How To Transition Your Business Intelligence Maturity To The Next Level

Decisions Decisions

One of the earliest computer experiences I have is being in elementary school and drawing in Microsoft Paint during free time on a huge personal computer (PC) (or sometimes a cool looking Mac if we were lucky). I thought I was the coolest person ever.

It is safe to say that technology has changed a lot from those early 2000s days.

One thing that has mostly remained the same throughout the evolution of technology is the presence of Microsoft PC applications. In that sense, the most standard/basic solution that comes to mind when discussing software solutions is Microsoft Office. Primarily in the business world, Microsoft Excel is used from organizing contacts, to building charts, to separating vendor/client information, and a variety of other normal everyday operational tasks. There are a variety of different ways that a business might approach buying a commercial off the shelf software (COTS) such as Excel.

Right now, to own Excel for one PC or Mac (one user) it costs $129.99. This is a one-time investment that only includes Excel and does not come with any yearly updates. For $249.99 you can own the bundle of Microsoft Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote — again, for one user only.

Another possible route is a yearly business subscription, called Office 365 that does include yearly updates and a host of other Microsoft Office applications such as Outlook, Word, Powerpoint, OneDrive, etc. For a month-to-month contract, the prices will individually be a little higher. The benefit that the Office 365 subscription has over buying the software outright is that all of the Office 365 bundles allow full installation of Office Apps on five phones, five tablets, and five PCs or Macs per user with a maximum number of 300 users.

Other common COTS software solutions include accounting software packages such as QuickBooks and programs such as Norton Antivirus Software. These prices can vary and not every business will find use in them as not every business has the same needs.

Apart from COTS software, a Software as a Service (SaaS) model also exists where the user does not download any software or programs, rather the service is cloud based (online). SaaS platforms are becoming more popular as of late due to the advancement of the internet. One of the most popular SaaS platforms is Salesforce which as of mid 2018 had over 150,000 individual businesses as customers.

For the sake of this article I will not go in-depth on the pro’s and con’s of these solutions — our blog from last month dives thoroughly into the advantages and disadvantages of everything previously mentioned here plus a few more.

Now, with a baseline on what is out there for your business, how do you know what is right for your level of maturity advancement?

BI Maturity 101

As a quick recap, business intelligence (BI) systems “combine data gathering, data storage, and knowledge management with analytical tools to present complex and competitive information to planners and decision makers” (Gray & Negash, 2003).

When tying BI into business maturity, the Ladder of Business Intelligence (LOBI) is a well-regarded six-step maturity framework that will be the basis of this discussion. “LOBI is a methodology that facilitates the creation of an Information Technology (IT) plan and the design of IT architecture for a business. The LOBI Framework derives the plan and the architecture on the basis of the business objectives through a detailed analysis of the people, process, and technology mix of a business” (Cates, James E. et al. 220-238).

Not Every Business Is Created The Same

For a business that has 10-20 sales representatives, a COTS software solution such as Microsoft Office might suit all of the technicalities required of the internal/external operations. A business such as this would fall under level one of the LOBI model, ‘facts’, which essentially is just businesses generating static operational reports with no concrete system of organization.

Research shows that once businesses start operating with 20+ employees, they will need to start looking into more advanced software typically in the form of SaaS such as Salesforce or MailChimp. This is generally linked to level two of the LOBI model, ‘data’, where data is more organized and able to be retrieved through a process. This ‘process’ is typically still cumbersome and requires a lot of manpower (hours) — see spreadsheet hell: a nightmare in blog — leaving a ‘gap’ between data in level two being translated to ‘information’ for operational collaboration in level three.

A global client that we have recently worked with was in the level 2-3 stage of maturity. This meant that they fit perfectly along the lines of our previous example, they had internal data which was ineffectively being managed and therefore was leading to inefficiencies within their organization.

Essentially, this client, the 3-stripe apparel company, experienced their sales forecasting spreadsheets crashing frequently — leading to data loss and wasted labor costs — emailing between teams became unwieldy. The reason for this was the 3-stripe apparel company used office suite to create a BI Dashboard solution that did the core basics. Initially their BI Dashboard project worked but eventually it proved to be inefficient — people were not happy and it had scalability issues.

A general consensus is that from Microsoft Office, businesses start to look at platforms once these generic platforms can no longer perform to the exact needs of the specific business. Office 365 is a certain type of platform. Salesforce is a platform. Sharepoint is a platform — but the platform is only part of the equation — they provide the concrete foundation for your business to rely upon. These platforms can be very general purpose and this is where adidas found themselves at.

From there, how do they start linking the data to more data? How does a global company such as the 3-stripe apparel company get all of this information to talk to each other?

These questions are what led the BI Dashboard 1.0 team at the 3-stripe apparel company to reach out to Append Media.

Collaborative Ingenuity Leads To Better Forecasting

Through a series of in-depth meetings and interviews we were able to gain an even deeper shared knowledge of the pain points that the BI Dashboard 1.0 project was having on the 3-stripe apparel company.

Append then took this information and facilitated the next steps of modernizing their BI Dashboard 1.0:

  • Documentation of legacy system and ideal system were agreed upon by stakeholders and R&D Team.
  • Project milestones and work breakdown were extensively documented and presented to the 3-stripe apparel company.
  • Stakeholders chose which milestones to develop and decided which order to prioritize tasks.
  • Append was able to begin demos of the application in 90 days, the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), as scheduled.
  • The User Acceptance Testing (UAT) lasted one month and involved the rapid resolution of over 150 tasks.
  • The new system has had zero crashes.
  • Stakeholders formally accepted all completed work, which highlighted their satisfaction.
  • The project was delivered on-budget, on-time, and passed on all quality reviews.

And the BI Dashboard 2.0 was born.

Within three months, the 3-stripe apparel company had a whole new sales system that was securely connected to the internet and their enterprise data warehouse (EDW).

Append was able to create and deliver a spreadsheet that increased functionality with 10 key amazing features including: offline mode, mobile access, rapid download to Excel, multi-sort, advanced filtering, documentation for quick system support, dynamic editability and read-only cells, easy setup and configuration of templates for reps, enhanced admin control, and data visualization through color hierarchy.

Ultimately, Append Media was able to upgrade the way the 3-stripe apparel company’s wholesale reps forecasted sales by reducing the time required to forecast sales through these innovations and integrations of advanced spreadsheet-forecasting tools.

From Small To Large, To Anywhere In Between

Perhaps your business isn’t as large as a global company such as the 3-stripe apparel company — after all, there is only room for so many corporations — regardless, you might also be in the level two to three stages of maturity and facing similar issues related to spreadsheet and data inefficiencies. If that’s the case, we would love to sit down with you and talk about potential solutions and effective ways on how to transition your business into the next appropriate level of maturity.

As we discovered throughout our in-depth scoping of the 3-stripe apparel company, their stage of maturity was quickly climbing and in desperate need of practical solutions which allowed us to come in and quickly and effectively transition them into the level four of BI maturity.

Here at Append Media we have experience working with clients who range from small- to medium-sized businesses all the way to giants such as the 3-stripe apparel company and Papa Murphy’s International. Our agile development methodology lets us specialize in providing the utmost quality and functionality for our clients.

If you would like to chat with one of our experts about your BI maturity needs you can contact us here. Additionally, you can read more about our previous clients through our numerous case studies here.