10 common pitfalls in Business Intelligence

Companies can spend millions on traditional BI (Business Intelligence) software, cloud BI services, apps and social BI.

A high number of BI solutions means an increase in the likelihood of failure (such as selecting the wrong software), and end users not understanding or properly using the solution.

Our guide takes you through the most common pitfalls when it comes to implementing a BI process into your company. We’ve also listed our top tips in avoiding these pitfalls which will save you both time and money. BI doesn’t have to be confusing or complicated; it can be as simple as you like, and as useful as you need.

Check out our guide on how to escape Excel Hell and embrace Power BI!

Pitfall #1: Not defining the problem that needs to be solved

Clearly define what it is you want to accomplish. Companies should not rush into leveraging any BI tools unless they have a distinct business case. You need to be able to measure ROI and that can’t be achieved if you haven’t determined why and where leveraging big data makes the most sense. This is a common pitfall because companies tend to want to solve lots of problems at once, with one solution. Taking your problems one at a time can maximise your BI potential.

Our top tip:

Start with the business problem that needs to be solved, understand the specific capabilities required to solve those problems. Evaluate what technology you have in front of you first and then decide if you need to add more. Use this method for each of your problems. If you have one big problem, chances are you actually have lots of little problems; so break it down!

Pitfall #2: Ensure you have buy-in from end-users

Even the best BI tools are ineffective if they’re not utilised, and no amount of training or standardising will convince people to use technology they don’t feel benefits them personally. Assuming employees will use newly purchased BI technologies simply because the organisation is standardising on them is a mistake, but it’s not uncommon. It’s easy to assume this – but your end users may not understand why you’ve changed the system.

Our top tip:

Instead of telling employees they must use something, help them understand why they’ll want to use it. Clearly articulate the value proposition and adoption will follow. The solutions for different areas will vary. For example, your finance department will want to see how they can optimise their quarterly reports, whereas your HR department will want to utilise functionality with annual appraisals and other data.

Pitfall #3: Not understanding security and governance

With so many things to think about when it comes to reporting your data effectively, it’s not unusual to forget about the cautionary tales about data you’ve heard in the past. If everyone has access to everything, then nobody gets left out and communication is improved, right? Not quite….

Don’t make the mistake of forgetting about data governance. Giving all the data to all the people and just letting them explore is unwise. For many, at first sight it may seem like the easiest solution. What company doesn’t want a brilliant ‘one size fits all’ process without having to really do anything?

Our top tip:

Ensure a level of governance is in place prior to implementation. Review who needs to see what and why. It can be a lengthy process but when it comes to data protection, you must have controls in place – especially with regulations like GDPR looming!

Pitfall #4: Lack of consideration for your existing architecture

Many business intelligence solutions offer wide and varied features – and that is often how they are evaluated. However, one very important feature needs to be considered – integration and compatibility.

While features are important, it is also important to make sure the BI solution you choose integrates well with your other business systems – e.g. everyday office applications, ERP, etc.

Top tip:

Before Power BI there was SSRS (otherwise known as SQL Server Reporting Services). This was run on older technology and was perfect for operational reporting. Microsoft’s Power BI takes that one step further. It’s perfect for data analysis, which, in an increasingly digital world, is now incredibly insightful for businesses of any size. You can read more about it here.
Pitfall #5: Not choosing a scalable solution

Options such as self-service analytics are becoming the norm. Organisations want solutions that can work with new data sources, and have flexibility and usability from various dashboards.

What should be married to this idea is ensuring your BI solution can adapt to your business needs.

Pitfall #6: Underestimating your mobile workforce

Many companies forget to consider mobility. How we consume BI is as important as what we consume. You need to make sure you’re consuming the right kind of BI. Strip back to the bare minimum of what you need, and build it from there – slowly.

Our top tip

In some cases, a simple KPI displayed on a smartphone is as useful as a paper-based reports. Keep it simple.

Pitfall #7: fast-tracking implementation

A rapid deployment is not always a successful one. It is crucial that the implementation is not rushed so that enough time is set aside for training to ensure users are given the time to develop or acquire the skill sets needed to use the business intelligence software effectively. Rather than expecting to solve every business problems at the same time, prioritise specific outcomes you want to achieve.

Our top tip:

Deploy your business intelligence software in stages (we recommend a Proof of Concept project first). For something to be able to work well in the longer term, you need to put the time in as much as you can in the earlier stages to make sure everything is perfect for your needs.

Pitfall #8: Lack of education for users

Many organisations exhaust their BI budgets on licenses and front-loaded training. However, today’s business intelligence systems are complex structures that require far more training in order for users to be able to acquire genuine value from them.

Our top tip:

Provide ongoing training so users become familiar and comfortable with the system. Make sure new users are trained up and existing users are made aware of updates and changes. Take users’ feedback into account when you make updates too.

Pitfall #9: Not relying on the data you collect

Some companies collect valuable data, but then don’t share, analyse it or act on it. Many companies become complacent with a pre-defined set of reports and don’t consider the changing business environment.

Our top tip:

By leveraging the information gathered and applying it to their own business models, companies can avert risk and make informed decisions to drive their business forward.

Pitfall #10: Thinking you should be searching for your data, when the data should be presenting itself to you

When it comes to data, we spend such a long time searching for it. From selecting key criteria to searching for analytics on that data, all we do is go digging for more. When it comes to BI, the data should be presenting itself to you, and you can then ask questions about what’s presented. Getting into this mindset can ensure that your BI is running like a well-oiled machine.

Our top tip:

Make sure that the data presented to you is relevant and obvious. Avoid using ‘long way round’ strategies to get access to your data. Configure your BI software to make the right data comes to you. The search function in Microsoft’s Power BI can make searching for data easier, if you’re looking for something that’s specific. (i.e. ‘which salesperson had the highest sales in Kensington’ can give you some intelligent results).

So, to summarise – when it comes to BI, there are loads of options out there and it can get pretty complicated. Then there are many internal factors you need to consider when thinking about your end users. Are they trained? What are their requirements? Do they really need access to large amounts of data? Why?

Taking the time to think through your BI process from choosing the right platform right through to implementing it and guiding your team through the process. We can recommend Microsoft’s Power BI. You can read our article about what it is why it could be brilliant for your company here. If you’d like to know more about the Microsoft BI stack, please get in touch!