Don’t Get Fooled by the Term ”Business Intelligence” – Make It a Reality

Leading technology research firms such as Gartner forecast that the adoption of business intelligence technology (BI) is accelerating with up to 75% of large enterprises having business intelligence and sophisticated analytics capabilities by 2020.

Are you buying that prediction?

Now, if you define business intelligence solely as a technology solution that allows business to transform data into information that is useful to management and creates an environment where better decisions can be made, then perhaps I will raise my hand in favor of the Gartner forecast.

But if you have been around the business track a few times and found that just because you have a technology solution that enables management to distribute information to the right people at the right time, you don’t necessarily have a (BI) halo around your executive management team.


Because good BI is well beyond just getting managers useful information on a colorful chart from which they can make better decisions.

The right information in the right hands is critical. No argument here.

But every organization must also have a culture that enables that manager, regardless of the management level within the organization, to make a decision about changes in the market and be held accountable for that decision. That is the key. That is the true differentiator between competing organizations.

When a Regional Manager gets a report indicating a decline in sales last week. How long does it take to answer the question, WHY?

If getting to the root cause of that sales decline takes a day or the manager must wait for another week, you have missed the BI boat.

You don’t have the right technology solution.

If your technology solution can give that Regional Manager, for example, the information needed to know the root cause of the sales decline, it is also imperative to establish the best practices that are needed to know with certainty that each manager is taking fact-based action and being held accountable for any decisions made?

Beyond just selecting the right technology and implementing best practices, when a manager at any level of the organization makes a decision that drives a positive change, there needs to be compensation structures in place to reward the positive outcomes of those critical market driven decisions?

That is the essence of a true Performance Management culture.

When you couple the right BI technology solution with a culture that tracks and rewards effective decision making, true business intelligence emerges.

The challenge for management is successfully implementing both dimensions of the BI equation.

Evaluating and selecting the right technology that enables a true performance management culture to be established is the first step.

Here are three key elements to consider in the technology decision process:

Ease of Use:  Any dimension of the BI technology that creates intimidation or hesitation of use for any level of management is a major problem that is often overlooked.

Some technology solutions are so complex that management resorts to hiring analysts and data scientists who attempt to deliver the data in usable formats to the users. This approach disengages accountability from the start.

Every manager must have basic training for use of the technology and must have access to all needed data for fulfillment of the management role involved. And good solutions tend to have a solid intuitive logic that is easy to follow and repeat.

Scalability:  Whatever technology solutions are being considered, don’t make decisions solely based on current operational and organizational needs. Too often future growth considerations are not carefully evaluated and as the user community expands, or geographic coverage expands the technology fails to keep up.

Bottom line, look ahead at both corporate growth models as well as expanded data needs and find a solution that can sustain the speed to answers about market realities in seconds regardless of the growth in data silos accessed or user size.

Data Alignment:  Having access to all the needed data is one thing but designing and delivering the right data sets in workable formats based on the unique roles and responsibilities of all managers within the organization is another key success criteria.

Every level of management should have the right data aligned with their respective responsibilities and each management level will have a unique set of dashboards with all calculations and formulas presenting the output consistently.

This approach to data alignment ensures that all levels of management have customized data visibility. When the right data is rapidly available to the right managers in seconds, decisions can be made and the outcomes of those decisions can be tracked. This is true BI.

Karl Edmunds

About the Author

Vice President, Salient Management Company

is a nationally recognized business leader and author with more than 20 years of experience working with suppliers, distributors, and retailers in the CPG industry. His focus is aligning technical solutions with sales, marketing, and organizational needs to drive long-term profitable growth.

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