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Business Intelligence Strategy: Don’t Neglect the Strategic Insights

One of our clients is a large, successful services company for which we helped develop its BI strategy.  The company executives with whom we worked were less interested in recurring reporting of performance against targets using an agreed set of metrics – although that was important – and more interested in leveraging analytics to discern and deliver strategic insights to operational leaders in the business units.  Insights such as:

  • What attributes of a trainee sales representative make that sales rep more likely to be successful and more likely to remain with the company for his/her entire career?
  • What is the best sequence/combination of products to recommend to clients with specific characteristics or at specific life stages?
  • What types of headquarters and field office support (planning tools, training, marketing funds, back office support) most cost-effectively help the sales rep acquire and retain clients?
  • Which demographic attributes and other characteristics are most useful in profiling a local market?  Which sales/marketing approaches/business models work best for each market profile?

Seeing the Benefits of Analytics

The company had been successful for many years, relying on the intuition and deep knowledge of a very experienced work force.  But expansion of its product offerings and increased competition in the industry meant that intuition based upon what worked in the past did not guarantee the company the success it wanted in the future.  Analytics offered the potential to leverage enterprise-wide facts about clients, products, and the sales organization to supplement the anecdotal experience of a specific market by a specific sales office/sales rep.  Strategic insights – essentially, what actions demonstrably yield the best business results – could be gleaned through BI-enabled analysis of contracts (sales transactions) integrated with company activities and external data.

Strategic Insights: a different flavor of BI

Companies early in their BI journey often become so focused on the operational reporting aspects of BI – generating reports and dashboards showing actual performance versus targets, supporting recurring operational processes, and the like – that they neglect or ignore the business value that BI can provide: identification of the key drivers of business success.  Discernment of strategic insights is a different flavor of BI – less frequent, more unstructured, utilizing more external data, and requiring more business acumen by the analyst.  Once uncovered through BI, strategic insights often entail major business initiatives to act upon them, require substantial cultural change, and – most importantly – lead to the realization of significant competitive advantage via new customers, new products, new/improved distribution channels, refined business models, optimized pricing, and more.  And that’s where you want BI to be: at the table when big business decisions are considered and made.

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