7 signs that your Business Intelligence (BI) needs an overhaul

EducationIf you own a car, it has most likely given you a warning sign at one point or another. Maybe it displayed a warning light on your dashboard. Maybe it began idling roughly. Or, maybe the brakes started squeaking one day.

When these warning signs appear, what do you do? Do you ignore them and hope they go away? Or, do you take it to the mechanic and get it fixed? Of course, you get it fixed (I hope). Ignoring those warning signs will eventually leave you stranded by the side of the road.

I bring up this analogy because it applies nicely to Business Intelligence (BI). Many companies are stuck using BI tools and practices that are in desperate need of replacement. These outdated BI tools/practices waste precious time, harm decision-making, and keep these companies from truly taking advantage of their data.

Just like a car, outdated BI displays many warning signs. Unfortunately, many companies either ignore, or don’t recognize these signs. Maybe they don’t like change. Maybe they don’t realize there’s a better way. Whatever the reasons, ignoring these warning signs will ultimately lead to larger problems.

So, what are these warning signs? How can you know if your company’s BI needs an overhaul? To help you out, I’ve solicited input from multiple experts and have compiled their advice below. Here are 7 warning signs that you’re dealing with outdated BI:

1. End users still rely on IT for reports

In the past, IT departments controlled the data. After all, creating reports formerly required a fair amount of technical knowledge. That has changed. These days, there’s no need to limit reporting to the IT department. Unfortunately, many business haven’t received the memo.

“If end users are still running to IT to get the reports and information they need then there is a problem,” says Craig Schiff, President and CEO of BPM Partners. “Modern BI systems are designed for end user self-sufficiency so they can get the exact information they need, in the format they want, when they need it without having to wait for assistance.”

2. Everyone sees the same data

Can your BI software let you create single applications that look different for each user? Can you create applications that display different data depending on the user? If not, you’re using an outdated solution.

“If the system provides basically the same information to everyone (within the constraints of security permissions) then the system is outdated,” explains Schiff. “A key element of today’s systems is role-based or even personalized access. That is, providing users with the information that is relevant to them, not the company at large.”

3. Your BI doesn’t deliver KPIs

Your BI applications must instantly tell you which areas of your business are doing well, and which are struggling. If it can’t deliver clear, actionable data, then you’re missing the true advantage of Business Intelligence.

“If the BI system just automates and streamlines the reports and information that the company has always produced then an opportunity has been missed,” says Schiff. “The best systems today structure information and its presentation in terms of what is most important to the company – its key performance indicators (KPIs). While the old reports may still be required by some, reporting aligned with the KPIs enables better decision making.”

4. Your BI doesn’t deliver current data

I knew of a company whose BI process consisted of a monthly ritual including 2 days of data gathering, sorting, and analysis in Excel…followed by meetings to discuss the Excel charts. Not only did this waste time, it delivered outdated data.

“If you are reviewing scorecards on a weekly or monthly basis, and asking ‘What we should have done?’ or ‘How can we go back and fix this problem?’; these are dead giveaways you’re not on the front lines of what Business Intelligence is today,” says Eric Mauch, Partner at Razor Consulting Solutions. “BI is meant to help you make better decisions now, this minute. If you can’t immediately react to what your information is telling you, you are simply using Reporting, not Business Intelligence.”

5. Getting an Executive Dashboard is a “Big Deal”

Let me ask you a question: If an executive requests a dashboard, how quickly can you deliver that dashboard? This is very telling. If creating a simple dashboard is a complicated process…that’s a glaring warning sign.

“There was a time when BI teams struggled to get information to executives in the form they wanted,” says Dan Mallinger, Principal Data Scientist at Think Big Analytics. “Creating dashboards often required custom logic and engineering. Updating those dashboards frequently was often impossible or too expensive. Modern BI tools are built with the assumption that fast data stores exist and business teams want access at all times, including while mobile.”

6. Your BI relies on spreadsheets

If you’re using spreadsheets for BI, it’s safe to say that you don’t actually have BI. Business Intelligence automatically delivers real-time, accurate data when you need it. Spreadsheets do the opposite. Spreadsheet-driven “BI” is a manual process that delivers outdated data, which is frequently riddled with errors.

“Business intelligence today has evolved far beyond electronic spreadsheets which are now half-a-century old,” says Brian Kelley, CIO of Portage County. “Spreadsheets lack integrity, consistency, security, and the ability to provide real-time up-to-date data.”

7. Your BI relies on manual processes

Do you (or others in your company) spend any amount of time gathering data, pulling data from disparate systems, scrubbing the data, or manipulating the data in any way? Is Business Intelligence a time-consuming, manual process? If so, you’re dealing with outdated BI.

“Business intelligence technology of the 21st century no longer requires manual data entry and manipulation from disparate systems and paper reports which was so common in the nineteenth century,” explains Kelley.

Wrap up

Out of the warning signs listed above, how many do you notice in your company? If you noticed more than one, you’re not alone. Many companies are stuck in the same boat. The big question: What are you going to do about it? Remember, just like with a car, ignoring the warning signs won’t make them go away.

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2 thoughts on “7 signs that your Business Intelligence (BI) needs an overhaul

    1. Hi Natalie,

      I can’t speak to other BI solutions, as we use our own development platform (m-Power) to handle our BI needs. What types of issues are you looking to address? I’d be happy to put you in touch with someone here who could help you determine whether or not m-Power would be a good fit for your needs.