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June 17, 2020

BI Tools — Are They Enough to Build a Data-Driven Culture?

Darya Efimova

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It’s been a while since data exploded globally, and the vital necessity for businesses to deal with it is in no way surprising. Many look up to data-oriented enterprises, such as Google and Facebook, and follow suit. But while most companies try to move with the times and put data at the center of their operations, it often remains untapped.

Unleashing the data potential is only possible in a data-driven environment—the one in which data is recognized as a critical business asset, and each team member has access and knowledge required to turn this data into useful insights. Data-driven companies never miss a chance to take advantage of their data resources. Reports, spreadsheets, charts and all the other information sources help everyone involved in decision making—which is in fact almost every employee—to make use of corporate data deposits.

Luckily, the market is full of tools created to facilitate this challenging task and automate data retrieval and analytics, so that the only thing left to do for decision-makers is to act on the results. Still, according to the Big Data Executive Survey conducted by NewVantage Partners in 2018, 99% of respondents from 57 large corporations said their companies were trying to shift to a data-driven culture, yet only one-third of them succeeded. Does this mean that they did something wrong, or was it the BI tools they deployed that turned out to be not that effective?

Creating a Data-Driven Environment

A business intelligence tool is a data-driven decision support system (DSS), used to retrieve, analyze, transform and report data. Today, the market is rich with BI platforms offering various types of analytics, visualization and integration capabilities: some of them are AI-powered and thus able to make reliable forecasts. Many BI tools have unique features and attractive add-ons, but all of them offer essential functions that may boost a business if used wisely.

Today, the leading platform on the market is Microsoft Power BI. Very similar in its interface to other products by Microsoft, this tool provides both basic features for non-expert users and those for pro-level analysts. However, Power BI integration may require help from a specialized provider.

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To evaluate how critical BI tools are for establishing a data-driven environment, we need to understand what this environment demands. As said before, a data-driven company is the one that understands how to gain a competitive edge by using analytics. But while some companies were launched after the big data bang and thus had more chances to create a data-driven culture from the outset, others need an actual shift in their business mindset to inject data into decision making and adopt it as a regular and automated process.

The following are some basic principles any data-oriented company should act upon.

Principle 1: Lead by Example

Though 56% of the respondents in the NewVantage Partners survey were chief data officers, only 12% of the companies participating in the 2012 installment of the same survey had chief data officers appointed at all. Even if there’s no CDO, leaders should set the expectation that decisions must be based on data. At the same time, it’s essential not to isolate data scientists and analysts from other team members and let them learn from each other.

How BI tools help

Deploying a tool is a perfect chance to get meaningful insights presented in the way that is understandable both for data experts and any other team member. Thus, everybody, regardless of their position, will be able to be engaged in the data-driven processes. Moreover, while data scientists may spend hours or even days on gathering, compiling, and transforming data from various sources into something comprehensible, a BI platform will do it many times faster. This will save time, energy, and money for other business aspects.

Principle 2: Use a Single Source of High-Quality Data

A culture driven by data should be built on accurate and consistent data that comes from one reliable source. Different systems are likely to produce different output depending on their configuration, which may result in misunderstandings and mistakes that affect the entire business.

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How BI tools help

BI platforms allow companies to collect, store and analyze data in one environment, which ensures both the unity and safety of insights. An AI-powered system will produce accurate numbers and reports available for each team member, so that decisions are based on one and the same information.

The more outdated the data, the less reliable it is, which increases business risks. Real-time analytics eliminates this problem. In addition, it saves time (which often means saving money) and provides for a faster and more effective decision making, especially if equipped with AI-based predictive models.

Principle 3: Make data accessible

In order for a culture to be sustainable, employees need to share the ideas it is based on. To engage every team member, data should be understandable and available across the company.

How BI tools help

To distribute data across the company, it should first be made accessible and reliable. BI tools facilitate this task by collecting data from on-premises and cloud-based sources, ensuring it is up-to-date with automated incremental refreshing.

BI platforms make spreading insights across the company easier, as data, regardless of its size and format, can be collaborated on within the tool or easily exported to be used externally.

Understanding plain rows of data may be a challenge, especially for those who are not fluent in it. That’s when data visualization comes in. With pre-built templates or custom visuals, data can be easily transformed into colorful and vivid graphs, diagrams, and charts that are much more comprehensible.

Is It Enough for a Data-Driven Culture?

Even though BI tools can boost almost every data-related business process, it is just one step in the journey of building a data-driven culture. The thing is, a BI tool is a means, not a goal. Therefore, it should be implemented under the watchful eye of professionals who will inspire and guide your employees on their path to creating a data-driven environment as the ultimate destination.

About the author: Darya Efimova is a Digital Transformation Observer at Iflexion. With MA in Creative and Media Enterprises, Darya is an accomplished writer and industry insider helping IT leaders make sense of today’s tech disruptions and new market imperatives.

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