On Saturday night I was engaged in my usual evening’s activities – playing with Qlik Sense. While I was fiddling with some challenging data modelling problems, I began to think about some of the client implementations I have been involved with over the years. One thought in particular struck me – there is a significant incongruity between the business perspective of a Business Intelligence implementation, and the reality of the change occurring in the business.
Businesses think in terms of cost versus value / return on investment / implementation project timeframes. While this initial setup and configuration of a Qlik Sense / Business Intelligence system can be thought of as a project with a time-frame and cost, BI itself is really a journey that a business embarks on. The very nature of Business Intelligence is more like a paradigm shift in thinking about business information, rather than simply another way to get reports.
One common thread of all the implementations that I have seen, is that when good engagement occurs, there is an ongoing process to work with the system to garner more and more from it. Businesses that have the motivation and commitment to drive the system forward begin to entwine the BI tools into all the management areas of the business. It quickly becomes the default tool for understanding where the business is heading. But it takes time. It’s a learning journey for each and every person. Habits are very hard to break, and this seems to be especially true in the business information cycle.
Which can be a bit of a problem. How do you set expectations for a project when the implementation is really just to get you to the starting line? The key is to remember that the implementation is, in fact, just the start of the journey. Management need to ‘buy-in’ to the concept of their BI system evolving as their staff and their business evolves.
The great thing about Qlik Sense is that once the system and a few apps are in place, the end user can pull together the dimensions and measures in any way they need to. This leads to visualisations that allow for just about any investigation into the business. One thing that is immediately apparent, is that sometimes the ‘next question’ involves data that is not part of the current system.
To give an example of this: quite often the initial setup only includes sales data and perhaps some budget info. Users then pull out all sorts of things and might one day raise a question like ‘Sales of Widget X are not great and our clients are telling me that the wait times for the product are too long’. The business analyst thinks this is a great question for our shiny new Qlik Sense install to answer. The problem is that we haven’t loaded any data about the AP side of the business, or even the inventory holdings at different locations.
Moreover that is the key to why it is a journey! There is always some extra bit of info that we need to add to the system. Maybe as a new app, and maybe as extra data in existing apps. Whatever it is, your BI tool needs to be constantly growing with the staff and the business to adapt to the information needs of the users.
Shane is a certified Qlik Business Analyst and Data Architect and has been working in analytics and databases for over 10 years. Call us on 1300 583 097 today to hear more.