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BI's impact growing, but best practices necessary to see benefits

March 21, 2014

The business intelligence (BI) market is growing quickly. According to a recent Research and Markets report, the global BI and analytics platform market is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 8.9 percent between 2013 and 2018. The rapidly increasing volume of information gathered and created by enterprises and the need to leverage these assets to remain competitive are key factors driving this trend, as these IT services enable firms to gain valuable insight from their data resources.

But for all of the advantages offered by BI, these tools can only yield benefits when deployed effectively. A poorly planned or executed BI policy will fail to deliver a satisfactory ROI, regardless of the size of the business or its industry.

With that in mind, Enterprise Apps Today recently highlighted several of the most important miscues firms must avoid when choosing and implementing BI systems.

The users' needs
One of the biggest mistakes that business leaders make when deploying BI tools is failing to fully take the users' needs into account as Gartner analyst Rita Sallam explained.

"These systems can cost a company millions, yet sometimes they provide little or no value because there is a mismatch between what is purchased and the needs of the users," said Sallam, according to the news source.

This is particularly problematic because BI solutions are moving more toward self-service functionality. Instead of relying on IT staff to conduct all BI operations, firms are putting these tools in the hands of the employees who actually need the results to optimize their job performance. But if the BI solutions in question are difficult to use or not designed to specifically meet these users' needs, the benefits of such a strategy will be mitigated. Business leaders should therefore conduct thorough audits of their employees to determine what BI features are essential and which should be avoided. User input is critical in this stage.

Additionally, these plans should take future BI needs into account. As companies develop, so, too, will their information collection and generation efforts. For BI to prove effective in the long run, these businesses must embrace solutions that can scale up to meet more robust BI needs.

Training needed
Another major misstep that many companies make when it comes to BI implementation is failure to appreciate the importance of IT training. In many cases, organizations underestimate how much training employees will require, and consequently see disappointing results from their BI deployments.

Specifically, Sallam recommended that business leaders make BI training an ongoing process, rather than a one-time event.

"I would recommend plenty of ongoing training so users really know how to use the system," said Sallam, the news source reported. "Companies should be thinking about highlighting a BI 'feature of the day,' running 'lunch and learn' sessions or providing online videos—things like that."

Help needed
Finally, Enterprise Apps Today urged businesses to avoid the mistake of assuming BI implementation can or should be handled entirely internally. While the BI tools themselves may be relatively simple once they are installed and fully deployed, getting to this point is often a complex endeavor.

"Accessing that data is not easy," said Boris Evelson, an analyst with Forrester Research, the news source reported. "It's not just about accessing the database: you need to understand the metadata and how the data is laid out. With a typical BI platform you won't be able to do this out of the box, so you are going to need to hire professional systems integrators and spend lots of money on professional services."

Failing to utilize outside expertise will quite possibly lead to delays, unanticipated expenses and ultimately a BI system that fails to deliver results.

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