Business Intelligence: Assess Your Organization’s Maturity (Article 1 of 2)

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In a recent Gartner survey of CIOs, BI/Analytics remained top priority for 2016, as it was in 2015. While all organizations have tried to implement such solutions, but the success of such implementations leaves much to be desired. Before your organization invests in any more new tools, or implementation, it is absolute necessary to understand the current state of affairs. In this series, we will talk about an objective way to measure the maturity of your organization’s BI/Analytics solutions. This will not only help you understand where to invest your dollars, but also create a long lasting data strategy.

Imagine your BI solution is like ‘Siri’ for business. Just as ‘Siri’ is able to answer your question analyzing data in its data store, your organization’s BI solutions analyzes your enterprise data to answer those questions. For the purpose of this discussion, we imagine a company called ‘Aloha Medical Devices.’ Aloha Medical Devices makes various medical devices that help improve orthopedic products for rehabilitation. Aloha has its sales and financial systems in place. But they are exploring to put a BI system in place to help increase their profits as well as reducing cost.

In order to help Aloha, we break down measuring BI maturity in 8 levels. In this series of articles, we will explore a simple approach that Aloha can deploy to measure maturity of your BI solution. Level 1 through 4 will be discussed in this article.

Level 1: Standard Reports

Aloha has been running these standard reports since day one. These reports are generated on a regular interval to measure the health of their business. They are able to answer the following questions:

What happened?
When did it happen?
Where did it happen?

For example, a monthly sales reports, or a quarterly financials are examples of such reports. Such reports are useful, but only to an extent. They offer limited usefulness in making long term decisions.

Level 2: Ad Hoc Reports

Standard reports for Level 1 generates more questions than answers. Usually a business requests a set of follow up reports from the IT, which quickly becomes an unmanageable process. Generally, if your organization uses any of the modern BI tools, e.g. Oracle BI/Qlik/Tableau, it gets those capabilities by default. Giving your users the ability to get into detailed data analysis not covered by standard reporting is essential. To quickly go beyond the standard reports is critical in answering questions like “What product line generated the highest amount of sales last month?” You have a standard reports for monthly sales, but you can modify such report to answer your ad hoc questions. Ad hoc reporting generates rapid reports that meet individual information requirements with ease. An ad hoc report, that is run very often, is a good candidate to be moved to a standard report.

Level 3: Drill downs

Organizations that sell various products in multiple geographies tend to define a set of metrics that are obtained by consolidating information. In technical terminology, it is called aggregated metrics. While aggregated metrics offer a high level view of business health, it often behooves a question which needs to be answered by drilling down. Drill down allows you to look to the data in different levels.

For example, you are a sales executive who notices the product lines are selling well in all the regions except the South. The obvious question is; “Why is the South not doing as well as the other regions? What product lines are the problem in the South?” You need to drill down into the South region data to investigate further.  Many tools are available in market to facilitate such analysis, e.g. Oracle Hyperion is OLAP technology combined with Oracle BI creates a powerful OLAP solution with drill down capabilities.

Level 4: My Action Item?

Your organization has traveled well on the BI journey. You have reports, ad-hoc capabilities, and drill down — basically, data overload! It is often warranted that BI solutions monitor all this data and alert the users on various anomalies that it may see. When should I react? What action is needed?

For example, your sales in the South is down. Upon drill down, you were able to find out that shipments out of the Austin distribution center are getting delayed. This is actionable information, which should be proactively alerted for the future.

Caution: Alerts mentioned above are not a regular scheduled reports (Level 1). Level 4 is about monitoring metrics and alerting the appropriate people to take action when they go over a threshold.