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Embracing Data Visualization: What Is a Self-service BI System?

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Image Source: Buffik | Pixabay

Gone are the days when analyzing and visualizing data to get information was a job that was limited to the IT and business intelligence (BI) divisions. Gone also are the days when the sole possession of knowledge, skills, and tools for data processing was in the hands of the “data guy.”

Data is becoming more and more abundant and essential for various business operations. This makes centralizing data processing on one or two divisions an inevitable bottleneck. On the other hand, analytics and visualization tools are becoming easier to use, with more intuitive user-friendly interfaces that require less and less technical expertise.

What SSBI Is About

Self-service business intelligence (SSBI), also called self-service data exploration, has become an important approach for data-driven insights in business. It means giving the ability to the wide range of employees who are not experienced with data to drive insights from relevant datasets and create exploratory visualizations to help them better understand the data and to use it in reports. It’s also a part of what is called data democratization if you’d like another fancy term on the plate.

It should be, however, distinguished from the second approach called dashboarding. While the latter should still be the responsibility of the experienced BI team, turning amounts of data to finely curated reports on the most important KPIs within a well-developed narrative can happen. The SSBI approach aims to:

  • Avoid time delays in data-driven decision making among the low and mid-level teams that may happen due to the centralization of analytics responsibilities.
  • Minimize intuition-based decisions that can be made by low and mid-level teams on a daily basis due to lack of analytical capabilities.
  • Enhance internal communication within the teams by making data-driven insights and visualizations easier to generate, and therefore more frequent integration of reports.
  • Enhance external communication of the organization as the insights and visualizations can also be easily used in developing publications, like blog posts for example.

Google Sheets and Datawrapper

There are tons of visualization tools out there that can enable you to create an SSBI system for your organization, some of which are technologically advanced, but each has its best uses and downfalls. 

Just like Google Sheets and Datawrapper. The advantages of using these tools are the following:

  • – Businesses with no capabilities of experienced teams or infrastructure can implement the system.
  • – Anyone can use it as it requires little to no technical expertise.
  • – Visualizations can be easily duplicated and edited, suiting fast-based work routines.
  • – Visualizations can be easily well-formatted and laid out, leading to efficient reporting.
  • – Generate both interactive and static visualizations that are suitable for embedding in various forms of reports, from web-based all the way to paper-based.
  • Using a self-service BI solution can help streamline operations and support critical decisions. It also encourages collaboration, simplifies daily business needs, and increases one’s competitive advantage. With the efficiency brought by SSBI, businesses can focus on what matters most to them.

    Want to understand how visual representations can support the decision making process and allow quick transmission of information? Sign up for The KPI Institute’s Data Visualization Certification course.

    Data Management Best Practices: 4 Fundamental Tips to Get Started

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    You’ve probably heard tech buzzwords like “data-driven decision making”, “advanced analytics”, “artificial intelligence (AI)”, and so on. The similarity between those terms is that they all require data. There is a famous quote in the computer science field — “garbage in, garbage out” — and it is a wonderful example of how poor data leads to bad results, which leads to terrible insight and disastrous judgments. Now, what good is advanced technology if we can’t put it to use? 

    The problem is clear: organizations need to have a good data management system in place to ensure they have relevant and reliable data. Data management is defined as “the process of collecting, storing, and utilizing data in a safe, efficient, and cost-effective manner”. If the scale of your organization is large, it is very reasonable to employ a holistic platform such as an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. 

    On the other hand, if your organization is still in its mid to early stages, it is likely that you cannot afford to employ ERP yet. However, this does not mean that your organization does not need data management. Data management with limited resources is still possible as long as the essential notion of effective data management is implemented.

    Here are the four fundamental tips to start data management:

    1. Develop a clear data storage system

      Data collection, storage, and retrieval are the fundamental components of a data storage system. You can start small by developing a simple data storage system. Use cloud-based file storage, for example, to begin centralizing your data. Organize the data by naming folders and files in a systematic manner; this will allow you to access your data more easily whenever you need it.

    2. Protect data security and set access control

      Data is one of the most valuable assets in any organization. Choose a safe, reliable, and trustworthy location (if physical) or service provider (if cloud-based). Make sure that only the individuals you approve have access to your data. This may be accomplished by adjusting file permissions and separating user access rights.

    3. Schedule a routine data backup procedure

      Although this procedure is essential, many businesses still fail to back up their data on a regular basis. By doing regular backups, you can protect your organization against unwanted circumstances such as disasters, outages, and so forth. Make sure that your backup location is independent of your primary data storage location. It could be a different service provider or location, as long as the new backup storage is also secure.

    4. Understand your data and make it simple

      First, you must identify what data your organization requires to meet its objectives. The specifications may then be derived from the objectives. For example, if you are aiming to develop an employee retention program, then you will need data on employee turnover to make your data more focused and organized. Remove any data that is irrelevant to the objectives of your organization, including redundant or duplicate data.

    Data management has become a necessity in today’s data-driven era. No matter what size and type of your organization, you should start doing it now. Good data management is still achievable, even with limited resources. The tips presented are useful only as a starting point for your data management journey. 

