The beginning of a business intelligence (BI) initiative is exciting.  It’s likely something your association has wanted to do for a while and you are now ready to start.  Because this has been a long time coming and everyone is excited, it is natural to want to deliver BI to all departments.  However, in our experience, this well-intentioned goal will not lead to a successful implementation.  As part of our 5-Step Process for Business Intelligence, the first step is to scope the project.  Within the scope, we encourage narrowing the focus and sharing your vision in simple terms. Here are 5 ways you can narrow your focus:DSK Solutions Blog image

  1. Limit the cooks in the kitchen
    A small number of people should be responsible for compiling all of the business questions of the association and prioritizing them. One way to help with prioritization is to use an agile game. A example is the Pick a Horse Game where each team member is given a limited amount of “money” to put on the business questions (horses) they consider the most important. At the end of the game, the business questions can be ranked using the amount of “money” they have on them.  After the business questions have been prioritized, one point of contact, the project sponsor, has the responsibility of maintaining the agreed upon scope as the initiative progresses. We have found that one point of contact is more effective than decisions by committee because they often lack accountability in addition to slowing the decision-making process.
  2. Zero-Sum Requests
    If a new request comes in that seems out of scope, consider what else can be dropped or postponed. If business questions are prioritized at the start of the project, it will be easier to determine where this new request should fit in. The new business question could be a valid one, but it needs to be evaluated against other business questions that are also important.
  3. Iterative Phases
    When it is understood at the start of a project that additional phases are expected, you can not only start a high-level scope ahead of time, but can also add business questions to a parking lot (or in Agile terminology a “backlog”).  This allows you to both focus on the present scope and document future business questions that are viable for subsequent phases.
  4. Just say No
    This is the simplest and hardest way to narrow scope. The scope should be clearly defined and communicated at the beginning of a BI program. This can be done in a program charter. If scope starts to increase as the initiative progresses, use the charter document as a guide. Be firm – don’t succumb to increasing scope just because a board member or Vice President wants you to – make sure they understand the trade-off you will need to make to increase the scope.
  5. Deep not Wide
    We encourage starting with two business areas, for example membership and finance. For example, if you have a total of 10 business questions where 5 are about membership and 5 about financials – this is a vastly different (and more realistic) scope than 10 questions consisting of 2 about membership, 2 about events, 2 about publications, 2 about professional development; and 2 questions about financials. There is even more of a difference in scope if these areas come from different data sources. Keep in mind that for each data source, you’ll need to do identify business rules, perform data quality assessments, correct invalid data, and possibly construct a data mart.

Beginning a BI initiative is a collaborative journey that can change the way your association makes decisions as well as how it interacts with members. DSK has outlined a 5-Step Process for Business Intelligence that details how your association can get started with BI and use your data to create your future.