While I have no idea if anyone is silly enough to call them the ‘good old days,’ I remember the beginning of using technology for widespread analytics in business back in the late 1990s. Armed with Excel, I put together big, complex spreadsheets. I used what felt like a magical programming language (VBA for all the Office nerds like me) to help create and automate analytics and reports. I was able to do reporting in a way that by today’s standards might be kludgy but seemed ground-breaking at the time.
Today, we are light-years ahead of those times. I can use Power BI and other tools to do analytics for an organization that automates the connection of data sources and enables advanced analytics with relative ease. I can bring together data from across the enterprise and serve it up where and when needed. I can do real-time analytics on a volume of data that would make the old Excel cry.
Yet to this day, most organizations are still dependent primarily on older, outdated reporting tools for their analytics. Again and again, when I talk to organizations about their reporting needs, they plop an Excel workbook in front of me and tell me to rebuild it exactly.
Modern BI tools do not just improve on the older options for business analytics. Power BI is not Excel 2.0. Businesses need to think differently.
Modern BI tools redefine what business analytics can do to the extent that businesses need to approach things in a whole new way.
This is incredibly exciting stuff! With proper use of Power BI, data-driven decision-making becomes a reality. This is true digital transformation. But it comes at a cost. In this case, the need to think strategically is critically important. The 5th way that modern BI tools are different is the following.
It occurs to me that maybe part of the challenge for organizations is that many are unsure in their understanding of BI. Here is my current working definition of Business Intelligence:
Business Intelligence uses KPIs, visualizations, metrics, and analytics to address impactful business problems in a way that lets people in organizations take meaningful action. Using clean (enough) and trusted data, BI enables organizations to address their most important problems to engage in continuous, intelligent transformation.
Is it a perfect definition? I don’t think such a thing exists.
But it is pretty good and feels as accurate as I can get. Bonus points to anyone that noticed the missing keyword – reports! My working definition of BI is not focused on reporting. The report is just the vehicle for continuous, intelligent transformation.
Why is this important? Built into the very definition is an emphasis on taking action to address critical problems. In other words, any discussion of BI strategy needs to focus on how it can dramatically benefit real issues. Anything less is just reporting.
So, what does BI strategy look like? I have spent many years helping organizations with this question. The result of all this work is the Cambay BI Strategic Lens. Think of it as a strategic planning process for intelligence and analytics.
Picture this. An organization has never done any real road mapping or strategic work to approach BI. They have many big, tabular reports (think Crystal Reports or SSRS) and Excel files, and they have tested some modern BI solutions such as Power BI. They have data they want to report on in various systems such as Azure, SalesForce.com, SAP, and others. And they have people doing report writing across the entire organization. This kind of setup can feel out of control. But with the BI Strategic Lens, we can bring it all into focus. Here’s how.
When done, organizations have a way to focus their energy and efforts. That is why we call this process the Strategic Lens. It is about ensuring focus and clarity, driving impacts, and maximizing return for every dollar spent on BI.
Hopefully you see the value of BI strategy and why it so important to accelerate digital transformation. Want to learn more? If so, please talk to our BI experts at Cambay to see if it’s right for your organization.
Vice President of Strategic Business Analytics