What Is Next Generation BI?

4 Tips on using Next Generation BI to Accelerate your (or your client’s) Business – Today

Business Intelligence (BI) is built on old data systems, and has an ‘expert’ culture that means deliverables are reliant on technical specialists. In the early days of reporting, those experts were IT teams. As technology evolved and became more available, BI report and dashboard delivery was now handled by a new larger set of more generalist experts — data analysts. This made analytics more accessible, but still didn’t make self-service data insights a reality across an entire business. 

This process is still quite inefficient: dashboards share information as is, but without careful design they cannot provide recommendations at the right moment to a decision maker. Business professionals want such recommendations as soon as possible in order to make informed decisions – but it is important that data quality and fidelity is prioritised as well as speed.

In this post we are going to cover 4 areas of focus that will help you identify the right BI tools to accelerate your (or your client’s) business:

Tip 1: Meet Your Needs with the Right Platform

There are so many platforms available out there offering various features and tools. RFP the top ones and create a list of your needs and how these are met from the platforms available. Don’t pick technologies that look flashy and cool; instead pick the ones that do the job for you and your clients, can handle complex data problems, and support multiple types of insights and storytelling. In short, make a choice that works for the long haul!

Picking the right platform can accelerate your path to transform your clients’ businesses in a cost and time efficient way

Tip 2: Pick the Right Tech Stack for Your Needs

While looking for the right BI platform, keep an eye on the overall tech stack. There could be a few hidden benefits down the road if your platform is supported by a robust suite of technologies. For instance, picking Tableau could give you access to the Salesforce universe, while picking Data Studio could unlock the Google one. Think about what’s right for your use case.

This is important if you aim to produce or sell data as a product or analytics as a service to multiple clients. Having access to a bunch of platforms from the outset, can give your company a competitive advantage in the marketplace. For instance, Tableau could be paired with Salesforce CRM or Consumer360 – technology combinations that help you offer paired services to clients through native integrations. The most significant benefit here is peace of mind, but you will also save huge amounts of time and effort.

Tip 3: Aim for Enterprise Data Management

This enables universal definition of data and seamless interoperability between domains and applications. Enterprise data management delivers a 360-degree view of customers, orders, products, etc. Creating concrete data fabric across the business is critical, because it affects all nodes of your BI operations. You must ensure the data is clean and actionable through layers of Q&A, governance, metadata, and more.

Robust data management can accelerate data consumption, enabling real time operations and insight generation, that bring you closer to your goal of delivering data and recommendations at the right time for decision makers.

Tip 4: Construct a Roadmap

A common pitfall in the industry is that typically organisations rush to build BI platforms without developing a long-term plan. This results in a basic BI foundation that misses long term performance indicators, including innovation stagnation. The best way to prevent this from happening is to carefully consider and build a roadmap that guides constant evolution of your BI offerings. 

For instance, the first twelve months could focus on picking the right BI platform and stack, setting up any required infrastructure, and rolling out necessary reporting and visualisation assets. The following twelve months could focus on integrating the platform with a cloud processing engine (i.e.Databricks) to accelerate data ingestion and processing. Another good step in the next 12 months could be to integrate your platform with a data catalogue (ie IBM Data catalogue) to accelerate metadata management. 

Having all these ideas in the roadmap, and effectively prioritising them, is the key for success: typically organisations with roadmaps can go from zero offerings to third generation BI solutions within just 5 years.

Taking Action

So, that all sounds good, but how can you take action today?

Our handy sequential guides below take you through the process of addressing our four tips, letting you maximise the power of your next generation BI:

Tip 1 Actionable: Pick the Right Platform 

  1. Create a shortlist of the top platforms available in the industry. Tableau, Datorama, PowerBI are the big players – but during your research you may come across some alternatives that also meet your needs.
  2. Score them based on their capabilities, for instance you could consider: data ingestion, data harmonisation, data governance, pricing, etc.
  3. See how these platforms and their capabilities meet your needs in terms of data functionality and monetization for the business. You should also spend some time thinking about increasing platform awareness and adoption.
  4. Proceed with demos for your top 3 picks and take copious amounts of notes.
  5. Test a prototype if possible.
  6. Choose a platform and pick the right package for your needs. 
  7. Now you can roll out your platform!

Tip 2 Actionable: Pick the Right Tech Stack

  1. The approach here is slightly different to choosing a platform as there can be a lot more complexity. 
  2. There are heavy technology stacks that dominate most industries. Start doing research for your industry of choice and focus on top needs. Don’t go too granular since those companies have massive ecosystems so this process could take a lot of time.
  3. Identify technology pairs that make sense for your clients i.e. CRM and BI platform, CDP and BI platform, clean room and BI platform, etc.
  4. Reach out to technology companies to understand what they offer and ask for demos – you will find most are happy to oblige! 
  5. Carefully evaluate what you need now versus a few months/years down the road. Don’t commit to long term contracts unless you have a roadmap with robust use cases.
  6. Congratulations! you can proceed with your BI platform of choice and expand accordingly, depending on your clients’ needs!

Tip 3 Actionable: Implement Enterprise Data Management

  1. Start from the top, designing processes for the key strategic areas: data management, processing, governance, and security. 
  2. Then drill down to tactical and execution areas to see what is already built, what is in progress and what is in the pipeline.
  3. Ensure critical areas are already up and running before committing to build your BI platform. This is a typical pitfall in the industry i.e. signing up for a new platform without having basic functions in place like metadata pipelines.
  4. Prioritise the next layer of development to cover future key areas, i.e. real time APIs, platform interoperability, and security audits.
  5. Make sure you version your assets to ensure there is homogenous development across your data portfolio.
  6. Great work! Now you have implemented enterprise data management processes!

Tip 4 Actionable: Build a Roadmap

  1. Create a plan of action split into 6-month increments (typically H1, H2, etc), and map planned development against these time periods. Don’t forget to include your human resources plan as well!
  2. Create time safety nets to account for margin of error.
  3. Ensure you have alignment from company leadership and key stakeholders. This is a frequent challenge in organisations, and the plan can quickly fall apart if there is disagreement down the line, so it pays to make sure everyone is on the same page before you embark on following your BI roadmap.
  4. Create measurement checkpoints, and roll the plan out.
  5. Congratulations, your plan is live!

Closing Thoughts

In conclusion, picking the right BI platform for your needs is actually not too complicated – it just needs some time and research to ensure you are making the right decision for your use cases. There have been 40+ years of BI development so platforms are pretty sophisticated nowadays, you will have plenty of options that meet a plethora of use cases. Do your homework, work with your peers and management team, and pick the best platform for you. 

The time to level-up your BI offerings is now!

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