If you want your business intelligence system to power your company over the rough terrain ahead, make it accessible to every level of your organization. The most successful solutions continuously deliver vital, current information to the front lines to help them drive the organization forward. This “four-wheel drive” approach of distributing data beyond the executive suite to all corners of the organization is the next step in the evolution of business intelligence.
First, use your data to develop key performance indicators for every department. These KPIs support the business imperatives that drive organizational decisions. Broad-based familiarity with key performance indicators and the data behind them will ensure that goals are aligned throughout the organization. Actionable messages from the executive suite will be consistently transmitted, inspiring divisional and regional leaders, supervisors, and ultimately, customer-facing agents. This is the real power of business intelligence in action.
Next, go viral with your business intelligence. Internet users know that the most popular websites are those that are updated regularly. Similarly, if you want business intelligence to spread quickly, give everyone in the organization continuous access to fresh data via a simple user interface that responds to queries posed in common, “lay person” language.
Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) techniques allow your IT staff to update data affordably, multi-dimensionally and in real time, facilitating convenient correlation of data points and tracking of key performance indicators from all corners of the organization. With access to this business intelligence, users across the company can query based on their own specific interests – no more waiting for an overloaded IT department to produce canned reports that are out of date when they arrive. IT staff become agents of empowerment instead of producers of reports.
The final step in developing four-wheel drive business intelligence is making access painless and rewarding for users. A skilled business support system provider can develop customized tools that are not only easy to use, but also reduce users’ workload. The provider should work closely with a cross-section of employees, ensuring a business intelligence solution that is essentially created by users for their peers. The result will be intuitive and eagerly adopted, minimizing training costs and user resistance. An agile development approach can give users access to some elements of the system early in the process, delivering an early return on investment and creating enthusiasm that will spread across the company.
We have seen this approach to business intelligence revolutionize several large organizations with a reputation for very difficult reporting and metrics practices. One system currently in production pulls data from more than 20 source systems to manage more than two million new records per day and deliver information to 3,000 front-line users serving 25 million customers.