Diving into Business Intelligence with our Software Engineer: a Series
As organizations modernize and become more digital, there is a growing need for efficient and accessible ways of leveraging data across teams.
Enter: Business Intelligence (BI).
For Usabilla, that’s where George came in. This series was inspired by our Senior Software Engineer, George Visniuc, who introduced us to BI at Usabilla. He has championed the BI effort here and continues to lead the way helping every team build their dashboards and collect insights.
Forrester defines BI as, “A set of methodologies, processes, architectures, and technologies that transform raw data into meaningful and useful information.”
Making sense of big data is a vital step for any organization that wants to build an advanced analytics pipeline. Whether you’re on a product, marketing, support or management team, using well-rounded data to uncover patterns, and sharing what you learn with your team helps everyone in the organization reach better-informed decisions.
What exactly is BI?
To borrow a metaphor from Pete James Thomas, BI is like an unplanned archaeological excavation. Oftentimes when builders go to break ground for a new building project, they uncover ancient artifacts which thus have to be dealt with slowly and carefully, before the project can continue.
If building a new and contemporary skyscraper is like growing your business, then BI is the impromptu archaeological excavation that takes place after alarmingly old and precious artifacts are found underground. Before you can begin building, you have to tackle the historic treasures found in your plot of land.
In the case of growing your business, you have to extract valuable data from various business segments, clean it up, and put it together in one central location.
Think of your legacy data systems as an ancient clay pot that’s been broken into pieces and scattered underground. Each segment is just a part of the whole, and you must take the time to piece them together to get the whole story. Like an archaeological dig, it’s difficult to estimate how much time it will take to uncover all the pieces and the importance of doing so- until it’s done.
For companies with scattered legacy data systems, it takes engineers time to sift through, organize, and load data into a system to uncover insights. But when you do, the results offer clear pathways to success. Outlining exactly where to allocate investments, which course of action to take, and how to build your business to great new heights.
Where does BI help my business?
It boils down to a simple fact:
Most modern companies have data that is either unused or improperly leveraged, and BI changes that.
BI helps turn raw data into clear action, which is what makes it so attractive. The result? Individual departments can work together in new ways to reach sound decisions.
With BI, you can bring data sets together and make it easy for anyone to access and understand. Rather than directly impact revenue, BI helps shape product design and productivity, which results in long-term gains.
Why should I consider BI?
Data for all ranges of tech-savvy minds
Self-service BI is the goal. Luckily, the best BI platforms allow for data democratization, meaning that stakeholders from every team in your organization can get involved, even with little to no technical knowledge. Why is this so important?
The more diversity of skill-sets using a BI platform, the more deeply data-driven strategy runs. When every department is making decisions based upon data, the entire organization becomes more efficient.
Ditch the gut feeling for tried and true data
Let’s imagine. A few technical employees at your organization collect and analyze your data, but they don’t have an accessible dashboard or easily digestible visualizations to show to other departments. This means that marketing and sales teams are left to make assumptions based on improperly explained or isolated data, as well as gut feelings. While gut feelings aren’t always wrong, you run the risk of problems arising in the long-run since major business and budget decisions are made in the dark without holistic data analysis.
Empower every team with clear goals
Picture a second scenario, wherein your tech team starts a BI initiative, combining data from legacy models across different business units to draw insights. Once it’s integrated smoothly with new data and put through a BI platform, with a visual and easy-to-understand format that all employees can access, your company has a strong understanding of its BI capabilities and can supplement intuition with actionable insights.
How can BI break down bias?
BI helps break down business silos. Using data visualizations and filtering, different teams can combine their data and efforts to reach a common conclusion.
In breaking down silos, BI attempts to get rid of inherent biases. For example, this could help in a meeting between sales and product, ensuring the most valuable feature requests are prioritized based on customer usage, need, and financial impact.
Instead of salespeople requesting new features based on one customer’s needs, you can weigh various suggestions with data to create an informed product roadmap.
BI can also help recruitment improve their hiring processes and invest in better candidates by breaking down the best months to hire, or by identifying key strengths in certain roles. It could help marketing validate their advertising efforts and make a strong business case to receive more budget in the future.
Certain events or figures allow multiple departments to view a business problem from objective reality. They balance the playing field by allowing teams who don’t usually speak the same language to understand each other and squash uncertainty.
The most important outcome? Using BI in cross-functional meetings will allow you to plainly see what’s working and what’s not, which cuts down extraneous conversation on how to proceed with investments.
Moreover, an easily accessible data aggregation and visualization tool allows your executives to make smart and holistic decisions based on every team’s needs.
What does BI look like?
The theory behind BI is powerful, but it’s visualizations that make it almighty. Without data visualization, you’ll struggle to make the business case you need to get key stakeholders on your side. Without it, you’re essentially flying blind.
As data visualization tool Tableau explains,
“In the world of Big Data, data visualization tools and technologies are essential to analyze massive amounts of information and make data-driven decisions.”
Relaying information in a way everyone can understand is the beauty of BI dashboards. They give you the confidence to make your point and for others to see it too.
Common types of data visualization:
There are infinite ways to visualize your data, see graphic below:
Visualizations bring raw data to life. Take for example u/citrusvanilla’s amazing graphic of Manhattan’s population by hour:
If you’re curious to learn more about the graphic above, you must check out the website. Yes, it may seem obvious, but it’s important to remember our minds can understand and remember things more easily when they include clear color and shape breakdowns.
Consider these two visualizations of Nike and Netflix’s quarterly earnings:
Although both display color, Nike’s visualization is far more digestible and easier for a non-technical person to understand. Moreover, you quickly get an understanding of Nike’s total revenue and various revenue streams and costs, whereas Netflix’s graph takes a few moments to comprehend.
If you want your data to be democratized and put into action, you need to make it visual.
We could go on forever about the importance of data visualization. But to save you some time, check out these awesome data visualization resources.
Becoming business intelligent is indelible to becoming a data-driven and innovative company. Whether you are a developer, a BI analyst, marketer, or Salesperson, BI will make your job more efficient. Before you’re successful, you have to excavate your legacy data systems to paint a full picture of what’s really going on within your organization. After that, you have the ability to grow your business with clear direction and knowledge.
Putting the BI in Usa[bi]lla
Here at Usabilla, we represent a small company trying to integrate BI at a large scale with few resources. In an effort to share knowledge and open the discussion on how we’re improving and learning, subsequent blogs in the Usabilla BI series will go into more detail on how our BI program specifically helps us become better Voice of the Customer experts, as well as what you can do to improve your own collection of customer feedback.
No one BI program looks like another. That’s why in this series, we’ll explore what BI looks like at our company, how we launched an internal initiative and why it’s a major priority for us moving forward.
Curious to learn more? Have a look at Part 2 of the series, Deep Dive into BI at Usabilla, where we’ll cover how we set up our BI process, our goals, and accomplishments so far.