Tools now available enable small and midsize companies (SMBs) to provide current, actionable, real-time information. These business intelligence capabilities offer competitive advantages once available only to enterprises with extensive – and expensive – data warehouse capabilities.
Step 1: Understand your data environment
Before you can deploy BI successfully, you must build a good data model that generates high-quality data. How much mission-critical data is generated on Excel spreadsheets? How can you capture data centrally? Is data from different departments isolated across a variety of SQL Server databases? What is your plan for tagging data consistently?
Step 2: Understand your business environment
The more you know about how people work in your organization, the better you will be able to build a solution. You want to know who needs business intelligence, what they need, when they need it, what kinds of reports they need, and how they will act upon the intelligence.
Step 3: Determine whether you need a data warehouse
Businesses that generate a lot of transactions and a lot of structured data – or those that are already using ERP systems – might find that a data warehouse is not only necessary, but strategically important as well.
Step 4: Consider your hardware infrastructure
While most organizations view business intelligence as a software investment, you must also consider hardware. When scoping your BI project, make sure you plan for servers that deliver speed and accuracy in an environment that will be far more I/O-intensive than most other environments.
According to the IDG 2011 Digital Universe study, information managed by data centers will grow by a factor of 50 over the next decade. BI solutions will have to manage ever-growing quantities and new types of data, such as Web clickstreams, sensor logs, social media analysis and more.
High I/O operations per second are at a premium. In-memory technology, which is used by BI software vendors to increase the velocity of analysis, is also important. Security is crucial, so use devices with high levels of encryption that don’t ruin system performance.
Step 5: Communicate the value and get business buy-In
Corporate culture and business process issues should not be underestimated. Forrester points to what it calls “untamed processes” in describing some of the challenges of successful BI deployment. These processes are further complicated when they involve external constituents, such as customers, prospects, partners and regulators.
Learn how to build BI for your business.