As a chief executive, you need access to real-time, credible, actionable intelligence. Unfortunately for many organizations, data is spread across siloed legacy systems. In order to grow revenues faster than your industry and competitors, you need a culture-shifting strategy centered around systems and business intelligence.
To access SBI’s comprehensive guide of best practices for systems, leverage SBI’s PDF Workbook and turn to the Systems phase for: Pricing (225-227), Marketing (335-337), and Sales (417-419). Click here to download the Top 10 Metrics your organization should start tracking today.
It’s a common and frustrating story across many organizations. You need an urgent report for an upcoming board meeting and outline the requirements. Unfortunately – the data partially resides in the CRM, some in Access, and the rest on a SharePoint site. An analyst writes a SQL query, exports to excel, deletes rows, filters, writes formulas, deletes columns. The analyst then pulls a report from SalesForce only to realize critical fields are missing and discovering stores of butchered Excel files in SharePoint. Over a week has passed and the board meeting is tomorrow – “Why is this so difficult? This should be readily available!”
Benefits gained from implementing Business Intelligence and adopting a data-driven culture are quickly realized in the forms of Excellence, Efficiency, and Enablement.
Your organization is large and complex, where do you even start?
Start by chunking your implementation framework into four organizational “sets”:
What tools are you using to solve business problems? Think about how your tools interact with your data warehouses and internal systems. If you want real-time insight, you need an ecosystem that seamlessly integrates your CRM, ERP, SQL servers, and Finance and Marketing Automation systems. Otherwise, your data will live in silos – losing cross-functional visibility and associated benefits.
Now think about the future. Being aware of the landscape of analytics and the taxonomy you want to apply within your organization is mission critical. What teams go on what canvas? How should I catalogue all this information? Each function needs a platform tailored for their specific needs, but it’s important to have the means to capture and share valuable data across the organization.
Your people are only as sharp as the tools they’re given. Antiquated tools and systems means more bodies doing manual, repetitive, monotonous tasks, trapping precious capacity that can be freed with automation. If you give people the right tools, they will discover the value.
Like most initiatives involving change, driving adoption can be challenging. So how do you onboard all these tools?
- Onboard very quickly – gain momentum and show the value of the tool by looking for small, but meaningful opportunities
- Look for and expose the pain points that could be resolved using the new tool
- Help people understand the role the tools play in successes
- Exercise transparency – when you have wins, celebrate them to encourage the behavior
Do you have the data available to answer business questions quickly and accurately? Unfortunately, many times the answer is “no”. Corporate systems vary by age and technology and as a result, data comes in a variety of formats and taxonomies. Siloed systems across functions only exacerbate this problem.
How do you even get started establishing the credibility of your data?
- Recognize that the data isn’t perfect, and likely will never be. Stop thinking about perfection and just get the conversations started, start talking in data.
- Think less about “business requirements” and more on answers. It’s easy to get trapped in the black hole of corporate bureaucracy and requirements. Focus on the end goal – getting answers to the most crucial questions.
- Is your CRM cluttered with duplicates, lousy leads, and incorrect information? Act! Convince your executive peers that a problem exists, organize an audit and cleansing of the system, attack the low-hanging fruit.
There are two key skillsets you must build within your organization in order to successfully implement business intelligence:
- Technical skills
- Ability to question.
How do you create an environment where this is successful? Onboarding a new tool or platform can identify gaps in existing technical skills. Whether it’s a tool like Alteryx, Tableau, SAS, SQL Server, etc. – an educational platform is crucial to driving adoption and unlocking the tool’s full potential. Deploying resources such as hand-on training, virtual webinars/workshops, and maintaining a knowledge repository are a best practice for acquiring new organizational capabilities and building data literacy.
Too often in the business world and in life, short-term answers are emphasized rather than exploring far-reaching, potentially game-changing ideas. Questioning can spark change in your organization and teaching your staff to think critically by asking questions has far-reaching effects. Journalist Warren Berger found that Why, What if, and How questions, asked in a sequential order – seemed to be especially effective in finding solutions. The sequence of why, what if, and how allows an individual to advance through three important stages of problem-solving.
- Why? – Ideal for understanding an existing challenge or problem. Asking this helps us understand why a problem exists, why it hasn’t been solved, and why it might be worth solving
- What if? – Used to explore new ideas or identify improvements or solutions to the problem
- How? – These questions give form to ideas – how to prototype, iterate, and deploy them with the goal of transforming possibility to reality
Reinforcing the idea of critical thinking by asking questions in a why, what if, and how sequence is fundamental to building a data-driven culture and adopting business intelligence. Arming people with the right tools, developing competence, and instilling question-based critical thinking is a recipe for success.
Focus your attention on building a culture of analytics. It’s not something you can create on your own. It emerges from the people within your organization. However, there are several actions you can take to accelerate the rate of culture and behavior change:
- Make every decision data-driven, not on gut instincts
- Get everyone involved with data analysis and recording on some level, encourage employees to start meetings with a 1-2 minute overview of select KPIs
- Break free from Excel and standardize data into a taxonomy everyone can understand without manipulation
- Celebrate early adopters and identify detractors – but don’t mind them too much, resistance will ease over time. When they come around, they will be some of your more ardent supporters.
In today’s interconnected environment, being the first to “know” is a valuable strategic advantage. Maintaining a real-time pulse of your customer base, prospects, pipeline, and market conditions is an emerging best practice being adopted by top tier organizations.
Chunk your business intelligence strategy and accompanying culture shift into buckets of “sets”: toolset, dataset, skillset, and mindset. Identify the most robust and collaborative analytical tools, onboard quickly, look for opportunities to demonstrate value, and celebrate wins. Recognize the credibility (or lack thereof) of your data. Don’t think about perfection and just get the conversation started, think less about business requirements and focus on answers.
The two key skillsets to implement business intelligence are technical skills and the ability to question. Building technical skills and investing in training tools are critical to building competence. Reinforcing the concept of critical thinking by asking questions in a why, what if, and how sequence can be the catalyst of game-changing ideas and insights. Tying these ideas together is a mindset – change is a journey that requires constant iteration and feedback.
Leverage SBI’s PDF Workbook to find best practices and a framework for your Systems strategy for: Pricing (pp 225-227), Marketing (pp 335-337), and Sales (pp 417-419).
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