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Author's profile photo Tom Kurtz

Making Business Intelligence Work for You

Making Business Intelligence Work for You

Business Intelligence (BI) is a top priority for many companies. Used effectively, it can drive insights into customer behavior, pinpoint new market opportunities, optimize marketing spend, leverage competitive intelligence, and more. Because of the obvious benefits, most companies have evolved from an attitude of “Should I utilize business intelligence?” to “How do I get the most out of business intelligence?”

Yes, choosing BI is a wise move. But once you’ve made the decision to invest, how should you proceed? How can you ensure that you get the most from your investment? How do you make BI work for you?

Three Approaches for Successful BI Strategies

Over the past decade working with hundreds of customers to enhance their business value, SAP has seen three successful approaches to getting companies started with BI:

1) Holistic BI Strategy

In this approach, you take a step back and evaluate your entire BI strategy in the context of your business. You’ll need to identify your business vision, strategies, and related growth initiatives and ensure alignment between your vision and your infrastructure needs. Execute by creating a long-term project roadmap and prioritizing your BI spending.

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2) Focused Analytic Solution

If you have a high-value business use case already identified, consider developing an initial analytic solution targeting it. This approach addresses immediate business needs, while creating an opportunity to showcase your success to other parts of the business.

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For this focused approach – for example, with a visualization quick start – you’ll need to analyze four key areas:

  • Metric framework. There are literally hundreds of metrics a company could calculate, monitor, and view. However, certain metrics are relevant to specific strategic initiatives. Identify which metrics are the most applicable to the issue you’re addressing, and why. You’ll also need to become familiar with how your metrics decompose and who in your organization views that information. For example, if a VP of operations at a retailer cares about COGS, and sees that it is tracking high for a given period, he will probably want to understand why. You may need to investigate a series of submetrics – product cost, landed cost, shrinkage – to fully understand the root causes of the increase in COGS.
  • Visualization design patterns. Identifying your metrics framework and who in your organization is viewing the information allows you to understand how that information needs to be presented. Do you have executives who need aggregate information in the form of dashboards or scorecards? Do you have analysts that require drill-down reporting capability? Do you have mobile users that require information displayed on devices?
  • Data design patterns. Once you know what you want to see and how to display it, you’ll need to determine the data required. This is one of the most important aspects to strong BI; if you don’t have a sound data strategy, your BI results will be compromised. What data is available? Where might you have data gaps? And what is the cost of acquiring new data vs. the benefit to the business?
  • Solution architecture. Finally, what technical infrastructure is required to support your analytic solution? What are the various server considerations?

3) Architecture Framework

For some IT executives, this is the logical place to start. Begin by determining your infrastructure requirements and gaining an initial technical understanding of the tools you will be deploying. Such a framework will help you better support the business as you get into the planning and implementation stages. You’ll need to systematically assess:

  • The size of your enterprise deployment
  • Security and authentication
  • Positioning of BI tools
  • Server configuration
  • Installation requirements
  • Current number of users, types of users, number of concurrent users, forecasted user growth
  • Disaster recovery plans, strategies, and backup
  • Content integration needs

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Any of these three options can be an effective starting point; the choice comes down to where your business is now, and what is required for it to be successful. Regardless of where you start, though, you can – and should – expand to take advantage of one or both of the other options as your BI footprint matures. Perhaps you want to start with an analytic solution to show success, then once that succeeds, drive more sponsorship into a full BI strategy. Or maybe you want to begin by developing your architecture framework as you get your IT story in place, then embark on an analytic solution that solves a specific use case. There are many approaches to BI – ultimately, it’s your business, and your decision.

Every day, SAP Services helps companies work through critical business decisions like these. Watch our latest World Tour presentation Decide Better: Best Practices with Business Intelligence given by Tom Kurtz, Global Practice Director HANA Services at SAP Consulting at

To learn more about how we can help ensure that BI delivers maximum benefits for your business, visit us at

What approach to BI has worked for your organization?

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