Believe it or not, just about everything produces actionable data for your business. Website clicks, while a type of analytics, aren’t the only way to let data do the driving. From employee PTO to the number of miles driven by your suppliers, your business is saturated in invisible resources that are just waiting to tell you their stories and bolster your business. Taking advantage of that data is the chief function of business analytics tools, and if you haven’t been following the explosion of business analytics like we have, now is the time to start building your business analytics implementation plan.
Table of Contents
- Assess your data needs and data wants
- What are the analytics features you need, and what metrics are you going to track?
- Keep your key insights in sight
- Choose the data you want to use — and then be ready to act on it
- Pick easy-to-use software with a broad scope
- Be mindful of your IT abilities and requirements
Assess Your Data Needs and Your Data Wants
Start with the question: “How can data benefit my business specifically?” Thanks to a report titled Big Data for Media, we know that business analytics can bring massive benefits to your company, like turning The Huffington Post into the most visited website in the United States. Business analytics is a game changer and is expected to continue to grow into 2019 and beyond as more and more industries start taking advantage of their own data. Usually, this has a three-part answer:
- Let data inform your business’ culture and decisions.
- Present that data in a cogent way (data rules but graphics reign).
- Use that data to meet your business goals.
Creating a business analytics implementation plan is the step before step one, but actually implementing it isn’t as simple as running down a three-part checklist. Because businesses have vastly different models from company to company, there really is no one-size-fits-all solution. Like most business requirements gathering processes, you’ll need to do a critical analysis of your business and find out what you’ll need for your specific situation. Keep in mind your key performance indicators, such as revenue generated or lost, average call-times, and average time spent on internal bureaucracy. The reason these might seem broad now is that for each use-case this looks different to a company. An important first step to your plan is finding unique and meaningful ways for you to measure your own success. After you’ve done that, acting on the data becomes easier.
Your wants, however, are another story. They represent ideal solutions to your problems but are not always feasible. You might want a business analytics platform that can also handle and track inventory data from the time it begins as raw materials to when it goes out to your shipping department, but perhaps that isn’t entirely possible — at least until you get to extremely complex and robust software. Sometimes it’s better to ask yourself if you need such a specific feature, or if you just want a tracking feature for the sake of tracking all of your metrics. Data is good, but too much data without meaning is like being unable to see the forest from the trees.
What Are the Analytics Features You Need, and What Metrics Are You Going to Track?
According to IBM, areas that see the highest level of benefit from business analytics are productivity and processes. Areas like technology operations also see additional benefits. Where are you deploying business analytics (company-wide or in departments like finance or marketing?) and where do you think it could benefit your company the most?
Keep in mind that deploying across your enterprise requires a fair amount of retooling and optimization to net your organization the highest level of rewards and could land you right in the middle of sharky waters. For instance, you might end up with too much data and no way to interpret it. Or, your team may be too small to make use of such a robust catalog of data in the first place.
When preparing your business analytics implementation plan, think hard about the specific features you need. No two software vendors are the same. Luckily, we’ve worked hard to help create a curated list of business analytics tools and can help you find the right type of tool for your specific use-case.
Keep Your Key Insights in Sight
Simply following a BA implementation plan does not ensure success, much like just fishing anywhere in a lake doesn’t promise you a catch. You have to move to more active and fertile areas of the water first. The business world is much the same — you need to set specific end goals for your business analytics implementation. Going too broad will leave you with ineffective data. Going too narrow means that you’re not collecting enough data to meet your end goals, which come in the form of insights and metrics.
Insights are derived from metrics, which, by themselves, are simply points of data that can tell a number of stories depending on how the data is sliced. When going into your planning session, focus on ways that you will use these metrics in order to answer your questions. Don’t simply ask “how can data work for us?”, ask specific questions like “how can we use business analytics to optimize our content delivery process?”, because business analytics planning is more effective when pointed at a specific target, versus trying to tackle a large, abstract concept.
Any marketing professional will tell you to communicate to a specific audience instead of trying to make a one-size-fits-all campaign, and the same should be true of your business analytics implementation plan.
