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How your organization can achieve data transformation

Dec 02, 2021

Does your organization heavily rely on spreadsheets to manipulate data and make business decisions?

If so, you’re not alone. Even though busines intelligence (BI) and data analytics technologies have been available for years, the status quo can be challenging to overcome. It might be because this is the process that’s worked in the past, and people are used to the time it takes to put reports together and the difficulties in keeping track of different versions of Excel documents.

Or it might be because an organization jumped too quickly into a solution, found the technology wasn’t meeting their needs or being leveraged properly, and fell back into old habits.

But relying on spreadsheets for much longer isn’t sustainable. The world continues to become more digital, and organizations continue to collect larger amounts of data every year. Business leaders must spend less time building information and more time using it to make decisions.

The first step for an organization hesitant to dive into the world of data analytics is understanding that business intelligence involves more than visualizing data. Dashboards are just one part of the solution. True data transformation involves four distinct phases that are all necessary to your success.

1. Data discovery

The first phase is data discovery, where your business identifies the opportunities, capabilities, metrics, stakeholders and platforms it needs to achieve data transformation.

This requires understanding what data and metrics are important to your business and its future success, who will be using the data to make decisions and how they can most effectively consume this data. Your business can probably identify many key performance indicators you’d like to track, but which are truly “need to know” and which are simply “nice to know” and can be circled back to later?

2. Data curation and platform modernization

How siloed is your data? How clean and updated is it? Is it being manually uploaded in multiple places? Once you know what data you want to use, you need to identify where it’s located and determine whether you need to connect different systems and sources together to create a single source of truth.

The data curation and platform modernization phase helps you understand how to use technology and automation to connect, extract, cleanse, structure and store your data. It helps you eliminate manual data entry and therefor increase the timeliness and accuracy of data.

3. Data quality and analytics governance

Speaking of accuracy, is your data correct in the first place? You cannot make effective business decisions with imprecise data, and that’s what makes the data quality and analytics governance phase absolutely critical. This phase helps you ensure your data can be trusted by establishing structures around compliance, architecture, policies and controls, security, processes and more.

4. Data literacy and awareness

The final phase focuses on reading and using data effectively, and that means change management. Employees must know how to use dashboards and datasets to elevate their decision-making. Plus, knowing how to use the data goes a long way in getting them to adopt the BI platform.

Train your employees on how to use filters, drill-downs and other dashboard features. Even more importantly, make sure they’re all using the same definition of each relevant term. For example, “cost” and “utilization” commonly have several definitions within an organization. Only with a consistent definition can the end user fully understand how to act on the data they’re looking at.

Beginning your data transformation journey

By focusing on more than just data visualization, your business can build more effective dashboards, as well as position itself to scale to broader and more innovative ways of leveraging data going forward. You can also redirect the employees responsible for manually building reports to more value-added and fulfilling activities.

Ultimately, data transformation is a journey, and taking a methodical and proven approach ensures you maximize your wins along the way.

If your organization has struggled with adopting business intelligence solutions in the past, contact Wipfli. We’ve helped many organizations work through each phase of data transformation and take an improved approach to developing dashboards that employees will actually use. Click here to learn more.

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Kenneth F. Kortas, CPA
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Kate E. Brown
Senior Manager, Technology
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