RESEARCH & RESOURCES

The Impact of Personalized BI

To benefit from BI, align your data analysis practices with key business objectives.

By Sreenivas "Dinu" Davuluri, Chief Business Intelligence Architect, Provade

The term business intelligence (BI) is all encompassing and there is no one-size-fits-all definition. To begin to reap the benefits of BI, your organization must align its data analysis practices with key business objectives. Focus your time and effort on reporting the most critical measurements to drive transformation.

The biggest challenge in BI is the volume of data that is accessible. When faced with a comprehensive body of data from multiple overarching business systems, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Many leaders use BI as the foundation for reporting, pulling vast amounts of data from disparate systems to create multipage reports that are never actually analyzed. By personalizing your BI, you can streamline the reporting process and create effective, meaningful analytics that help you reach your goals.

The Exception or the Rule?

The first step in BI personalization is an honest, realistic assessment of your business objectives. These should guide what metrics are most important to measure and monitor and requires all department heads and business leaders to agree on what the standard metrics look like and where the focus should be.

Each department might seem to have separate requirements, but you will likely discover interdependencies. For example, software development companies typically prioritize customer satisfaction ratings as a key metric. On the surface, it would seem that this metric really only affects one department: customer service, but when you take a step back, this metric has a ripple effect throughout your organization. Customers calling in with bug reports can cause product delays as developers are redeployed to make fixes instead of working on enhancements. Sales can also be negatively impacted by the rating's effect on the company's marketplace reputation. What initially appeared to be a metric tied to a single department is actually more widespread. This is why it is critical to personalize your BI and develop a full picture of operations based on cause and effect.

When organizations develop a comprehensive report of all business data without first defining key metrics, it is nearly impossible to find meaning in the numbers. BI should instead be used as a means to unearth exceptions within the dataset. Define the "problems" that can be identified in your data. For example, when analyzing your contingent workforce management program, what is an acceptable time-to-fill statistic? Applying a critical eye to the data and looking for outliers can identify areas that need improvement. If you have defined a threshold for time-to-fill, you can easily spot overages and drill down to determine root cause.

When you have the right tools and integrate analytics into your daily operations, the reporting process is not a separate task that can be ignored or put off. BI should be accessible to users at all organizational levels so action can be taken immediately when issues are identified. Rather than giving full visibility only to a handful of executives, consider involving those staff members engaged in day-to-day tactics so they can modify processes and change behaviors immediately.

A Balanced Approach

Some organizations fall on the other side of the spectrum when it comes to BI and analytics. Rather than focusing on every available data point, they hone in on one metric at the expense of all others -- financial health. This metric can be extremely misleading because a business can be extremely profitable but suffer in other critical areas. For example, labor practices and environmental policy are in sharper focus today than in the past as consumers and shareholders recognize the importance of fair trade and green manufacturing. Your business may need to start measuring different aspects of your operational processes to support regulatory compliance and ultimately share your business practices with the marketplace.

Creating a balanced scorecard is one way to circumvent this narrow focus. There are four standard areas commonly included in a balanced scorecard:

  • Financials
  • Customer experience
  • Internal business processes
  • Learning and growth

To create a holistic picture of your business' health, pull key metrics related to these areas from all relevant business systems and couple them with anecdotal evidence from different departments to get the full story. For example, if your business has a key performance indicator (KPI) about customer satisfaction, multiple data points should contribute to your score, some from internal business systems and some from external sources. A comprehensive rating should include specific call data such as hold time and call length as well as client surveys, responses from your customer advisory board, and social media metrics.

As a software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider, various metrics help Provade determine the stability of our applications. We take into account our service -level agreement success rates, support tickets, and other key metrics when we discuss the health of our business. If we only measured system uptime, we would not see the whole picture and could end up neglecting the business areas that help us stand apart from our competition in the eyes of the end user.

Business intelligence goes far beyond basic reporting. It is the process of intelligently analyzing your data and leveraging your knowledge to make tangible improvements. Your business is unique, and your analytics must be as well. Take the time to personalize the data according to what matters most to your business, and focus your BI efforts on these metrics to drive change.

Sreenivas "Dinu" Davuluri, chief business intelligence architect for Provade, is responsible for the research, development, and implementation of business intelligence applications for the contingent workforce management software provider. With over a decade of BI experience, Dinu was instrumental in the development of Provade's industry-leading VMS Enterprise Analytics and Reporting System. You can contact the author at dinu_davuluri@provade.com.

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