    How to Integrate OKRs and KPIs for the Sales Department

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    Most companies use KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and OKRs (Objective Key Results) to track and drive the achievement of their goals or results. 

    A successful sales team should set their goals and use the best metrics and methods to improve their performance, aligning their interest with top management expectations and focusing on what buyers care about most: achieving their desired results.

    This article presents how OKRs and KPIs can be integrated into a hybrid system and how the sales department can use this approach in practice.

    Three ways KPIs and OKRs can synergize at the organizational level

    At the organizational level, there are three modalities of integrating KPIs and OKRs, each having its risks and benefits:

    1. KPIs can be incorporated in the OKRs

      Key results can be set based on KPIs that need improvement, what needs to be measured and settled according to the established objective.

    2. KPIs at the strategic level and OKRs at the operational level

      KPIs resonate more with key results in measurement terms. If a KPI shows a need for improvement in terms of recurring revenue per quarter and the numbers show that sales are flagging, the organization should develop an ambitious OKR that focuses on improving overall profit. Sometimes, achieving an OKR objective may imply discovering a new KPI. 

    3. KPIs at all levels and individual/team OKRs

      Some companies prefer this approach, especially the ones who already have an implemented Performance Management System and OKRs. They prefer to use them at the individual or team level to motivate employees in achieving and stretching their goals. This approach might work and give good results, however, if top management supports and creates OKRs, there will be an alignment and the employees will better understand the strategy.

    Focusing on what matters

    According to a survey developed by Harvard Business Review, 50% of more than 700 sales representatives respondents said they are using ORRs and monitor their sales process while they have raised targets each year, motivating them to stretch their goals at the same time. 

    The truth is that OKRs and KPIs complement each other excellently. KPIs are a measurable expression for the achievement of the desired level of results in an area relevant to the entity’s activity. Meanwhile, OKRs are a goal management framework that aims to create a link between the vision and the reality of an organization.

    They complement each other because both are management tools used for Performance Improvement. KPIs focus more on measuring the outcome, while OKRs are designed for measuring the whole process. OKRs are more general, the details given by their key results, while KPIs are more specific and focused on attainable goals. 

    It is very important to use KPIs smartly. Aurel Brudan, CEO and Performance Architect at The KPI Institute & SmartKPIs.com, stated that “Selecting KPIs is like picking flowers from a field. You can’t pick all of them. Instead, you have to decide on the right combination and a limited number to make a beautifully balanced bouquet… Using your nose generally helps.”

    Figure 1. Image Source: The KPI Institute. Visuals: Pixabay.com

    Another great example of understanding the difference between strategy, OKRs, and KPIs is to use an analogy as illustrated in Figure 1. Let’s assume you are planning a road trip to Dubai.  The strategy is like Google which can help you decide where you want to go. Meanwhile, OKRs are analog to a GPS which helps you keep on the right path. As for KPIs, these are similar to the dials on the car dashboard that needs to be checked on constantly to be sure everything else is perfectly working.

    Hybrid system way of integration for sales departments 

    A hybrid system that includes both OKRs and KPIs will integrate both perspectives of performance and success. Both KPIs and OKRs contribute to the holistic picture of an entity’s success and performance, allowing for an effective improvement. Therefore, professionals should not choose between them; instead, they should find a way to leverage and integrate them. 

    A hybrid system can be created based on both, with the specification that they will keep their different purposes: using KPIs for the operational metrics and OKRs for the aspirational objectives.

    The sales department should benefit from this approach and focus on what really matters for each quarter, using between 3-5 objectives, with each objective having 3-5 assigned key results. 

    Examples from practice

    Assume that the most used KPIs for a particular sale department are the following as shown in Figure 2: % Customer satisfaction with service level, % Net Promotor Score, and # Leads created. All these KPIs are operational and focus on specific measurements. 

    In this example, the sales team should know and report their numbers and use OKRs to increase customer satisfaction and experience, as well as improve the sales lead process. Developing the right KPIs and OKRs for a sales team requires a lot of knowledge and practice. 

    Figure 2. Image Source: The KPI Institute

    If a sales department uses this hybrid approach, they will not only focus on numbers but also on building and maintaining a relationship with the customers. By setting the right objectives and key results, stretching its goals, and measuring what matters by using the right KPIs, the sales team can become more productive, efficient, and successful. 

    To learn the know-how and become a professional in Performance Measurement become a Certified KPI Professional and Practitioner. For learning how to set and work with OKRs, read more about Certified OKR Professional. Both programs are CPD accredited and represent life-long qualifications that serve as a key differentiator for top performers, attesting proficiency in a specific area.

    How Innovation Helps the Growth of Digital Sales

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    Digitalization is nothing new in the business industry as the world has shifted toward digitalization for the past few decades. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has catapulted the digital model of business to another level. 

    In a 2020 study, Salesforce showed that 60% of customer interaction took place online compared to 42% in the previous year. Meanwhile, up to 88% of customers also expect digital innovation from companies during and after the pandemic. This shows how customers start to put emphasis on company value by what they are seeing online. The sudden surge of the online presence of the majority forced businesses to rethink their existing strategy, especially when it was directly related to their customers.

