input at this stage? If not, you may need to assemble some SMEs to develop a strategy so you know what to look for.
- Do you have a system for developing strategies based on new insights or changing existing strategies as needed based on insights from your data? Is your strategy centrally written down and stored somewhere?
- Most key insights relate to profits and budgeting. Do you have financial experts in place to evaluate these insights for accuracy? Do you have redundant books to verify these crucial metrics before you take action on them?
Carrying on the theme from the last stage, insights don’t do much good without an action plan. You can’t have an action plan without a great team and a method of delivery for insights. Consider using system that can selectively grant access to users as needed to prevent users from being overwhelmed by too much information.
- Have you identified goals for each team related to your insights? Are the clearly stated and marked?
- Do you have team leaders in place who are responsible to meet those goals? What consequences are there for failure? What rewards are there for success?
- Do you have a plan to review these goals at a regular interval and adjust them? What will be a good enough reason to decrease/increase goals?
- Have you developed a plan for allocating additional budget based on insights to key business units? How much flex room do you have for equipment, personnel and other expenses that may result from changing initiatives?
- Do you have a communication plan for your overall strategies? What will you tell employees about your mission and rationale? What will you tell team leaders? How will you keep momentum going throughout the year?
Yogi Berra once said “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Of course, most leaders have contingency plans in place for problems or various failures one encounters when running a company. However, lots of managers, leaders and entrepreneurs get caught off guard by success. Ironically, success can actually kill a company if leaders aren’t able to adapt to growth.
- Does your business process have a long lead time? If so, do you have the budget to spend on resources you may need if you have a large influx of business?
- If every department hits your defined goals, do you have s support staff to fill orders and support employees? Which roles take the longest to hire and how can you prepare your pipeline for these needs?
- Do you have enough office space for reasonable growth? Can you write and enact a work from home policy for some employees to save on office space needs? How soon could you move to a new location?
- What market can you expand into to keep up revenue? Do you need a physical location there?
- What legal issues might you encounter by growing larger? Will you need to begin to provide health insurance or other benefits? Do you have adequate legal advice for your industry?
- How will you protect and build your company culture? Growth can bring in candidates that may not align with your philosophy. Are managers familiar with your culture and do they know how to detect poor fit in new hires?
Of course this list isn’t completely exhaustive, but it’s a great start to get you thinking about your needs and strategy for getting your company on a new (or more robust) BI Tool. Talk to us today about integrated BI and financial planning tools. We only work with platforms in which we are certified partners with experience in the mortgage industry. We take each of our clients through the planning process for a full-scope implementation, not just recreating your old reports.