Choose the Data You Want to Use — and Then Have a Plan to Act on It
There’s almost too much data out there. When it comes to your business analytics plan, being specific about the data that you actually incorporate into your metrics and insights is crucial. Data such as weather forecasts, travel times, sales data, inventory and returns all can become viable when appropriately applied and measured. But this does not mean you should just start collecting all kinds of data.
For example, not all businesses have an IT department or a need to track inventory, while some businesses keep track of their employees’ time off and compare that metric with their quarterly sales performance. According to the Aberdeen Group, the typical enterprise-level organization pulls from 36 unique sources of business analytics data — and those companies that do this well are being richly rewarded. In 2017, The Economist published an article saying that “The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.”
To start drilling into your business potential, you need to drill down a analytics implementation plan, collect your intel, and then be willing to act upon it. Sometimes data is ugly. It says that you’re not hitting your goals or shows the negatives of your carefully implemented process. Being willing to take an honest look at what your insights reveal is a crucial part of implementing your business analytics plan.
Pick Easy-to-Use Software With Broad Scope
Whatever your software business analytics tools implementation plan, (and just in case you’re still looking for the right software, we have a helpful list for you here), consider it carefully, and consider how much use you can truly get from a piece of software. In general, it’s best to strike a balance between all of your requested features, affording you a competent set of tools with a high level of use.
In general, pick software that has broad application and can be used in a variety of different situations. This will allow you and your users to pivot on new insights and respond to business demands more appropriately, from processing new sets of data to incorporating things like augmented analytics.
The broad scope of your software might not cover every one of your needs right away, however. This is where picking modular software comes into play. Modular software is software that allows the user to pick and choose what components and features they want to be activated or implemented at a certain time. There’s a core functioning product, with optional micro-features that can be joined to that functioning product as the user needs them. Suddenly your simple analytics tool gains on-demand features that let you, for example, batch process and report on all sorts of metrics.
Software modularity also has the additional benefit of being updated on an individual basis. According to Computer World, Disney’s move (yes, the same Disney that brings us classic animated films) to modular software and “microservices” in their software suite allows them to update each individual piece of the software separately and at different times, giving them enhanced flexibility for their end-users.
We are steadily moving away from the days of monolithic software updates, as modularity allows businesses to obtain the latest, cutting-edge features as they become available — all with little to no risk towards their central business analytics product.
Be Mindful of Your IT Abilities and Requirements
With all this talk of modularity and broadness in your BA tools implementation plan, keep in mind that your employees probably run the gamut as far as technical skill-level goes. Workers with basic IT and tech skills are in constant demand, but even knowing the ins-and-outs of working with systems might not be enough to handle the most complex of business analytics suites. So as a rule of thumb, the easier it is to use the software, the more use you’re going to get out of it. This will enable a higher rate of adoption among your staff, or at least key staff who need actionable data.
Complex software, while powerful, is best suited to data scientists and professional analysts who can run sophisticated algorithms and properly prepare the data, and if you don’t have a data scientist on your staff, hiring one can be expensive. Ease of data preparation is also an important part of your user experience requirements.
Data is tremendously informative, but also tremendously useless unless presented and prepared in a digestible way. This can include process like stripping junk data from the set (junk data being internal metrics that might skew or conflate results), analyzing the data, watching for trends and drawing meaningful conclusions from results.
Your IT department (if you have one) will also appreciate a piece of software that’s easy to implement and doesn’t require constant maintenance on their part. To this end, your BA software implementation plan should also center around software that’s easy to install or roll out. Consider cloud solutions for software that doesn’t have to be installed or directly managed by your IT staff.
On-premise tools can be a part of your business analytics software implementation plan if you’re willing to deal with the trials of installing the software and managing it in the long term. As we discussed earlier, the easier your business intelligence software is to use for the most amount of users, the greater the benefit; and IT will thank you for having to field fewer support tickets.
An implementation plan for your business analytics solution will require you to ask some tough questions and assess how analytics is going to work for your specific scenario. Picking an analytics suite that’s easy to use, broad, modular and deployable is also a challenge in of itself, but we’ve done our best to create a powerfully curated list of business analytics tools, and if you’re ready to take the next steps in your business analytics implementation plan, then let us help you.