We meet your Business Intelligence needs using a collaborative approach which creates a unique experience, equipping our clients to make strategic decisions based upon well-designed and universally understood information. More on Incisive Analytics.
Stay in touch.
Answers To Your "BI" Questions - FAQs
Incisive Analytics specializes in Business Intelligence solutions that focus on custom-designed databases using industry-standard tools and best practice design. Our focus: to collaboratively design and deliver results that solve your most challenging business analytics and information related problems. Our approach allows companies with a disciplined Business Intelligence approach to achieve a clear competitive advantage in their markets.
What follows are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions and situations facing our clients:
- We are just starting to get into Business Intelligence. What is the best way to start the process? You’re on the right track if you are starting by asking questions! Ask everyone who could possibly help you – understand where they are coming from and listen to their advice appropriately. A hardware or software vendor will have a product to sell whereas a Data Warehouse or Business Intelligence organization (e.g., TDWI or the B-eye-NETWORK) will be more focused on disseminating best practices. Most importantly, you probably want to know what your options are, and not just settle for a single solution. So the more questions you can ask and research can you do, the better. Incisive Analytics is a hybrid of the two options; we consult on best practice design and implementation without being predisposed to any specific tool or platform. As your trusted advisor, we create custom solution options for your business culture and IT environment without the pressure of vendor sales targets, commissions or rebates to influence our recommendations.
Starting the process with Incisive Analytics is simple…meet us at one of our speaking engagements, classes, or exhibit hall booths. Or better yet, schedule a personal Tele-Guru Session where you can bring your peers for an hour of in-depth Q&A on your specific situation with a Solution Architect. We guarantee you’ll come away knowing more after your first meeting with us than you knew going into it!
- What is Business Intelligence and what are the essential elements for creating a Culture of Analytics? Congratulations! You know folks are really serious about Business Intelligence when they start talking about a "Culture of Analytics." Otherwise you have to watch out for the people (and there are always a few) who think that buying a new tool will solve your analytics problems. A tool can be helpful if your organization is already thinking analytically but most organizations are facing a gap between ‘having data’ vs. ‘consistently using it’ for strategic decision-making. There are many steps along the way, all of which indicate an organization’s BI maturity level, and building a "Culture of Analytics" is a sure-fire way to improve your BI competency.
The essential elements for creating a Culture of Analytics boil down to one major statement: Treat your data as an organizational asset. Invest in your data as you would in any other important component of your business. Protect your data investment. And, most importantly, leverage your data in every major decision you make. If you are still managing by gut feel or can’t articulate a compelling data strategy, then you are probably struggling with building your organization’s Culture of Analytics.
Incisive Analytics helps our clients articulate their BI expectations, identify where they are on the BI maturity scale, create sustainable BI initiatives and dramatically improve their Culture of Analytics across the entire organization.
- What is Data Governance and how does it relate to Business Intelligence? In short, Business Intelligence relies on using data that is credible, authoritative and valuable to an organization. New products, release schedules, definitions and regulatory issues all create opportunities for data to change, sometimes frequently and without a lot of notice. In reality, organizations find that their data is not always as current or trustworthy as they would like.
Data Governance is the nickname for a process which safeguards your organization’s most valuable data, making sure it is also credible and authoritative. Data – and metrics – which have clear value to an organization will have a definitive business owner, an authoritative source for the information (e.g., processing system or vendor), and be made available to decision-makers via a standard presentation layer. Anything less and decision-makers know they are accepting more risk in any given decision.
Incisive Analytics considers Data Governance to be a crucial element of any Business Intelligence solution. We treat data as an organizational asset and show you how to invest in your data as you would in any other important component of your business. That includes protecting your data investment, and most importantly, leveraging your data in every major decision you make.
- People are arguing over what the BI report means. I thought we weren’t supposed to have two versions of the truth anymore! Having two versions of the truth puts the credibility of your entire Business Intelligence solution at risk. It can reflect a simple misunderstanding or something more serious, such as a fundamental design issue. Regardless, it’s important to recognize when there are two versions of the truth floating around and proactively address the issue!
Without question, your employees need access to your organization’s data as they make important business decisions. A best practice Business Intelligence solution design can help minimize the risks associated with ‘two versions of the truth” by providing options:
- Unlimited but distinct variations of a common data field example: multiple employee counts
- Pick lists of data with unique and descriptive names example regular, full-time, part-time, intern, budgetary, etc.
