Strategy Trumps Business Intelligence Tools For Unlocking Big Data

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Will Astbury
by Will Astbury 3 June 2016

Chris-Weston.pngMany CIOs and IT leaders of major companies are becoming exasperated at the importance their board is placing on business intelligence tools.

True, extracting key insights from ‘Big Data’ is crucial for every organisation. They can teach you a lot about your customers’ interests, buying habits, marketing activities and so on. However, simply purchasing a business intelligence tool doesn’t mean you will automatically glean accurate useful information from your data.

Chris Weston, CTO of Bellrock and friend of Crimson, recently published an article on LinkedIn Pulse titled ‘“Unlock the power of your data” - if you dare’. In it he articulately, and comically, outlined the struggles that many IT decision-makers experience and explains why establishing a strong data strategy is so important if companies truly want to make the most out of their data.

He wrote: “I can't begin to imagine how many sales pitches I've heard that use the term 'unlock the power of your data'. The old trope goes that you have hidden riches waiting for you in your corporate databases if only you could dig it out, and for that of course you need a fancy visualisation tool.

“If only it were that simple. The first thing that people find when they've signed the cheque and have this new shiny tool at their disposal is that their data is bad. Why do we have invoices posted in 2025? Why do we have employees working 0 hours a week? How come our average delivery time is -0.248975 days? This can lead to disillusionment, and blame gets apportioned with the reporting team being told that their reports are junk. The reporting team tell the users that their data is bad, and everyone feels better for the experience. (They don't).

“Sadly, understanding why the data is bad, and how to fix it can be a tough problem in business environments. There are a lot of processes to fix, which means a lot of toes to tread on, especially when you come to the Data Lineage problem. People fear skeletons coming out of cupboards every time one of these projects comes around. A blame culture will kill the effort stone dead.

“So, in order to improve the quality and value of your data, you really need a strategy that sets out the business or organisational improvement that will be achieved, and not just what the cost benefit will be to achieve it, but the risks inherent in staying as you are.”

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In May 2016, CIO magazine recognised the growing prioritisation of big data by highlighting the emergence of the role of Chief Data Officer (CDO) at several notable organisations in 2015, which included the UK government and Financial Times.

Crimson’s Simon Chave, lead IT consultant and co-founder, said in his article ‘BI Strategy: Focus on the value of informed decisions not on reporting tools’ that: “Reporting tools like Power BI are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to extracting good quality data from your systems and noticing trends that will make a difference to your business.

“A strong business intelligence (BI) strategy actually relies on establishing detailed key performance indicators (KPIs) and cross departmental data mining, not solely on your data reporting tool. Policies to improve data quality are an essential facet of successful BI. Failure to address data quality will lead to a ‘garbage in, garbage out’ effect in your BI information.”

Chris shared this opinion saying: “The actual tool you use to create your bar charts is pretty much irrelevant when you compare it to the process effort.

“Going back to your strategy, understanding what you want to learn from your data, rather than using it to support a pre-existing assumption or objective, is absolutely critical.

“Starting the journey of 'unlocking the power of your data' shouldn't be taken lightly. You're embarking on 'unlocking the true state of your processes', a Pandora's box that can't easily be closed, but it can be a valuable process, if we know why we're doing it in the first place!”

As always, aligned business and IT strategies should be created before making costly investments in technology.

Check out Chris and Simon’s articles to learn more about establishing KPIs that will work for your company and the use of data marts.

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Crimson is an IT consultancy, an IT solutions provider, an IT recruitment agency, and a Microsoft Gold Partner with offices in Birmingham and the City of London.

Topics: BI