    The changes brought by digitalization

    The increasing use of digital-based platforms has affected several aspects of businesses. Demand to be available digitally has changed the marketing industry even before the pandemic hit. We can easily spot how large to small companies transitioned their marketing strategy into a digital approach. Even though it sounds like most companies are already familiar with digital marketing, the fast-changing nature of it requires constant learning on what is relevant at the moment.

    The second change mostly catalyzed by the pandemic is the change in how companies do their business. Many employees have been forced to work remotely and moved most of their workflow online. Occasionally, companies have been required to modify their products or services to fit the current demand or trend.

    The adaptation of businesses on their strategic planning and performance measurement to fit the ongoing and upcoming challenges is a conversation that is often missed. The fast-changing digital world has caused a lot of developments in companies towards important matters that can sustain their business by upgrading and preparing their resources

    Innovation is the key for digital sales

    Similar to other sectors, sales activities also demand to have a digital model more than ever. Data shows that digital sales, in general, can boost revenue up to 28%. As much as digital sales sound promising, it also demands a constant upgrade and innovation.

    Innovation is one of the most crucial parts to achieving maximum digital sales growth. Just like traditional sales, the ability to engage with the customer is still a major factor in the success of sales. However, the digital model demands companies to be more attentive to the changes in customer behavior. Companies and even salespersons are required to see the need and trends in the market.

    The innovation in sales technology is also predicted to have a big impact on how long-term revenue is generated. The use of more efficient CRM and even the use of AI can be a huge booster in sales growth. For example, now the customers have become more digitally savvy, this also means that they are more aware of cyber security. Things such as transparency in sales activities and data collection are just some of the things they look out for. In turn, the growth in technology would also mean an increase in demand for people who are knowledgeable in the digital space and can operate the business.

    Improve Future Performance through “Lessons Learned”

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    Image Source: Cherrydeck | Unsplash

    Nowadays, organizations need to learn more than ever to confront difficult situations, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and economic risks. Thus, they need to learn how to quickly adapt to the unpredictable in order to remain competitive.

    Continuous improvement is based on learning and transferring knowledge to modify behaviors and achieve great results.

    This concept of “learning organizations” was introduced in the 90s. Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization, described learning organizations as “organizations that encourage adaptive and generative learning, encouraging their employees to think outside the box and work in conjunction with other employees to find the best answer to any problem”.

    In this context, “Lessons Learned is an important tool for learning organizations. It consists of knowledge obtained during a project and should be considered in future actions to improve performance.

    This knowledge should be stored in a database, such as Lessons Learned Register or via wiki.

    Using this tool, the project manager benefits from a great opportunity to learn from the experience of others and help them improve the profitability of the business.

    Lessons Learned reflects both the positive and negative experiences of a project and can be categorized as:

    • Informational (e.g., how employees’ duties could change during times of emergencies)
    • Successful (e.g., capture effective responses to a crisis) 
    • Problem (e.g., describe examples of actions that failed and potential ways to resolve them). 

    Capturing Lessons Learned should be a continuous effort throughout the life of any project and should be initiated from the beginning of the project.

    The Lessons Learned Process 

    Specialists have different approaches regarding the stages of the Lessons Learned process:

    • Capture: It refers to bringing together information or knowledge from different sources that could be valuable for future projects. Lessons learned can be captured through text, audio, video, or image.
    • Store: It implies defining and deciding on the environment where Lessons Learned will be stored.
    • Verify: It consists of validating Lessons Learned for correctness, consistency, redundancy, and relevancy.
    • Distribute or Disseminate: It means spreading the knowledge in the Lessons Learned to a team, department, or organization.
    • Apply or Reuse: It refers to making the Lessons Learned useful to current and further projects. 
    • Withdraw: It means recognizing when a Lesson Learned is no longer useful to current and further projects. 

    One option to identify Lessons Learned, is to organize Lessons Learned Sessions with the project team. During these sessions, the team members will be asked to respond to a survey which includes questions related to activities that go well, activities that do not go according to the plan, and recommended improvements.

    Lessons Learned are documented in the Lessons Learned Register, which is intended to assist an organization in identifying better opportunities for improving their management practices and promote the Lessons Learned and evidence of better practices observed from a project. 

    Some important fields that should be included in the Lessons Learned Register are:

    • Category
    • Description of the situation
    • Problem/Success
    • Impact
    • Action Taken
    • Recommendation

    The Lessons Learned Register may also include other fields considered relevant by each organization.

    The knowledge gained and recorded in the Lessons Learned Register should be shared and used by project managers, team members, and leadership to decide on further projects’ activities.

    Once the Lessons Learned are identified and documented, the organization should release the necessary resources to apply them. These can also include a change in culture.

    Thus, organizations should strive to build a culture that recognizes when things go right and when things don’t go as planned. They can benefit from each experience and improve performance by using Lessons Learned.

    If you’d like to learn more ways of managing individual and team performance, don’t miss The KPI Institute’s Certified Employee Performance Management Professional and Practitioner Certifications.

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