TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

How to Increase Your BI Program's Value (Part 1 of 2)

Why your data must be trusted, useful, integrated, and governed.

Has your enterprise business intelligence solution lost the sparkle it once had? Have users been reluctant to use your BI program from the beginning? If you need to breathe life back into your BI program, maybe it is time to go back to basics by focusing on the data. Following are some characteristics you will definitely want your data to have in a successful business intelligence program.

Your Data is Trusted

First and foremost, your data needs to be trusted by your user community. You have heard the saying, "Trust is hard to get, but easy to lose." One key factor for having trusted data is to have accurate data. Implementing a comprehensive data quality strategy is a critical means to providing trusted information to your enterprise.

Another key factor to building trust is to be transparent regarding challenges with your data. No business intelligence environment is without issues, but how you handle the issues and their resolution is very important. Users need to be kept proactively informed, so that there is not a feeling the issues are being "swept under the table" or minimized. Keep them informed about the corrective plan of action, including historical corrections and any restatements of information.

Your Data is Useful

Determining if your data is useful may be a challenge. You might want to ask these questions to help you in your evaluation:

  • Do your users spend more time "stitching" external data then leveraging the core data readily available?
  • Does your business have new endeavors that are not reflected in your BI environment?
  • Are you missing a true end-to-end picture of your business life cycles?

If you are answering "yes" to any of these, you may need to re-evaluate your project priorities so you target high-value content. You can begin discussing high-value data enrichment opportunities with your stakeholders. Focus on both new subject areas and growing the dimensional breadth of existing areas.

Your Data is Integrated

When you have a comprehensive data integration strategy for your data warehouse that enables a true single version of the truth, your data value goes up exponentially. By enabling integration of data across the life cycle of your business (such as customer 360), you gain significant insights that are not available anywhere else in your business. This will drive a high ROI and ensure users need to come to your BI environment to take advantage of these strategic insights.

Your Data is Governed

Governed data goes beyond just having common definitions and clear ownership, although these characteristics are the bedrocks for gaining alignment. The governance process should include executive support for user adoption. Leveraging your governance council to drive a top-down influence on users is an effective way to get users working with your BI environment. Of course, this only works if they like the data they are being asked to use.

Setting realistic expectations with your broad user community, your governance council members, and stakeholders is a key success factor. Don't over-sell your capabilities. Help them understand the cost of doing it right and the risks involved with each deployment. Explain realistically what it will take instead of over-promising and under-delivering the components of your BI environment.

Conclusion

By having trusted, useful, integrated, and governed data, you establish key foundations of your BI program. Following these principles will help establish your BI program as mature for all levels of business users. In the next part of our discussion, we'll focus on the accessibility, intuitiveness, and visualization of your data to help make your BI program more powerful and effective.

[Editor's note: Read part 2 of this discussion here.]

About the Author

Wes Flores of McKnight Consulting Group has over 20 years of experience in the data management field. Specializing in the areas of enterprise data warehousing, MDM, analytics and BI programs, he has worked mid-sized to Fortune 15 companies with a passion in promoting data as an asset. You can contact the author at Wflores@mcknightcg.com.

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