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BI Strategy – Setting Standards and Vision
Hari Narayanan Ganapathy Senior Solutions Director, Digital & Analytics | September 16, 2020
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Business decisions are critical at any given point of time. After all, businesses run on decisions; Decisions needs insights; Insights bring analytics; Analytics are based on information; Information is built on process and data. Taking the right decision with the right information at the right time, is responsible for the success and growth of any organization. 

In the data-driven world we live in, the information collected, collated, and analyzed to facilitate decision-making needs to be refreshed at short frequencies.  In ever-changing markets, preparation of data is complete, only when it is converted into a meaningful information with appropriate visual models, to help executives to take the right decisions at the right time. Strategizing BI is an art; transforming it into intelligence is a science. 

Strategizing Business Intelligence is an art; Transforming it into intelligence is a science.

The blog is organized in the following five basic dimensions

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Dimension 1:  What is BI Strategy to a Business?

BI Strategy is a universal concept by itself.  But it is unique and influenced by several factors that mean a lot to any organization. These include industry, region, market, vision, customer segment, and many more, which are volatile and ever changing.  A small variation in one or a few of these factors could lead to big changes to the business.  This means, the business strategy should be flexible and adaptable to make it more successful. 

BI requirement is formulated from the clearly defined vision of the organization, based on what they want to achieve, keeping the long-term visions sliced into smaller missions of the organization that need to be achieved in form of medium- and short-term goals.

BI strategy development for any organization, consists of sets of processes, procedures, methodologies, tools and technologies, solution principles, and high-level solution architectures, wherever possible. 

BI Strategy defines the clear outcome of what is needed for business decisions.  It also highlights the standards for data and visual Intelligence, so that the boundaries are set.  Following are the outcome of the BI Strategy document:

  1. Vision – What needs to be achieved as part of BI requirements that may help in business decisions
  2. Mission – How the vision is achieved by vertical or horizontal processes and solutions
  3. Standards – Processes to be covered, solution standards, user specific information standards, security standards, visualization standards, technology specific standards, documentation standards (if applicable), differentiating and integrating the data / information flow (setting boundaries)
  4. Ownership, review, and approval – Executives responsible for managing the BI strategy, frequency of review

“The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.” ― Satya Nadella

Dimension 2:  When are BI strategies needed?

One of the key points to be remembered by anyone defining BI strategy for the organization, is that the decisions are made for present situation; not for the past with an impact on the future.  There is no specific timeline set for when BI strategies are to be implemented. However, owing to the ever-changing market, technology and customer behavior, regulations, and socio-economic changes, it is advisable to have BI strategies at appropriate times, which suit your organization.

Many organizations have defined/refined the business strategy, when the key decisions on the changes in the organization, processes, business models, and technology changes that influences the business vision and strategy of the organization.

Define and refine BI strategy at right interval to ease business decisions

Dimension 3:  Why BI strategy is required:

Good performance management solutions are driven by a good BI strategy.  BI Strategy is primarily intended to provide directions to the business and technology experts to develop solutions that can help the executives make faster and better decisions with near accurate information, for any given scenario.  Without a properly defined and aligned strategy, the business expectations cannot be met by the technological solutions.  Similarly, the organization tends to invest more on different technologies that are complimentary to each other.  The technology team had to spend time and effort in managing multiple applications, licenses, data integrations, and support etc.

Any solutions, that is not aligned to a business strategy will lead into data variations across technological solutions and will provide more stress to the business model in reconciling the data/information. Varied visual information at times would lead to confusion for the executives, who are looking at varied information for faster decisions, at times, resulting in improper or inaccurate decisions.

Business performance is driven by good BI strategy.

Dimension 4:  Who should participate in BI strategy?

As the name suggests, business strategy is always owned and visualized by executives. In any organization, the ownership of BI strategy lies with the business and technology executives. Business decisions drives technological needs and technological changes ease business decisions.

Decisions are taken at every level and every function of the business. For example, finance, HR, marketing, procurement, IT, and core business team takes majority of tactical decisions frequently, and  periodically. CEO and CxOs takes strategical decisions periodically and on need basis. BI strategy is intended but not limited to these executives. Hence, it is important that the BI strategy is sponsored at CEO level and supported by CxOs of the organization. Further, the BI Strategy is delivered through technology.  Usage of right technology delivers desired results to the business decisions. Hence participation from business and technical experts of the organization is utmost important to develop a good BI strategy.

Further, with executive guidance and governance of the CxOs, strategy is formulated by the SMEs of the respective function, with the help from Industry and technological experts, usually from external organizations. Bringing external vendor helps in injecting a new dimension to the BI strategy formulation, else the BI strategy can potentially lead to changing the car seat, mirror and color, instead of designing a new car variant. Similarly, large dependency of the external vendor would lead to designing a premium car, where a variant of SUV car is required or vice versa.

The team working on BI Strategy should primarily be fused with industry knowledge, business (internal) knowledge, technology expertise, visualization skills, and analytical skills. They should understand their goal clearly and have ability to set the standards and outcome with defined intervals.  The team should be agile and adaptive to the changes that may come during the BI strategy development journey.

Innovation comes from the producer – W. Edwards Deming

Dimension 5:  How a successful BI strategy is defined?

A successful BI strategy is defined as a collaborative effort by the relevant team, who share their expertise and approach, taking insights into the organization, regulatory, socio-economical, sentiments, people and behavioral needs that influences the business decisions.  BI strategy differentiates strategical and tactical business needs, functional and technological needs, analytical and analysis needs, data and information, visualization and presentation needs

In today’s world and age, leveraging business intelligence to drive the right decisions is a strategic mandate rather than a good to have. Enterprises that realize this fact and leverage BI to drive their decisions will soon find themselves occupying positions of competitive advantage.

References – BI 3600 for a large retailer in USA, Integrated Management Reporting Framework (iMRF) for large Financial Services Organization in USA and more

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