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Three strategies for launching business intelligence in your company

Small companies looking to get started with BI can ensure a successful implementation by following a few important tips.

Making the right business decisions can make or break a company, whether it’s a departmental or company-wide decision. Regardless, reaching that final resolution can be tedious. So maybe you’re ready to add some business intelligence (BI) to your company’s IT infrastructure, but don’t know where to start?

Here are three suggestions that can help you avoid the most common pitfalls to get things up and running as quickly as possible.

1. Start small
There are two theories surrounding data warehouse design – and since a data warehouse is typically the heart of a BI solution, these theories matter. The first theory is called top down, and it suggests that you always start with your entire company’s needs in mind. The other theory is bottom up, which suggests that you start with an individual department, implement a working BI solution and expand from there.

The top-down proponents will tell you that no collection of small, divisional BI solutions can ever add up to a useful whole-company solution, while bottom-up advocates say that the whole-company approach just isn’t practical. And they’re right – trying to meet all of your company’s needs is incredibly complex, time-consuming and expensive. My suggestion? Start with a department that needs BI the most, and go from there.

2. Prepackaged solutions
I've written before that mid-sized businesses should consider prepackaged business intelligence solutions. These are all-in-one products that come with every component you’ll need to configure a few data connections and get your BI solution up and running.

It’s not unlike buying an off-the-shelf bookkeeping solution – you’ll still have some work to do, but you might be able to get away with avoiding consultants, using your own IT staff – and you’ll save money. Prepackaged solutions can be targeted to just a portion of your business or the whole company, and they don’t require the level of specialized skills that building a BI solution from scratch requires.

3. Hire a consultant
If you can’t go the prepackaged route, and especially if you’re looking for a solution that covers more than just one division of your company, hire a consultant. I don’t do that kind of consulting, so I’m not plugging myself here. I’m just telling you that BI design is incredibly complicated and it requires very specialized skills that you likely do not have on staff.

Sending your DBA to a one-week class on business intelligence design will not gain you the needed skills and experience either. When a retailer needs to build a new warehouse, do they have their facilities manager do the engineering plans for the concrete foundation? No, they hire a specialist – a civil engineer. The same goes with business intelligence. BI design and implementation is likely not what your company does for a living, so bite the bullet and hire a specialist.

These three strategy choices can help set the top-level thinking and direction for a business intelligence project, and help you start enlisting support and interest from throughout your company. Good luck!

Find more BI basics from Don Jones and other technical experts by visiting our Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing Tips page.

Don Jones a co-founder of Concentrated Technology LLC, the author of more than 30 IT books and a speaker at technical conferences worldwide. Contact him through his website at

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