Business Intelligence, or BI, is the set of technologies and processes that allow people at all levels of an organization to access and analyze data.
BI is not just a report and the data; without people to interpret the information and act on it, business intelligence achieves nothing. If the data is not leveraged often for decision-making and acted upon, BI hasn’t done anything to improve performance.
When we work with a club, it’s not the technology, nor the specific reports, that we use to gauge how successful a club is. Instead, it is the degree to which those reports, dashboards, and metrics impact the business.
In this post, we’ll outline the key steps you need to take to implement a successful business intelligence strategy.
Start Small: Consistent, Accurate Data
BI often garners a lot of excitement and enthusiasm from many individuals within an organization. This excitement can often lead to huge initial implementations. Often it includes hundreds of KPIs, way too many dashboards, and ends in failure.
Make your first BI solution embarrassingly small, and address only the biggest pain points to start with.
Your reports and dashboards are only as helpful as they can be trusted. Focus first on gathering the data you need. Make sure it’s collected in a consistent manner and that it remains accurate, or you’ll just end up with a pretty looking dashboard that can’t be used by anyone.
The largest problem we run into when working with clubs is their CRM. It’s often treated with very little respect and not maintained. It’s generally full of incomplete records, inconsistent data, and many duplicates. In that state, it’s next to impossible to start on a BI solution.
Choose Data Owners
Make someone responsible for the accuracy and consistency of the data. This doesn’t have to be a full-time job nor should it take too much time, but someone must be responsible for making sure data is accurate, that processes are in place to keep it consistent, and that the database is kept clean. They are the data owners. In the scenario above, this person would be responsible for keeping the CRM clean, complete, and without duplicates. They’d be responsible for implementing SOP’s throughout the organization to keep the data consistent.
We ran into a great example recently as we were working with a large multi-club facility. Their CRM was in such a pristine condition that it required almost no work week-to-week. The group had a specific employee who was responsible for the integrity of their CRM. This individual made all fields required online, they didn’t think it’d hurt conversion and agreed the extra data collection would be worth it. They monitored for duplicates. If bad data started coming in, they were able to track the problem down to a lack of process at a specific facility and make changes to prevent it. This pristine data made it trivial to roll out a BI solution and their marketing was always incredibly targeted.
As the data you’re interested in becomes accurate, roll out a small dashboard. Give access to just those who need it, and take care of the inaccuracies as they’re reported. Once you feel it’s trusted by the club, roll out a second. Remember to start small, assign the data owner, and then iterate.
When starting down this road you’ll often find that manually collecting is much easier and cheaper. It’s not too much to ask a low-level employee to run a few reports, copy/paste them into an Excel doc, and upload it into a BI tool.
If this is what you have to do initially, that’s awesome! Make sure that’s not where you stop though; the harder it is to collect the data, the more likely your BI will come to a halt within a few months. Get to a point where the entire pipeline of data is completely automated.
We saw a great example of this with one of our clubs. They wanted to start collecting member feedback and compiling it into a monthly dashboard. Their initial solution was to have an employee email a survey once per month to all their members. They’d then compile that data and add it to an excel doc. This doc was then used in meetings throughout the month.
They did it for a few months, reviewed the impact it had, and decided the feedback gathered was having a positive impact on the club. Understanding they couldn’t keep up the manual process for long, they found a third party who could automate the entire process. This third party would send out daily emails to members who had visited the club, it would gather far more feedback, and then it would feed that data back into a simple-to-use dashboard.
Because of this simplicity, they are still gathering feedback to this day.
When you first start BI you may find yourself replicating reports you’ve used for years. This is great in order to build confidence in your data. However, this is not the stopping point!
When you are trying to uncover patterns, anomalies, and opportunities, a dense page of numbers is useless. Also, remember the end goal with BI is to provide every employee in your organization with the data they need to do their job well. If your BI solution is just a daily report with hundreds of data points, your average employee will not be able to use it. You’ll need to find a good balance
Depending on your implementation, this responsibility may fall on the transactional system you use. Luckily, many of the mainstream club software systems have integrated into the top BI systems out there. For example, we’ve partnered with Sisense to provide every one of our facilities with a full suite of BI tools. We take on the role of the BI experts, and interview hundreds of owners, accountants, and employees every month. We take their insight and use it to build dashboards, KPI’s, and widgets they can reuse in their organization.
"Balance appeal with insight. Visually appealing dashboards, reports, and infographics help with user adoption and engagement. At the same time, you want to design considerations to speed the time to insight. I’ve seen some very boring gray-color dashboards that will draw my attention to an anomaly, shaded in red. Time to insight was clearly high, but engagement and appeal were low. When engagement and interface appeal is low, casual users may be less likely to use a BI tool to investigate the anomaly. Instead, they may pass that part of the discovery process into a power user."
- Successful Business Intelligence, p. 272
BI doesn’t have to be terrifying. It can be as simple or complex as is right for you and your business at this very moment. Think of the suggestions in this post as a roadmap for transitioning to a business model where data drives all your decisions.
To recap that roadmap:
Implement a “BI Culture”
Help your employees understand the importance of data, and the value of using it for day-to-day activities.
Prioritize the collection of accurate, consistent data.
Pick “Data Owners”
It doesn’t have to be a big job, it just needs to be someone’s job.
You’ll gather (and use) far more feedback when you get to a place where automation by 3rd parties is possible.
Use Visual Tools
Visually organize and associate your data streams so everyone in your organization can see (and use) the insights.
By starting small, with a plan for improving your BI initiatives, you are setting yourself up for a natural progression into more complex insights. Remember: The more data you have working together, the more efficiently you will drive success for your business.
The data is there, now, which makes today a great day to get started.
About the Author
Brendon Beebe is the CTO of foreUP, and has been largely responsible for transitioning the company from the first cloud-based tee sheet to the industry’s most comprehensive platform for managing all operations and guest interactions at a course or club. Brendon lives in Orem, Utah with his wife Christina and two small children.