Once upon a time there was a business organisation that operated across a landscape where it was adequate to just assess what had happened in the past, and there was never any need to question why it had happened. At the end of each year, the business organisation would look back, assess financial results, identify some unexpected events, and blame any unachieved goals on these events. Such an assessment would generally end with optimism that the approaching year would yield equivalent or somehow better results.

Unfortunately, there are still a number of organisations which are run along such a fairy tale existence. While this approach may have been common until relatively recently, times and circumstances have changed – and quite drastically. In today’s dynamic and unpredictable business environment it is virtually impossible to execute any business strategy on the basis of historical and dated information since just yesterday is effectively too far in time to provide any insight about tomorrow.

Various studies indicate that the most successful business organisations today enjoy an ongoing market insight through which they enjoy a high level of business agility through which to react quickly.

Among the various attributed ‘secrets of success’, one often discovers an effective business intelligence strategy that uses information to predict the future as much as assess the past.

BI has become an important cornerstone of any business organisation; an integral and core requirement at the heart of every business decision. Harvesting data, converting it into information and using it to assess the future has become a business imperative that leads to a better level of business decisions.

It is not enough to possess the right business information but it is also necessary to disseminate the right information, at the right time to the right employees who can make the best decisions through this information.

An effective BI implementation is just as much a strategic implementation as a tactical-level approach. To use a football analogy, having a Lionel Messi as part of your team may be strategically important to win the respective league but one would, additionally, need to tactically use him in the best possible position in each and every game throughout the full 90 minutes.

The failure to take into consideration the strategic and tactical aspects of a BI project may go a long way towards explaining why there are so many accounts of business organisations spending vast amounts of investment upon a BI implementation project but subsequently having relatively little business benefit or value to show for the significant outlay required for such an initiative.

A comprehensive survey by consultancy firm KPMG demonstrated that an effective BI implementation can help business organisations outperform their rivals by a factor of five per cent in terms of return on equity.

According to KPMG, “(our) research is backed up by our own practical experience: success comes when businesses view information as their most valuable asset and create an information architecture that removes any barriers to its free and effective flow”.

To achieve a holistic implementation, BI specialists provide various tips on how best to go about effective implementation. In particular, they emphasise that a business intelligence project must not be treated as consisting of the latest whizz-bang technology that will somehow assist every business decision at the press of the metaphorical button.

Instead, always approach a BI project as one where the highest trawl of quality data is collated and organised, using technology as the tool with which to address the right business questions as, and when, these arise.

A critical component of an effective BI implementation is an efficient process that gathers, assesses, evaluates and disseminates information, through established channels to ensure that information is located where it can best provide appreciable value.

During the implementation process, always take into consideration the needs of end-users and attempt to align these requirements within a holistic business strategy.

In today’s challenging economic conditions, the difference between surviving and success can often come down to business performance. Organisations which manage to optimise their performance increase their ability to identify opportunities, mitigate risk, and quickly and flexibly adjust to shifting market demands. BI is the critical tool that can ensure that an organisation can stay one step ahead of its competition. It is the crystal ball through which business organisation can peer into the future and predict the future and chart the right business decisions.

Hadrian Sammut is a business solutions adviser with iMovo.

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