Buying a business intelligence (BI) solution is similar to purchasing a car – it’s a big investment that requires research and due diligence in order to make the best decision. This is why determining your use cases for BI is a critical step to finding and purchasing the right product.
You wouldn’t purchase a car without identifying the primary uses for the vehicle (e.g. commuting, hauling, transporting kids, traveling, etc.), and the qualities you’re searching for in a car to meet your specific needs. The same is true for your BI solution. If you want to purchase the best solution that will fit your company’s needs, you must understand the use cases for the solution.
How to determine your BI use cases
Your BI use case outlines the business user or stakeholders’ problems, and how the BI solution will help solve the problems. When determining your BI uses cases, you can apply either a bottom-up or top-down approach. The bottom-up approach examines who is asking for business intelligence solutions within your organization and why that group or those groups are asking for a BI tool.
The top-down approach allows company leadership to determine the areas of business that would most benefit from a BI solution. Leadership may have a broader perspective, allowing them to see where communication or business process improvements can be made.
Our recommendation is to use both methods and involve all stakeholders when pursuing a business intelligence tool. When choosing which use cases to identify, begin with a use case that can generate a quick success story, reinforcing support for the BI solution by showing positive results. Though you want to tackle your most important needs, use less complicated use cases to start your BI solution testing.
Here are a few suggestions for areas to find use cases for BI in your company:
Manual Data Collection: Look for areas where your team may be spending a lot of time doing routine data activities. When you spot activities such as creating spreadsheet reports, or manually compiling weekly or monthly status reports, this may be an indicator that your team could use business intelligence. Leveraging BI to automate the collection of data and communication of information is always a winning proposition.
Leaky Processes: Examine your critical business processes and look for communication inefficiencies within the processes. These inefficiencies may literally be points where the process has failed due to insufficient information and communication between the different groups involved in the process, or due to systems not being integrated. Business intelligence can serve as the solution that brings information from multiple systems to provide a complete picture for the groups so that each group can make better decisions.
Data Black Holes: Find your data “black holes.” These are places in your organization where data disappears. Data black holes may result from security, a lack of resources, or because the information is siloed and the owner of the data doesn’t want to extend access to it. Data black holes exist either because your organization hasn’t considered the power of sharing data between departments, or someone in the organization is preventing data access due to lack of resources or security reasons. Any data black hole situation is a great use for BI.
Process Improvement: What are your core forward-driving business processes? These include processes involving any activities that are revenue generating, service fulfillment, customer support, human resource on boarding, and beyond. Identify the key processes in your business that drive your business forward, and determine the key metrics and key performance indicators (KPI’s) for these processes. Once you have determined the KPI’s for your key processes, BI becomes a great tool to measure whether these processes are working and how to improve them.
Putting Your BI Use Case In Writing
Once you have identified a few of your BI use cases, be sure to write them down. Here is an outline that can be used to document your use cases:
Problem Identification: The first step in documenting your BI use case is to identify the problem you are trying to solve with BI.
Diagnosis: The second step for documenting your BI use case is to flesh out a diagnosis of the problem, including the specific problem areas and potential solutions for each problem area.
Primary Stakeholders: Next, identify the primary stakeholders for the BI use case. This group would be the stakeholders that specifically have a problem and are seeking the solution.
Supporting Stakeholders: After identifying the primary stakeholders, identify the supporting stakeholders who will aid in implementing a solution to the problem.
End Goal: Finally, set a measurable goal that explains how the BI tool will help solve the problem and the ideal outcome of fixing the problem.
Once you identify your BI use cases, you will be able to better determine which BI solutions on the market truly fit your needs. This will save you and your company a lot of time, and in some cases a great deal of money (a consequence of choosing the wrong solution).