Even small companies are investing a great deal of money in data collection and analytics these days. But many don’t know how to use that data to drive sales. Exercising well-known business intelligence best practices, however, ensures that the investment you’ve made into collecting and analyzing data pays off.

For most small businesses, these practices come down to adoption and usability. Unless you adopt processes that present this data in formats that are usable to you and your staff, you’re not making the most of your investment.

These nine business intelligence best practices can make the difference when it comes to making the most of business intelligence.

1. Business Intelligence Should Focus on Business

Implementing any data collection and analytics program for your business needs to serve the managers and employees using the data. Although there seems to be no limit to the amount or type of data these systems can collect and store, remember that end-users need actionable information.

Many small companies realize that data collection and analytics are necessary for their company’s growth. However, one of the most vital business intelligence best practices to implement from the very beginning is ensuring that decision-makers are involved in the process.

By identifying priorities before collecting data, business owners can save a great deal of time and money.

2. Make Sure the Data is Accessible

Unless you can access the data in an easy-to-use and understandable way, your employees won’t be able to utilize the data in real time. In fact, they may resist using it at all.

Dashboard systems and visualization tools allow users to connect with business intelligence intuitively. Don’t depend on data analysts to query and print voluminous reports. Experts recommend that business intelligence best practices demand self-service dashboard integration and graphing capability for any data reporting system.

BI teams are developing user-friendly mobile apps that function remotely from tablets and smartphones to allow managers to access this data in a meaningful way.

2. Offer the Team Proper Training

It doesn’t matter how much data you collect if your team doesn’t understand how to access and use it. Make sure you provide every member of your team with training in how to retrieve data and narrow it down for their department or job duties.

One of the most essential business intelligence best practices involves adequate training for managers and staff. If you’ve invested in customer analytics or operational analysis tools, then invest in training so your people can put that data to good use.

3. Control Access to Data

Once you’ve implemented an analytics program, it’s important to decide who has access to what information. Different employees or departments will need different information to perform their functions. Some employees might need access to advanced functions where user-defined queries provide a wide range of scenarios to analyze. While others, on the other hand, only need to access customer data on their mobile device while in the field.

The tools may be easily accessible, but the information provided is not one-size-fits-all. Begin by grouping employees and departments and defining their roles in the program. A good start is grouping teams into four categories.

These categories can be data analysts, executives and managers, company users, and IT personnel. Each will need a different level of access to the data, and most applications allow you to set permissions.

4. Create a Business Intelligence Map

Before you can implement these business intelligence best practices, you should define your strategy for using the data. Get input from each department, from the warehouse to the executive suite. Then, identify where business intelligence can have the most significant impact.

This strategy ensures you can modify operational practices or marketing plans that can affect your bottom line immediately. For example, if your business expenses are rising quickly, operational data will help you streamline your processes. If sales need a boost, customer analytics may provide insight.

5. Make Expectations Clear

Perhaps one of the most important but easily overlooked parts of the process is assigning the right roles in your business intelligence process. Make sure that the right people are looking at that data and understand how they’re supposed to use it.

When assigning roles in your team, make sure that your employees know what’s expected of them when using the system. With some small business intelligence solutions, employees are expected to collect and input data.

Therefore, they should have a clear idea of what data they’re responsible for if any. You may also choose to delegate a liaison from each department who will ensure the quality of that department’s data on a regular basis.

6. Determine the Metrics That Make Sense

business team analyzes income charts and graphics with folders and digital tablet

If every employee has access to every single piece of information, it could result in a lot of confusion. Of all the business intelligence best practices, defining which metrics are most important helps to streamline efforts and maintain focus on the goals.

This is especially important for small businesses just testing the waters of data collection and analysis. If the company focuses on too many metrics at once, employees might start to ignore the most crucial and actionable data.

Start with metrics that provide insight into immediate needs. Then take a closer look at historical data to identify trends that affect long-term goals.

7. Train a Business Intelligence Officer

Instead of allowing your team to get overwhelmed on their own, assign one person to the role of the business intelligence officer. This officer can offer support to all departments, so invest in training them in the technical aspects of the system.

This officer can provide technical support, basic training, and answer any questions from the end-users. If possible, make sure the officer is trained to provide analytics and design reports as well.

8. Reduce the Complexities of Business Intelligence

After you implement these business intelligence best practices in your company, avoid confusing your employees by adding other systems to collect and analyze data.

This can result in one or both systems being abandoned, if not highly inaccurate. Try not to interrupt productivity in your company with new software and redundant tasks.

9. Encourage Employees to Experiment

chemistry bottles of different shapes with colorful liquids inside

Once your employees understand the tools at their disposal, encourage them to experiment. By discovering new uses for the data provided or the built-in reporting tools, they’ll begin to develop the necessary skills to solve problems and access data on their own.

They’ll soon discover that they can analyze millions of data sources from Google Docs, CSV, and Excel. Those in sales can use social media analytics to increase customer engagement. Managers will be able to incorporate new data into operations, allowing them to make better-informed decisions about product development and pricing.

Putting Business Intelligence Best Practices into Play

Business intelligence and data analytics were recently the exclusive purviews of big businesses. Now, more small businesses than ever can access outside information and use it to create more efficient operations practices.

Customer analytics allows even the smallest mom and pop operation to not only to meet the needs of their customers but anticipate them as well. However, tracking this data can be a significant investment, not only of capital but also of time and energy.

Without putting these business intelligence best practices into play, you won’t see a sizeable return.

However, with these methods in place, you’ll soon identify which metrics best drive the results you need. And once you and your employees are proficient in using the tools available, you’ll wonder how you ever managed before.

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