The Analysis Connection – Beyond the Data

Joe Shrewsbury
Joe Shrewsbury
Mariner Consultant & Trainer

In my many interactions with Power Pivot clients, there always seems to be excitement around self-service BI because of the ability to access and manipulate data faster. Those who attend training quickly recognize their new ability to produce their reports faster and with more bells and whistles than before. But what is missing, too often, is the connection to real analysis.One client told me the Finance Director at his firm didn’t see the need for a corporate BI solution. He said that his pitch to the Finance Director was that a well-structured BI solution would allow people to get better data and get it faster.  The Finance Director replied that he has never had a problem getting data.  He just asks for it and he gets it within a few hours.  At first glance, it appears that the Finance Director does not understand the difficulty encountered by those who provide data to him or the risk of poor data quality resulting from this approach.  But a deeper look reveals something more interesting.

My client’s pitch for a corporate BI solution was based on his personal pain point, the difficulties in getting data.  What he missed is the real value of a corporate BI solution with a well-designed data warehouse and delivery tools, which is analysis.

Too often the emphasis is on “data” when the value is in “analysis.”  Legacy tools used by most corporate analysts have created a culture of reporting – delivering data as quickly and accurately as possible. This approach leads to tunnel-vision, providing business leaders with the same data or same report they’ve been getting.

A better approach is to develop a culture of analysis by asking, “What can I do differently with the data?”  Ask new questions.  Try to find something you don’t already know about your business. This can only be done if you have data that is readily accessible, accurate, and trusted.  This is when corporate BI solution becomes valuable. Instead of spending time accessing data, explore relationships and interdependencies that can lead to profit-enhancing surprises about your business.

When speaking to business leaders about the need for a corporate BI solution (data warehouse, data mart, dashboards, scorecards, etc.) don’t talk about data.  Don’t talk about reports, or even dashboards and scorecards. Talk about the real benefit of BI – Intelligence about the Business.  Sell your Finance Director on the ability to make more informed decisions about forecasts and performance.  Sell your VP of Marketing on the ability to target specific customers with promotions based on their known preferences.  It’s not just about the data.  It is what you do with the data.

How are you tackling these cultural shifts?  Send me an email and we can share notes.

— Joe Shrewsbury 

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