Data analytics and visualization can be transformative tools for any business, whether they’re trying to optimize their supply chain management or the customer experience.

Modern BI technology is making this transformation easier and more accessible than ever. According to one report, one-third of large-scale organizations will adopt some form of business intelligence (BI) by 2023.

If you’re thinking of implementing a BI tool, it’s important to ensure you’re able to make the most of all its features. Today, we’re sharing ten of our top self-service BI best practices to help you get started on the right foot. 

The 2024 Top 10 ERP Systems Report

What vendors are considering for your ERP implementation? This list is a helpful starting point.

10 Self-Service BI Best Practices

1. Plan Your KPIs

Once your BI solution is in place, how will you measure whether the project was successful? The answer is key performance indicators (KPIs).

Make sure the metrics you establish are realistic and will deliver results that your organization actually values. Otherwise, you could put KPIs in place just to have something to measure, which results in empty insights and no real business benefit. 

2. Choose Your Vendor Wisely

Just like in an ERP selection, it’s easy to get caught up in presentations and promises when you’re looking for a self-service BI vendor.

However, resist the urge to jump in blindly. Take the time to vet each provider to see how their mission and vision align with your own.

The vendor you select should also have industry-leading credentials in the field of data security. This means they’ll be well-versed in all applicable data security laws and can inform you on ways to keep your information as secure as possible. 

3. Create a Business Blueprint

Business process blueprinting is about defining the specific functionality you need in your BI system.

Throughout this effort, you might make changes to your current workflows. You want to make the best use of the features and functions of your BI solution, so you might have to abandon former best practices, especially ones that have become inefficient.

Through business process reengineering, you can redesign your processes, so they align with your overall business goals and the new technology. With an understanding of your future state, you can create a business blueprint for your vendor.

4. Start With Small Victories

A team that can confidently use a BI system is more likely to keep doing so.

If you want long-term employee buy-in, we recommend focusing on small victories and incremental wins. Not only will this boost the confidence of your end-users, but it will reassure your C-suite that the investment was a sound one. 

Instead of trying to apply BI across your enterprise all at once, look for ways you can deploy the technology in smaller, actionable areas. You don’t have to perform a sweeping overhaul all at once, as one success will usually snowball into another. 

5. Plan the Project With Scalability in Mind

Many organizations rely on small-scale pilot projects to deliver the quick wins mentioned above.

If you take this route, don’t stop there. Over time, you may want to deploy BI solutions across your entire enterprise. 

With this in mind, it’s important to prepare for future scalability, so you don’t encounter limitations when the time comes to expand functionality.

6. Prioritize Risk Management

There’s a reason that self-service BI tools are suddenly taking off. For years, there have been legitimate concerns over data security: When users are allowed to manipulate these systems, they can expose sensitive and confidential files if something goes awry. 

As such, it’s critical to have a risk management plan in place before you go live. The plan should center around three pillars:

Employees should know how to securely handle the data that flows through the BI system. They should also be able to assess its quality and clearly understand what data logic to apply to find the answers they need. 

7. Emphasize Teamwork and Collaboration

Ultimately, self-service BI tools benefit your entire organization. However, there are three main groups that are particularly invested in them:

  • End-users 
  • BI analysts
  • IT professionals

BI analysts and IT professionals should collaborate to decide how data should be managed. When this type of teamwork is established, all the work isn’t resting squarely on the shoulders of your IT team.

While this team might be adept at all things related to technology and infrastructure, self-service BI is all about using data to solve business challenges. As such, it requires a different, more collaborative approach. 

8. Perform Unit Test Cases

Unit testing is a key part of both the building and testing phases of your business intelligence program. It can incorporate a range of different tests: 

  • Process tests
  • Systems integration tests
  • Performance tests
  • User acceptance tests

Test often and cast a wide net. Make sure the system passes through more than just ideal, best-case scenarios and encounters alternative environments that could throw it off. 

The more testing you can accomplish, the fewer bugs and issues you should encounter once the system is live. 

9. Prioritize Organizational Change Management

New technology can quickly overwhelm and frustrate your team members. This is especially the case with employees who aren’t 100% comfortable using new self-service BI tools.

In addition to feeling incompetent, they may also worry that these new automated functions will put their jobs in jeopardy. 

Instead of laser focusing on the technology side of the project, we recommend focusing on organizational change management, as well. Consider ways you can make the shift easier for end-users. Clear communication and thorough training are great places to start, whether you’re deploying BI as part of a comprehensive ERP system or deploying a dedicated BI solution. 

10. Benchmark Performance After Implementation

Once you’ve gone live with your self-service business intelligence tools, you should measure their performance against your pre-established standards.

Though you should have tested the system before you deployed it, this additional testing allows you to assess the performance of users in real production environments using real data. 

Report on what you find and use those insights to alter your approach as necessary. 

Making the Most of BI Tools

By following these ten self-service BI best practices, you can avoid major stumbling blocks and enable a wide variety of employees to access data insights.

Along the way, our team of enterprise software consultants is here to help. We know the power and potential of BI systems, and we can help your organization unlock it all. Contact us below for a free consultation.

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