Samuel Donabedian, Director, Business Intelligence & Analytics, Ocean State Job Lot
What does one of the most widely known and quoted opening lines in the works of Shakespeare, and quite possibly the most famous soliloquy in literature, have to do with Business Intelligence (BI)? For one, it furnished this article’s very clever title. For another, it’s the very question every organization needs to seriously ask themselves.
In simplest form, this quote is a reflection on whether it’s better to be alive or to be dead. In business form, it is a reflection on whether it’s better to prevail or to be defeated. While the intention of any organization is to succeed, the reality is that so many fail. Among the many reasons why: Some organizations still believe Business Intelligence is not worth the investment.
Widely considered a broad term, Business intelligence is the process of turning raw data into actionable information that can help support and facilitate better business decisions. Underpinned with both a procedural and technical infrastructure, Business Intelligence allows organizations to easily connect to, transform, analyze and visualize all of their data. Whether the business decision be operational, tactical, or strategic in nature, Business Intelligence will take the guesswork out of helping organizations rise above their competitors.
It goes without saying, however, that every organization is going to be confronted with various obstacles associated with the optimal use of Business Intelligence. Even the most well-intentioned, process-oriented organizations succumb to these challenges. The good news, however, is that each can be overcome once identified. Some of the most notable challenges include:
The balancing act associated with blending the people, process and technology necessary to establish a truly data-informed culture is a growing challenge for many organizations
Humans are creatures of habit and routine. When confronted with the notion of change, resistance takes effect and naturally sets in. Oftentimes humans make decisions based upon gut feeling, which there is arguably merit to in certain situations, simply because it’s faster than gathering the information. In light of this, it’s imperative that the usage of Business Intelligence be considered a non-negotiable priority across the organization starting with sponsorship from executive leadership. Strategically clear and inclusive communication championed from the top, trickling down thereafter, is key to overcoming this obstacle and instilling this shift in mindset.
Simply gathering information isn’t the same as understanding it. Gartner defines data literacy as “the ability to read, write, and communicate data in context. This includes an understanding of data sources, analytical methods and techniques, and the ability to describe the user case, application, and resulting value”. Said differently, data literacy is the ability to fluently understand and speak data. The balancing act associated with blending the people, process and technology necessary to establish a truly data-informed culture is a growing challenge for many organizations. While intimidating, organizations can overcome this challenge through thoughtfully constructed and executed data literacy training programs.
Historically, for many justifiable reasons, organizations opted to keep data close to the vest. This data was typically owned and managed by IT, and often resulted in inconvenient wait times for information. With the sheer amount of data organizations are processing today, however, this is no longer an option organizations can afford to consider. Distributing this data across all working teams to gain a competitive advantage is imperative. When you allow data access to everyone in your organization, through the self-service capabilities of Business Intelligence, you are effectively empowering individuals at all levels to use the data in their decision making. With the right tools, training, and strong governance in place to ensure the data is carefully managed, overcoming this obstacle is within reach.
The need for Business Intelligence within organizations, for the purposes of survival, has never been greater. If designed, implemented, and managed effectively, Business Intelligence will fuel an organization's digital transformation and drive its growth and profitability. In short, the answer to Hamlet’s question is simply “To BI”.