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Business strategy

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How to approach your first business analytics project

Are you thinking about starting a business analytics (BA) initiative in your organization? Here are a few tips to help ensure a successful start.

1. Look for a quick win. A quick win is a manageable first phase to an initiative that shows a reasonable return on investment (ROI) and builds team and sponsor confidence in the solution. An initial success will lay the foundation for all future BA efforts.

For example, if your team’s eventual goal is to centralize the financial accounting departments of a dozen properties into a single shared services center, you could start by selecting a subset of the properties and centralizing a few of the accounting operations. Phasing the project like this allows the team to build out a solution at a manageable pace while showing some immediate returns. This has the benefit of showing the expected ROI of the BA solution and gets the sponsors solidly on board for the remaining work.

2. Focus on visibility into the data. It is vital for your first BA initiative to focus on providing maximum visibility into the data. This means making it accessible and easy to look at and analyze. Business users will start seeing ways that the organization can save money or generate new revenue. Managers will have new insights into the operations and will be able to identify issues surrounding the organization’s key metrics. Business analysts can discover and document best practices to use throughout the organization. The list is seemingly endless.

3. Plug and play. Where possible, it is wise to implement a plug-and-play BA model. Organizations can maximize benefits by implementing a reporting package early and then creating standardized, repeatable templates for use in future phases of the project. This creates economies of scale that enhance the ROI of the BA solution.

4. Select your tools. It is important that your solution uses models that are easy to access and require less time to maintain. Your platform should also be open enough that it can be used for practically anything that can be imagined. Good tools will not restrict how they can be used with your data sources or company’s business structure. Many BA tools are single purpose products that impose a structure that has to be worked around. It is important to select a platform that will support the vision of your team members and take them where they want to go.

5. Embrace and extend Clients who energetically embrace their BA tools and use them well are continuously looking for new and creative ways to use them. A large part of our work at EKS&H involves extending our clients’ capabilities, managing new initiatives, maximizing and tuning BA environments, and helping administer their environments without the need for an entire department of people. With the right resources and the right approach, great ideas can be implanted, embraced and extended.

To ensure success on your BA rollout, think of your solution as an investment in the long-term success of your organization. Get the right people on board, start small, celebrate your first quick win and grow the initiative over time while creating a series of success stories.