Top ten tips for ensuring big data analytics success

Most organisations are analysing just 12 per cent of their data and could be missing out on vital insights, according to research by analyst Forrester. In response, leading software provider Advanced Business Solutions (Advanced) has published a report offering insight into improving performance through business analytics.

The report offers personal perspectives from Advanced’s business analytics consultants, a team with more than 20 years’ experience of developing big data solutions for organisations in the private, public and not-for-profit (NFP) sectors.

Dean Dickinson, Managing Director of Advanced Business Solutions, Public Sector and Enterprise, comments: “The core task of analytics – processing large quantities of information to generate valuable insight – is decades old and yet many still struggle with how to get the most out of their data because of poor planning."

“Advanced has been supporting businesses to implement big data solutions for more than 20 years. Our report provides unique insight based on our extensive experiences and will enable organisations to avoid common pitfalls and reap tangible benefits from their analytics projects.”

Advanced has provided the following ten tips for ensuring big data project success:

1.    Clean all data first – Avoid the temptation to consolidate data from multiple sources without cleansing it first. Although this may take time it will pay dividends in terms of simplifying report development, reducing project complexities and maximising associated cost savings. 

2.    Always consider the end goal – Think carefully about any business intelligence goals and the insight which will be of most value to your organisation. Identify priorities such as improving operational performance, understanding customer behaviour or managing risk. Analytics solutions and data models can then be tailored to your exact needs.

3.    Ask the right questions – The most valuable insight into business performance is achieved by pre-determining exactly what information is needed and then asking your data specific questions. Many companies implement big data solutions and expect insight without first deciding what they need to know. Vague questions will not receive clear answers.

4.    Take a partnering approach – In order to achieve the best results it’s important to work in collaboration with your chosen analytics provider by involving key stakeholders from your own business at the outset. Collaboration  will equip you with the knowledge and skills you’ll need to maintain and extend your big data solution in-house in the future.

5.    Review before recoding – Work with a specialist and experienced developer to ensure existing reports are formatted in line with those included within a new analytics system. The standardisation of table structures and calculations, for example, will help eliminate inconsistencies which could be costly and time-consuming to resolve in the future.

6.    Budget for flexibility, not fixed reports – Many organisations make the mistake of over-estimating the number of reports they need as part of their new analytics solution and this can be expensive in terms of third party development fees. It is far more cost effective to allocate budget to developing a ‘self-service’ solution which enables users to build their own reports as the need arises.

7.    Prioritise the executive dashboard – A user friendly interface that provides senior managers with accurate information as easily as possible is key to ensuring the system is used widely. Once you have buy-in from the management team, the rest of the business will follow.

8.    Focus on usability to reap greater returns – Ensuring a solution is easy to navigate is essential to producing accurate reports that improve decision-making.  If querying a system requires advanced programming skills, it will be side-lined. Work with partners who can demonstrate solutions they have developed which are accessible to non-technical users.

9.    Invest in skills, not just solutions – Staff training is fundamental to project success. Teams that are equipped from day one with the skills they need to use a system fluently will ensure a company receives a rapid return on its investment. It can also save large consultancy and development fees for work which can be completed in-house.

10.   Never underestimate the impact of an upgrade - Modern back office   systems can reduce the time it takes to gather information from different sources and this is key to facilitating business intelligence reporting. Reducing the time it takes to round up information required for reports helps support faster decision-making.

Advanced Business Solutions has delivered more than 500 successful big data analytics projects since 1994. The company offers in-house solutions alongside systems developed by partners including IBM, SAP and Microsoft.