Focus on How You Make Decisions, not Dashboards

Or maybe we could have said “Ask not what your business intelligence can do for you, ask what you can do for your business intelligence.”

Why do we start here? To get you thinking about how you’re trying to solve problems with your business intelligence approach. Right now, you might be actively looking for a new BI platform to solve your data visibility problems. That’s good. There are many good platforms to choose from out there in the market. We can suggest a few if you want guidance (but we’re not here to sell you software).

One word of caution if we may: the problem is not always the technology. Let us explain.

We work with many companies to help them get more out of their current business intelligence tools and technologies. For example, we’re helping many universities and colleges in higher education learn better ways to visualize, collaborate and respond to issues around their assessment, enrollment, graduation rates and so on. When we start working with a university, we guide them through an auditing process called STEP (Student Engagement Profile). This lets us learn what’s working and what’s not—and helps us make informed suggestions to the university on how to correct some low-hanging fruit problems that can make big differences quickly. We’ve learned a lot from speaking to all of these institutions in the last year. The common theme is that the problems you’re trying to solve won’t always be solved by piling on more technology!

Many of you are doing well with your current technology. You have clean trusted data centrally in place, excellent interaction between IR and end users, automated and self-serve reporting/analysis, and some approach to modelling, alerting and planning. In fact, most of the schools we spoke to are doing these things very well, or well enough.

The real problems are what you’re doing with the technology. Don’t focus on making nice dashboards (that’s the easy part). Focus on making the RIGHT dashboards, and sharing them, and getting buy-in and trust of the numbers, and—most importantly—recognizing trends and approaching problems and taking responsive action as a group to correct or prevent these problems. That’s that hard part—and it’s not about technology. It’s about people and processes.

Ask yourself how well you’re able to achieve these indicators of success:

  • Good collaboration, change and priority processes
  • Good data governance
  • Broad use of data
  • Good feedback loops
  • Established data dictionaries
  • Good communication and balanced authority between departments

Solving these problems is not as easy as buying more logins to Really getting your entire business intelligence approach to work well for you means learning how to collaborate, share, decide and respond as a group. These are the challenges we’re seeing in the higher education space alone and why we’re able to play an important role in helping guide universities—step by step—through a clear process to correct these issues.

So, we challenge you to ask whether you’re doing all you can as a team to get the most out of your existing BI technologies. With careful step-by-step guidance, you can address these problems in a matter of months and be a stronger, more responsive organization—all without needing more technology. offers step-by-step workshops that guide organizations through establishing and improving processes, workflow, use of tools and technologies, collaboration and decision-making to drive toward best practice implementation of business intelligence. For more information about these workshops please visit and contact SDD to learn how they can contribute to your team.