Magazine
BI - value for money?

Are you getting value from your business intelligence investment?

The business case for establishing a Business Intelligence (BI) and Data analytics capability within a housing organisation is strong. Increasingly organisations are challenged to flex their BI muscle and derive insight for new and emerging performance and risk indicators to improve performance and understand risk exposure ahead of regulatory scrutiny.

In this article we look at some of the considerations for a BI business case and share some approaches taken by our customers to justify their BI investment and ensure attainment of value from their initiative.

Conventional wisdom…

Conventional BI wisdom (generally espoused by BI tool and service vendors) is that you should look at developing the business case for BI projects on a departmental basis iteratively delivering incremental improvement for modest cost each time.It’s difficult to disagree, on the proviso that the bigger picture and vision for BI is embraced within every project and you don’t end up with a plethora of tools and suppliers to the extent that you’re unable to leverage the economies of scale that come from using the same tools across the enterprise. Let’s look at a conventional business case for BI…

There are three main drivers for any business to consider when investing in a BI solution:

  1. Measurement and management of business processes
  2. Analysing why things change within business processes
  3. Providing information for stakeholders

Secondary drivers that would add to the Return on Investment (ROI) for BI would be:

  1. Improving Business Processes.
  2. Improving Master Data Management.
  3. Improving Data Quality.
  4. Reducing Operational Reporting Overheads.
  5. Improving Change Management.
  6. Achieving Systems Rationalisation.

Let’s now look at how some of our customers justified their BI investment…

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Standardise on a reporting tool with an affordable site licence model…

It is not uncommon to discover that a housing organisation will have a number of tools in place for reporting and analysing data. This can lead to cottage industries emerging that are at best inefficient and at worse a serious risk to the organisation due to the lack of effective data governance and control. Additionally, you are probably paying licence and maintenance costs for a number of products which when looked at in the round do largely the same thing.

Consolidating on one reporting tool across an organisation, that has a single site licence (like Clearview), encourages widespread use without incurring an increase in licence costs and can be a significant benefit for many organisations. By way of an example, I'm aware of one large social housing organisation that spent £250,000 on one BI project as a proof of concept, and then wanted to roll it out across the organisation, only to discover that this would incur a further £150,000 per annum in licence costs alone.

Data icon.PNGDo I need a data warehouse?

Another consideration is minimising or avoiding the need to build a data warehouse. For many building a data warehouse can be an expensive, lengthy and risky project in its own right and for many BI initiatives is simply not necessary.

Tools, such as Clearview, allow for data to both reside in a warehouse or outside of it thereby providing flexibility of approach.

One of our customers made the following comment:

“Clearview Intelligence is more cost effective and far less complex than using SAP Business Objects or data warehousing. It enables us to quickly and efficiently pull together data from a range of sources, including our housing management (Orchard), assets management (Keystone), resident involvement (TP Tracker), customer contact (Serengeti Systems), finance (Open Accounts), HR and payroll systems (Chris21).”

Self-service, pooled resources and savings on training…

Resources that can actually use BI tools are generally pretty scarce in a housing organisation. Empowering staff to do it themselves and use the same tool across the enterprise can generate significant savings in terms of training and supplemental resources.

Or as one customer put it…

“…having looked at a number of management information systems we felt Clearview stood out because of its ease of use and return on investment. The system is easy to navigate and can be compared to something as simple as doing a Google search. This therefore will reduce the amount of time and money spent on training staff to use it. Clearview will also help us create closer links with both our business and operational plans, creating more transparency for the business. This will enable us to improve our ability to measure our performance in all areas of the business.”

Another customer provides an example of using BI to drive efficiencies in specific areas of the business from one centralised team commented:

“Clearview has helped the organisation derive tangible value and insight from our data that is in turn driving improvements in the quality of service that we provide.”

Bi.pngData-driven organisations and having the flexibility to adapt

A general justification for investing in BI is to address the need to transform the organisation’s decision making processes sometimes being referred to as being “data-driven”.

Increasingly there are emerging risks through new activity and regulation to be managed and monitored. To do this effectively you need a reliable source of data, “a single version of the truth”. You also need the tools and expertise to be able to exploit this data to get to the insight and make informed data-driven decisions.

One customer made the following observation:

”Overall, this project has improved, and continues to improve, the quality and availability of our reporting while reducing production overhead, delivering managers and staff a dynamic and comprehensive view of service performance, thereby improving monitoring and intervention before service thresholds are reached, and enabling service planning and forecasting based on higher quality information.”

data clean.jpgOpportunity to cleanse your data and smarten your data acquisition processes

Another realisable benefit is the improvement of data quality, through reviewing and improving the processes that collect it.

An early experience of one customer expands on this point…

“We are in the early days of our implementation of Clearview, but have already identified data issues and processes where we can improve consistency with regard to our data entry. We are now able to view our data in a way that was not possible previously and we are able to empower our users with access to information without the need of support or the knowledge of database table structure/SQL query skills. The possibilities with regard to potentially linking the [Capita] housing management data with some of our other systems and the possibility of comparing past data with current data, is exciting and challenging how creative we can be.”

Summary

There are a plethora of good and valid reasons for developing a strategy for BI and data analytics in any organisation. Whether you’re achieving value for money or not, only you or your staff and customers will know. One thing however is certain, data is here to stay and many organisations are leveraging the opportunity to inform and improve service delivery.

Clearview are experts in data governance, BI and Data analytics solutions for the social housing sector. Our team have extensive experience extracting data and reporting on it from all of the major housing management systems and many of the supporting systems in use (even spreadsheets and Microsoft Access!). We are both ISO 27001 and ISO 9001 certificated, and ready for GDPR.

If you’d like an independent review of your BI and Data analytics strategy or have an interest in leveraging our tools or expertise to help you increase the value of your BI and data analytics investment to date then we’d be delighted to have the opportunity to talk.

Values.pngUltimately value for money is about efficiently achieving successful outcomes for your customers:

“We decided to embark on this collaborative project with Clearview as we consider them to be a reputable, substantial supplier with considerable relevant experience and felt that working with them would enable us to achieve two main parts of our corporate plan:

1. To deliver timely and accurate performance reporting to both drive and enable service improvement to support our long term corporate goal to ‘Achieve resident satisfaction levels in the top 10% nationally’ ; and

2. To reduce our reporting overhead and give managers and staff the reporting data they need and in so doing support our value for money objective ‘To manage our resources to provide cost effective, efficient high quality services that meet residents’ needs.’”

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