There’s plenty of incentive for overcoming today’s business information challenges. Although it can be difficult to put financial values on faster, smarter decisions, the ability to make them is still widely recognized as critical to success in the highly competitive global marketplace. Moreover, it’s not hard to identify organizational dissatisfaction with the relevance, availability, and accuracy of the information people currently do have at their disposal.
Fortunately, new solutions are emerging to help solve these problems. Today, the right BI solution can:
- Provide self-service convenience for the average user, with immediate, out-of-the-box analysis capabilities, while still helping to maintain a secure environment and offer the depth and power necessary for sophisticated analysis.
- Improve business agility with a range of flexible options for generating, viewing, analyzing, and distributing BI.
- Integrate and connect disparate legacy systems and business applications, information sources, departments, and locations to provide comprehensive, one-stop BI for the entire organization that’s optimized for the capabilities of the ERP system.
- Expand in reach and capabilities as the organization grows and its BI demand increases. Ideally, this growth can take place as an integral component of a scalable enterprise-wide solution that also adapts and extends readily as needed.
- Offer a quick return on investment through initial cost efficiency, long-term scalability, and a low total cost of ownership.
The following steps provide a guideline for incorporating BI into your organization. By following these steps, you can identify key business considerations prior to deploying a new BI solution.
Step 1: Replace complex user interfaces with intuitive, convenient self-service
Ease of access is a primary consideration. An inquiry, analysis, or reporting solution that is too complicated may be powerful but sit mostly unused. On the other hand, a solution that’s too simple may not be robust enough to serve the business decision-makers who need it most. But when the BI solution is easy to use right out of the box and users can access information via familiar interfaces, applications, and tools, everyone in the organization can achieve greater insight without relying on costly IT resources to generate reports or run time-consuming analyses. The ideal solution works the way your people want to work.
A self-service–focused user interface also minimizes training costs and startup times and enables team members to work with information in a collaborative environment. At the same time, managers can control information access based on functional roles or individual authorization to help protect sensitive information and prevent inappropriate or unintended modifications.
Step 2: Expand options for analysis, transportability, and dissemination
To turn information into actionable business intelligence, people must be able to extract and analyze the specific information they need, in the order they need it, and with the detail that addresses their interests. Tailored functionality is critical, both for customizing the solution to industry and organizational needs and for adapting operationally to the interests of diverse functional roles. Finally, the right solution can make it easier to share, present, and distribute the results of analysis, not only within the organization but also with trade partners. Therefore, solutions that incorporate Web services, portal compatibility, or other measures to ease communication across platforms provide a definite advantage.
Step 3: Integrate disconnected information and systems into the knowledge base
A strong BI system must be able to incorporate information from across the enterprise while also connecting with line-of-business applications, including document repositories, and the desktop productivity tools employees use every day. The ability to access and consolidate information from multiple production management and manufacturing control systems, warehouses, distribution channels, and companies or subsidiaries is also valuable for providing managers with comprehensive, enterprise-wide insight.
Step 4: Scale to fit changing business models and needs
A BI system is only good while it fits. Given the rate of change in today’s business environment, it’s imperative to find and implement a solution flexible enough to adapt to business growth, whether that growth comes through acquisitions, vertical integration, international expansion, or shifts into entirely new lines of business. To continue supporting personal, team, and organizational BI needs, solutions must be extensible to new users and locations as the company grows. Such scalable solutions, when they also accommodate add-on or tailored functionality, offer strong cost efficiency, consistency, service, and fit over time.
Step 5: Deploy cost-efficiently and with long-term adaptability for a low TCO
For a business solution to be implemented at all, it must be cost-efficient to license, deploy, and maintain, while remaining accessible across the organization. Ideal solutions give all people responsible for strategic, tactical, and operational decisions access to the information they need at a low total cost of ownership (TCO). An effective BI solution can quickly provide a strong return on investment while retaining the
flexibility and scalability for future growth to provide long-term performance that maximizes your investment.