It is very difficult to place a value on the benefits received. How well are we using the information to make better decisions? There are metrics, such as comparisons of operational efficiencies, before and after, that are relatively standard for some of the most simple of BI applications. Projecting and calculating tangible values for returns, especially on more complex BI investments, is not simple. The process can be frustrating and has often seemed impossible and, perhaps, pointless. But if we can assess these benefits and provide some tangible ratings, we can provide a basis for management decision-making about BI investments for the organization.
Think about it this way:
Good BI is the fusion of the right information, the right time, the right format, and the right human and/or system resources. If we wish to improve BI, we ask these questions:
- Do the people (or intelligent systems) have the information needed, when they need it, to make decisions?
- Do those people have the expertise, training and mindset to use that information in the best way for the good of the organization?
- Are they doing their job better because of the information being delivered?
- How much difference does that information make to them?
A Benefits Audit for BI
The most effective way to assess the benefits of BI is to ask the people who are involved. We can use questionnaires and surveys administered at regular intervals. We need them however, to make a realistic assessment of the dollar benefit of doing business differently. A benefits audit must also be structured to give tangible, realistic assessments of the relative benefits of BI projects, BI day-to-day use, and the total organizational BI investment.
Using well-constructed metrics and patterns, we can turn the opinions of experts into a trustworthy assessment of the benefits of BI for the organization. Those experts are the people who use the information and the managers who daily assess the value of the performance of those people who use this information. We may also wish to add competitive analysis and opinions from customers, marketing teams and consultants. Thus, we can turn expert evaluations into a practical, meaningful assessment tool for management.
There are a number of valuable features to be gained from such a benefits audit. We can:
- Make better decisions regarding commitment of resources to BI. The relative values of BI projects can be identified before spending the money on development. Opportunity costs and risks can be evaluated up front.
- Improve management planning both strategic and tactical. Competitive, legal and regulatory requirements can more easily be assessed and planned for, and associated risks can be reduced.
- Encourage better decision-making.
- Improve the quality of BI and BI projects through a better understanding of the results. We will be able to feed results back into the processes for BI design, development and use.
- The organization’s culture can evolve and improve through an increased awareness of BI, integration and communication.
- Provide encouragement and support for our people. Just administering such audits will send a message that the organization cares about them, respects their opinions and is open to new ideas.
- Encourage creativity and broader use of BI through recognition and associated education, training and awareness.
The questions, formats and process of the BI benefits audit will provide increased awareness, understanding and training for those who develop and implement the audit, as well as for those who participate.
© Trevelyan Group LLC 2012