6 Tips to Plan and Manage a Successful BI Project
PMs can deliver business intelligence projects successfully by taking a few critical steps before diving into the initiative.
A business intelligence (BI) project as a deliverable isn’t the norm for most project managers. Still, PMs help enterprises discover phenomenal opportunities by improving how they make use of data gathered from legacy ERP and CRM applications.
Project managers who successfully execute business intelligence initiatives have become an increasingly important addition to any organization’s human capital. PMs who do so successfully are savvy enough to understand that they can’t deliver BI projects using the same methods as those that apply for other IT initiatives.
The following six tips can help you plan to manage a successful BI project.
1. Begin With the Stakeholders in Mind
To gain a real understanding of stakeholders’ desires, you need face-to-face interaction. If that’s not possible, video conferencing is the next best thing, followed by teleconference. Tim Morrow, Sr. Business Analytics at Skyline Technologies explains, that he looks to dive deep into how key stakeholders use the data and what they are trying to garner from it. He conducts thorough analysis of stakeholders in each department in order to identify key requirements for success of the BI initiative. User personas are created that detail the pain points and how the data will be utilized to fulfill the requirements.
Whatever you do, don’t start planning a BI project by working with written specs.
It would help if you interviewed executives, managers, analytical technicians and anyone else who will use the deliverable regularly. A few hours of investigative interviews will make your job much more manageable and increase the likelihood of producing the outcome that all stakeholders desire.
2. Create a Business Process Flowchart to Identify Desired Outcomes
Grab a whiteboard and markers or pen and pad. If you must, you can use PowerPoint or Visio. Spend a few hours outlining what questions your project needs to answer. At this stage, you want to visualize the process, rather than the data. When you finish, you should be able to easily describe how the organization makes decisions as well as how they measure the outcome of those decisions.
3. Spend Extra Time on Staffing
It’s hard enough to corral team members for a traditional IT project. Even if an organization has the available talent on tap, you still want to give yourself ample lead time to orient various professionals toward a BI project mindset. You’ll need to promote buy-in among a range of specialists, including:
- Business analysts
- Data analysts
- Data architects
- Data modelers
- ETL developers
- Report developers
- Subject matter experts
Technical expertise alone isn’t enough to qualify for participation in the project. Each member must contribute some form of industry-specific knowledge.
Finding staff members with the right mix of technical and industry expertise makes staffing a BI project that much more difficult. Give yourself extra lead time.
Also, once you identify qualified team candidates, there’s no guarantee that they’ll look forward to participating in the initiative. You’ll also want to give yourself time to promote team member buy-in.
4. Make Sure That Desired Outcomes Align With Reality
More often than not, stakeholder expectations exceed the potential positive outcomes of the project. Also, various stakeholders will have different definitions of a successful outcome.
You should also consider that stakeholder objectives can shift at the project unfolds. Accordingly, allow time to make adjustments. Include regular checkpoints early and often. Use the checkpoints to validate and revise requirements as the project progresses.
5. Step Away From the Computer: Ideating the Dashboard
Don’t sit down at your computer just yet. Pull out your whiteboard again and set aside another few hours to draft out the critical dashboard elements, such as data points, dimensions and filters.
If the scope of the project is relatively simple, you can start modeling the dashboard at this stage. If the project is vast in scope, it helps to create a full mockup of the dashboard using your whiteboard.
The mockup will help you visualize the finished product. You can also use it for stakeholder approval before building the actual dashboard.
6. Leverage Automation to Corral Data and Create Powerful Visuals
Don’t struggle to wrangle data into your dashboard from disparate sources. Use a tool to connect your data. By joining the data sources, you’ll make it easier to merge information and make changes on the fly.
This is where BI platforms allow you to explore data, visualize trends and build intuitive dashboards. What’s more, you can use these tools to share the dashboard with stakeholders easily.
In an interview with TheStartupMag.com, Datapine CEO Martin Blumenau explains where the idea for their Business Intelligence tool came from. Blumenau and his co-founder Jakob were working at another startup while consistently seeing the same problems over and over when it came to accessing data for analysis. They needed to make decisions based on company KPI’s where the data lived in databases that they couldn’t access because they weren’t developers. They needed to elicit help from IT staff to pull the data they needed each and every time. This was incredibly inefficient and time consuming. The idea for their BI dashboard was born out of this problem that they, and many other businesses, were facing.
Business intelligence initiatives are a high-risk undertaking for project managers. Nevertheless, they are an excellent way to learn about an organization and industry. After the successful completion of the project, you’ll truly understand the strategic goals of your client or organization.
Pulling off a successful BI project is most certainly a career booster. During the project, you’ll engage with key executives who will remember your excellent work. So yes, executing a BI project is tough, but the rewards are tenfold.