- Pre-calculated organizational metrics benefit example cost per FTE
- Drill-through metrics and measures, especially for non-cumulative formulas example: Number of employees/group where employees can overlap groups
Incisive Analytics has concrete experience in best practice Business Intelligence design – including all the methods listed above and a few other tips and techniques – which will systematically eliminate the “two versions of the truth” problems and prevent them from coming back!
- We have data. Why can't we seem to make decisions? Don’t feel like you are alone. At least half of our clients started in this exact spot, and many other folks forget to ask the obvious, “Then why can’t we make an objective decision?” The truth is there are lots of opportunities for disconnects between collecting data and actually using it for decision-making. To mention a few:
- Incomplete data (empty data fields)
- Corrupt or inconsistent data (garbage in will lead to garbage out)
- Data is collected but is enormously difficult to access
- Data can’t be retrieved in a useful format
- Joining data from multiple sources is prohibitively difficult
- Business folks are so busy manipulating data they don’t have time to analyze it
And the list can go on from here! Just know that it’s best to stay focused on, “How do we make objective, data-driven, business decisions?” There are remedies for each of the problems above but organizational leadership needs to stay focused on the goal while providing support for the folks who are struggling with each possible obstacle.
Every organization has talented individuals who can trouble-shoot your data and decision-making processes. Incisive Analytics can bring value to the process through best practice education, independent assessments, and highly trained resources to help your organization reach your goal of efficiently making objective, data-driven decisions.
- Our BI reports aren't being used. How can I tell if I have a design or a data problem? It’s not unusual for one problem to mask the other so it’s best not to focus on only one issue during the assessment stage. Even a relatively simple issue such as "access to data" issues could be coming from either direction. If people are spending too much time getting to their data, it could be because it’s not clean or complete data or it might be a problem with the way the data is stored…or both!
Incisive Analytics' years of experience allows us to quickly, efficiently and objectively evaluate your organization’s data quality and report environment design. We educate our clients on best practices while preparing concrete recommendations for improving both your data and design.
- What is a star schema design? Why is it better? Best practice Business Intelligence solutions rely on star schema models because the design provides accurate, flexible and efficient drill-through reporting capabilities while allowing users to create their own reports from a pick list of options. In this environment, "user self-service" becomes a reality, freeing up valuable IT resources to work on higher organizational priorities.
To be sure, there are other designs which provide some of these elements but certainly not all of them. It is possible for vendors to create a dashboard or report for their software product that mimics self-service but you are likely to find that they are not as flexible as needed for an organization committed to a sustained Business Intelligence initiative.
Incisive Analytics’ clients frequently ask for an independent "best practice assessment" of their existing data warehouse, reporting and dashboard designs to understand where the organization falls on the Business Intelligence maturity curve. We not only provide a lens into the current state but also provide a clear roadmap with definitive recommendations on how to migrate to a more efficient, flexible and robust Business Intelligence environment.
- Our company has dashboards. Why do I need BI? “BI” is not just one thing. Business Intelligence covers a spectrum of capabilities ranging from the production of standard and ad hoc reports, drillable queries and KPIs, exception-driven alerts to take action, dashboards, forecasting and predictive modeling.
All organizations are pursuing their BI initiatives at their own pace with their own unique priorities. So if your organization already has dashboards, you are clearly investing in BI and can use the spectrum above to make sure you are filling in the gaps in your BI competencies. While it isn’t necessary to be strictly linear in your approach, big gaps in the first items on the list will create obstacles to effectively pursuing the more complex items on the list.
Incisive Analytics' broad exposure to a range of approaches allows us to advise our clients on the pitfalls and advantageous approaches that we’ve seen in practice, and always with an eye toward migrating to industry best practices.
One last important point on the topic…achieving the spectrum of BI capabilities efficiently requires a solid foundation. In our experience, a solid foundation hinges on the right design – a "star schema" design. If your dashboard isn’t pulling its data from a star schema design, your organization will most definitely benefit from a best practice Business Intelligence solution!
- We have too much data. How do I determine the right thing to measure? Most of our clients tell us they have data but they have trouble making sense out of it. We believe a Business Intelligence solution is an investment in your data. So for that reason, we carefully review your organization’s greatest pain points, strategic and operational goals and unique culture to identify the Canary Metrics that drive your business results. Some of them will be high-payback operational metrics while others will clearly enable transformational change. Regardless, they are always tied to measurable performance outcomes which are an integral part of any investment analysis.
Incisive Analytics will partner with you to plan your investment in your data, much as you would invest in any other important component of your business. Determining the right things to measure makes sure that you will have the opportunity to leverage your data in every major decision you make.