Business analytics (BA) - the study and statistical analysis of a business data to help make better decisions - has become an important part of any data driven organization. In other words, any modern business, regardless of industry. Companies that properly employ BA could, in theory, gain a competitive advantage over competitors without BA strategies in place.
The most important thing to be aware of with BA is that its success largely depends on how astute companies are in using BA tools. Here are seven tips on how to ensure BA is working for you.
- Collaborate to define questions. Before you approach a BA vendor, it’s important to collaborate with all functions within your company to identify questions and issues that are tough to answer. With questions clearly defined, you’ll be better able to see if a vendor can provide solutions that will answer these more efficiently than solutions already in place.
- Start with fresh reports. After implementation of a BA solution, you should focus on developing new reports that analyze data in a different way when compared with your old reports. Doing so could help you find new ways to secure advantages, competitive and otherwise. A new solution also provides you with the opportunity to audit your data and get rid of junk data that has no viable purpose.
- Work with BA experts and your vendor. BA is a science; it’s a lot more involved than the traditional method of comparing current results against previous reports. As such, you should either employ a BA expert who knows which questions to ask and what to do with the data or work with a consultant. Consulting the vendor you work with would be a good start, as they normally employ BA experts who are there to help.
- Train employees. Like any business function that will be used in all departments, it’s important to train your employees on not only how to use the software, but the basics behind it. Before any training is done however, it’s important that you adapt roles to incorporate the change in process.
- Don’t give up on Excel. Microsoft Excel, or similar spreadsheets are fantastic programs. Chances are high that the majority of your employees are competent users of at least Excel and you can use this to both their and your advantage. In fact, many BA solutions use, or are based off of, Excel-like spreadsheets which makes training a lot easier and less expensive as employees will already be comfortable with the basics.
- BA should deliver on 2 levels. Business analytics functions on two main levels: summary and drill down. Summary encompases multiple elements, while drill down allows in depth looks at one element. When reports are compiled they should encompass both elements.
- Don’t let BA do all the thinking. BA is not the be all and end all, it’s supposed to help your company with decision making, not make the decisions for you. There may be times when the analytical output just doesn’t match what you think will be best. Some of the most successful business people have relied on instinct even when the available data tells them they are wrong.