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A Best Practice Implementation Strategy for Power BI

by | 6:32 pm EDT | June 22, 2016 | Business Intelligence, Power BI

Power BI can be an influencer for change

In the past, businesses were run based on what you know and who you know. That is still true today, however the ways we gain our knowledge and create our contacts have become lightning fast thanks to advances in technology, and corporate success hinges on leveraging data swiftly and accurately.

Today there are many choices when it comes to creating a data-driven company and implementing a BI system behind it. When it comes to choosing the right tool it’s important to go with a cloud-based solution such as Microsoft Power BI so that you may access valuable information about your business even on the go – on your laptop, tablet or mobile phone. Also, you will need to consider how integration-ready is the BI tool with your current data tracking systems and tools.

Although choosing the right platform is an important decision, it is not the key to success. How you go about implementing this change on an organizational level is what matters the most. Let’s look at that in greater detail.

Define the end goal and get buy-in from executives

Your initiative will be judged by many stakeholders based on the value it brings to the company but also on an individual level. As always, you need to start by defining a goal and portraying the end result to those decision-makers that will support the change. You should describe your vision of this new company culture and contrast it to how things are working now.

Try to select a few examples of operational inefficiency, or better yet, a poor decision which was made and the impact it had on the business – all due to the lack of the right information at the right time; in other words, due to the lack of a strong BI tool. Once you’ve done this you’ve set the stage for gaining executive support – a critical factor in any organizational change effort.

Microsoft Power BI platform comes with off-the-shelf metrics and reporting tailored for specific industries (such as retail, manufacturing or professional services) , or specific for departments (i.e. marketing ROI metrics, sales forecast analysis or operational efficiency). It will be hard for any executive to say no to such powerful insights. Now that you’ve got their attention it’s time to bring some numbers into the conversation and show the anticipated results – it’s time to define goals. Once you’ve defined your goals, prioritize them and break down the entire initiative into smaller phases which can be achieved over time.

Plan out the implementation strategy and create a roadmap

With the numerous benefits and various ways that the Microsoft Power BI platform can help an organisation, it’s easy to fall into the trap of starting to build a “silver bullet” solution that will automatically and magically create insights in all facets of your business, streamline the decision-making processes, make everyone happy and allow your executives to just “monitor” the performance. Businesses that try to achieve all KPIs at once sign themselves to failure from the onset

Always start small. Implement a single report that wasn’t there before or automate an existing one to gain trust and win over the stakeholders that need to adopt this new technology. Determine the data sources, reporting intervals and metrics you wish to track. Improve just one business KPI metric due to better-informed decision making and you’ve gained at least one new supporter, a champion that will promote the benefits of your work in their circles. Once this “proof of concept”, initial deployment of BI metrics is successfully performed go ahead and create your grand masterplan. Segment the BI platform implementation based on the stakeholders (i.e. CFO, CIO, CMO, etc.) and order it by priority / phases of implementation – this is your roadmap.

Begin implementation and test the technology with a phased approach

Implementing a new BI tool will be easy or difficult depending on how integration-ready is the product. This is the main reason many choose the Microsoft Power BI platform – it comes with plug-and-play functionality that can integrate your existing Excel sheets, external data sources or existing SaaS platforms (such as Salesforce.com for example) with a click of a button. No technical staff required!

Once implementation and testing are done it’s time for user training and adoption. For each phase / reporting suite of Microsoft Power BI deployment, make sure that you plan for adoption period – implementing the technology is only half of the effort. Your business users (your primary stakeholders) need to have a period of getting used to the new reporting tool and they will most likely have feedback on how to tweak it for their needs. This usually takes longer than one anticipates so be prepared and don’t rush through it. Once they are comfortable using new reports they will come up with creative ways of applying the new knowledge in various business scenarios. Out of this will come new requests for additional BI analytics – and this is good news, it means that you’ve won over another champion – a person in your organisation that supports your initiative and has direct benefit from it.

Developing superusers in each department

Each organisational unit or department will have specific BI needs due to their nature of work. They will be interested in different metrics, they will utilise the insights in different ways – for example, sales team may look at current workload metrics to strategize their conversion efforts, while the operational manager may look at the same report to gauge their team’s performance, and yet HR department may plan their hiring based on this and sales pipeline forecast).

Because each department has specific needs, it is important to have at least one Power BI superuser in each organizational unit/group. This person can help others adopt the technology but also suggest additional analysis and metrics that should be enabled – for this latter part an expert knowledge of inner workings of department is necessary. Getting these superusers together can create a great steering committee that will maintain and grow your roadmap for continuous evolvement of the BI platform and will yield greater benefits to the entire organization.

This is just a beginning

Once you’ve implemented Power BI platform across all departments, designated and empowered your superusers, it is important to keep up to par with market developments as your business grows. Certain metrics will become obsolete and a need for new ones will emerge. This why it is important to keep evaluating your BI platform and the ways in which it’s used periodically. Another advantage of going with an established vendor such as Microsoft Power BI is the peace of mind that you will always get the latest and the greatest in analytics standards as they keep evolving and updating the platform.

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