Embedding a new BI tool

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Michiel van Staden, Data Analytics Lead, Absa

Michiel will be speaking at the IRM UK Data Governance, Master Data Management, Enterprise Data and Business Intelligence & Analytics Conferences Europe 15-17 November 2021 on the subject, ‘Embedding a New BI Tool‘.

Much goes into selecting the BI tool that meets your specific needs https://www.irmconnects.com/selecting-a-new-bi-tool/ , whilst custom development will also need to be done to fit into your organisational environment https://www.irmconnects.com/developing-a-new-bi-tool/.

There is often a lot of discussion within more technical circles around what the best tool or technology is.

Over the last year, I have been closely involved in driving the adoption of a new BI tool on both the developer and the end user side within the Absa Banking Group in South Africa.

Through this journey, I have once again realised how important the people-side of any change process is.

In this article, I will be unpacking the below practical learnings, towards embedding a new BI tool:

– the tool environment does need to work and the benefits of moving onto the new tool does need to be very clear

– both developers and end users are already very busy with BAU, so they need to be guided step by step on the journey

– focus on getting practical use cases up and running, building momentum & support and leveraging pier pressure to grow adoption

Start with why

Whilst selecting a new BI tool, you already need to assess and think carefully about why you are embarking on this journey.  Are there specific shortcomings in what you currently have at your disposal, are there specific use cases with related new capabilities you would like to explore or do you have a business strategy around more real time, in the moment, interactive or automated insights for example.

A key question to answer is whether the tool you have selected serves to meet or bring you closer to those key deliverables you have identified.

During development and testing, you would then also want to assess these goals in particular and then make sure that the way you set up the tool in your environment caters accordingly.

Once you move into implementation, scaling and embedding phases, you need to lead with a very concise and consistent message around the project rationale, whilst also showing aligned value add to objectives along the way.

Change needs to be managed

Bringing in contractors to do development work needs to go hand in hand with handover and skills transfer towards not creating ongoing external dependencies.

Most of the time you’ll probably also not have the luxury of bringing in new recruits to specifically focus on these new builds.  You’ll thus largely be dependent on existing data analysts, who most probably already have a full time day job.

Towards enabling these individuals to develop onto the new tool, they would need assistance with access to relevant training.  Their managers and stakeholders would definitely also need to be on board, towards affording them the space and time to focus on development, as one of their responsibilities, and not on the side of their desks.

End users would have gotten used to getting or receiving their BI in a certain way.  Looking at information in a certain way, over a period of time, makes it easier to quickly gauge what you can take out of the latest views.  There are often also certain formats for graphs or tables which they have then become accustomed to slotting into decks or presentations they need to pass on.

These stakeholders of the BI, their managers and related stakeholders, would thus also need to be on board with the benefits.  The end users would need sufficient guidance on how to easily use the tool, time and space to get used to it.

Get runs on the board

Some people are more comfortable with change.  A few might even enjoy it.  Others would however find it much more difficult.

Your new BI tool objectives might be more relevant in certain teams, or some areas might have a little bit more spare capacity or flexibility, whilst others might be tied up with and focused on very different priorities.

Try and identify the path of least resistance towards getting a use case off the ground.  Fail fast and learn from it.  Sometimes what initially seemed like the way to go ends up in a dead end or falls off the cliff.  You should however be prepared for a fair deal of effort to get the ball rolling.

As soon as you achieve the smallest glimmer of success, broadcast and share it far and wide.  Competition within an organization can be very destructive, but allowing those who have made progress to share and boast a little bit, can also get others to sit up and take notice.

The road to rolling out and truly embedding a new BI tool, to the point where it is being utilized to its full potential, is a long one.  Make sure you keep growing the number of people building up, maintaining and driving the vehicle.

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