Harnessing the Power of Data

Alistair Sergeant
Alistair Sergeant

Information is essential to making intelligent decisions but, more often than not, information overwhelms us in today’s data-rich environment. Getting your house in order and using data in the right way you’ll start to get a better understanding of the real picture of what’s going on in your organisation and be able to make decisions based on key data.

Your data strategy should be driven by your overall business strategy. Once your data is in order, make sure this data matches the objectives of your organisation, your key performance indicators (KPIs) and can be viewed in a consumable format.

This article covers the benefits of becoming a data-led organisation and 10 steps to deployment. 

“Data-driven decisions are the antidote to basing your decisions on ‘gut instinct’.”


The challenge

On any given workday, business leaders are faced with an ongoing and billowing stream of data and information. Every day, they and their teams are required to make hundreds to thousands of business decisions. 

Most reporting only has a backward-looking view using data from what’s already happened, when actually, every business wants to be forward-looking. 

Often these decisions are made based on previous experiences, business as usual, or staying in your comfort zone instead of blending new and existing data and insights. The challenge then is: How can executives decipher the meaningful information from the clutter? How can they ensure that they make an impact for the business against the flush of information washing over them? How can they become catalysts of change?  Forward looking views will allow for course-correction. 

Organisations aren’t sweating their data assets, they’re using poor quality data, not setting the right KPIs and there’s a heavy reliance on I.T.  They don’t know what they want to see in terms of data, but it can all be within their grasp. Finding the right KPIs should start with your business goals. In order to help get the right KPIs, companies should map out their strategy, and then develop the key performance questions they need to have an answer to. 

Discovery and preparation is key

Before you invest in technology to help with business intelligence reporting, it is essential that you invest time upfront on really understanding what your user’s data needs are, and how they are currently carrying out their job. Then you can assess the systems they already have access to, and how beneficial they are to them. 

Determine who your business intelligence (BI) users are before deciding on the solution to deliver your business intelligence.    

  • Who are your users? 
  • What data driven goals and tasks do they need to achieve? 
  • While these seem like obvious steps, they are often missed. 

You could consider creating user profiles/personas for each type of user in your organisation.  Upon doing this step you will be able to identify common themes and requirements between cross-sections of your users, and in turn this will enable you to group them. 

Categorise your user groups. 

Time and time again we see the same generic reports and dashboards.  In order to achieve adoption of BI, categorise your user groups, then design dashboards and reports per group.  

The Discovery phase is important.  Once you know who your users are, break the discovery phase down into phases: 

1  Identify user groups 
2  What type of experience do your user groups need to have with your data in order to gain the most value? 
3  What platforms/devices will they need? This may change throughout their working day, so must be seamless from device to device. 
4  Map your user groups to your data sources. This will help you identify the most efficient data structure, in terms of the design of your future data warehouse. 

10 steps to deploying business intelligence


Every change must start with why. 

  • Why are you doing this?  
  • Why don’t you stay with what you have? 
  • When you know the reasons why, make sure those reasons are delivered in plain English and shared coherently throughout the business. 

Invest in creating a strategy.  

  • You know why you need a Business Intelligence solution  
  • But how are you going to deliver it? 
  • Without a strategy you’re wasting time, money and effort, not to mention damaging your credibility. 

Change happens with Leaders. 

  • If your Exec team are 100% on-board with the change then it’s 100% more likely to be a successful change. 
  • Being on-board doesn’t just mean that they agree with the change, it means that they change their behaviours and working practices to fully adopt the change. Crack this and the rest of the business is more likely to follow. 

This is a Business Transformation. 

  • This is not an IT project nor is it a project that should sit in isolation. 
  • This is a business change and is likely to impact all departments in one way or another. 
  • The way you operate as a business will change for the better, so don’t underestimate the scale of the change. 

Stay on track with what the business requires. 

  • Don’t be led by technology, functionality or widgets. 
  • Don’t get seduced by flashy dashboards and visuals 
  • Invest in understanding how users currently undertake their role? 
  • What their ideal way of doing this would be? 
  • What systems do they touch? 

Nobody is the same, that’s what makes the world so different.  

  • The same can be said about your users and their requirements.  
  • Users on different stages of BI will require access to different functionality 
  • Map out your user type and accommodate their requirements, training and continual improvement 
  • Encourage new users to work towards becoming more advanced users, by showing how their role can change when they embrace the change the BI platform offers.  

Classroom training isn’t for everybody. 

  • Have a flexible training plan. 
  • For example, video on demand, drop-in clinics, social ‘lunch and learns’, webinar. 

This is a business led initiative, but you must involve I.T. 

  • They will have a lot to consider in order to support the success of this project. Items such as: 
  • Design, Frequency, Snapshots, Processing, Storage. 

It’s all about adoption. 

  • Don’t stop when you “go live”. 
  • A change in the way people work is a behavioural change. 
  • Get into the hearts and minds of the users. 

Monitor and adjust.  

  • Check you are delivering against your success criteria. 
  • Take feedback on how you can improve the service.  

Develop forward looking metrics

The objective of any BI project is to create a solution that can not only deliver a ‘single version of the truth’ that can be interrogated, but also the most efficient method to do this so that the data can be trusted and remains relevant in a fast-moving environment. 

In summary:

  • Backward looking reporting, “how did we do? 
  • Better reporting provides context around the present and assists in decision support. 
  • The best reporting shows forward-looking views that enable proactive decision making.  
  • Forward looking views will allow for course-correction. 


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More about the author

Alistair Sergeant
Alistair Sergeant CEO

As CEO of Equantiis, his main focus is on strategic leadership and growth within the business whilst working through new opportunities that support this. Alistair manages client relationships so that they can benefit from his experience and knowledge. He thrives on leading a disruptive business that works with business leaders to identify and overcome complex business challenges, with cost certainty and transformative outcomes. Alistair is passionate about anything outdoors. Including running, camping and travelling with the family.

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