Building the Best Business Intelligence

How business intelligence makes your company more productive, more profitable, and more predictive. 

You’ve seen the demos. You’ve read the tag lines. Business Intelligence is going to make your company more productive, more profitable, and more predictive.  It all sounds good in practice, and everyone knows data’s importance in managing your business, but do you know how to manage your data?

It all starts with the source information, whether that be your property management system, accounting system, or payroll system.

The data that drives business intelligence already lives in your ecosystem and needs daily TLC.  The best way to do this is to look at all data elements of the source information and align your portfolio with standard data libraries.  For example, if you have the same vendor in multiple locations, make sure all locations are using the same vendor or, at minimum, ensure the vendor is consistent by name and vendor ID.  For payroll systems, all locations need the same departments and jobs to ensure portfolio-level reporting is succinct.  When working with property management systems, minimize custom charge codes and ensure the systems are set up consistently by the brand.  This exercise requires the most effort at the onset of the project.  Without taking these necessary steps before building dashboards, your data is inaccurate and difficult to work with before you ever get started.

Once you have confidence in your source data, you can begin to plan your implementation of a business intelligence solution.  This plan should incorporate feedback from all stakeholders within the business, identifying key performance indicators, and determining the frequency and format of the KPIs.  Next, help the stakeholders map out what your exceptions look like.  Refrain from building dashboards that generically show all data elements, forcing the end user to look at thousands of data points daily.  The goal is to manage exceptions and make the data actionable.  Armed with feedback and a list of KPIs, you can start grouping similar reporting elements and create a framework for your dashboards using simple tools, such as Visio or Excel.  It is also a good idea to circulate your sample views to get another round of feedback from stakeholders before building the new dashboards.

Now the fun part!  Build your dashboard library and group things by functional role (i.e., Operations) or the type of data (i.e., Financial) so your users can easily find the information they need.  You can also consider grouping your dashboards by frequency of use to make it is obvious which dashboards are required daily, weekly, or monthly.

Remember to always keep the end user in mind!  Once you have built the appropriate formats for the KPIs and published them, get feedback from your users again.  Set a cadence to ask for more user input in 30 to 60 days after they have had a chance to use the data daily.

Now it sounds like you are done with your business intelligence project.  I will let you in on a secret no one wants to discuss: you are never done!

Clear roles and responsibilities need to be defined to have ownership of managing data, managing user access, and managing the dashboards.  Keep in mind that every time your source information changes (because we never add new departments or new charts of accounts!), you will need to make sure you are adjusting the reported KPIs.  The ownership of managing the data ecosystem cannot be outsourced.

Only the data owner should have complete control and access to their source data.  Please understand this responsibility before investing time and money into building a system.  The management of your business intelligence is just as important as the implementation.

Luckily, M3 has been helping customers for decades get the most out of their data and modeling systems that make it intuitive and easier to manage the day-to-day operations. We can help you understand what has potential and map the possibility to your reality.  We can create dashboards for you that allow you to get immediate value out of the business intelligence tool and we can share best practices that we have learned from thousands of users.  Our goal is to set you up for success.  You bring the data, and we bring the rest!

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