Data has become a key component of organizational decision-making. As research links analytics to competitive advantages, more companies are focusing their efforts on the ways they access and use data. However, as organizations start to select and implement new business intelligence tools and make use of data from their IBM i databases and other sources, IT teams should be aware of several potential pitfalls.
An outdated or poorly matched business intelligence tool can have the opposite effect of its intended purpose: it can be a time drain for IT and be detrimental to company efficiency. Many organizations still struggle to use their data effectively. Overcoming these barriers requires a multi-faceted approach that brings both business and technology processes into a unified strategy.
Here are the four mistakes to avoid when working to improve IBM i data access and delivery for your business and improve efficiency for your IT team.
1. Starting without a plan
Before really delving into the details of your data, it’s important to have a plan. You need to be able to answer questions about how the data will be used, who needs access to it, and whether this creates any security concerns.
Many organizations struggle with technical integration challenges when deploying analytics initiatives. As a result, IT professionals need to assess existing technology environments to determine which platforms and databases information resides in. This evaluation is key to informing your choice of a data access tool as well as its implementation. It may also reveal problems within your current data management and access practices.
2. Not listening to your users
The myriad of tasks IT professionals deal with daily makes it easy to forget some of the fundamentals. In places where technology meets concerns from business units, it is more important than ever to pay attention to what end users are saying about the struggles they have with actually getting useful and timely data to do their everyday jobs. Many technical teams say they have difficulty identifying the most important metrics to include in reports for business units; it is a common complaint that business users don’t use what they say they will, don’t know what they want or need, and want to see information differently day by day. Sometimes that is true, and reports have to be adjusted after they are rolled out, but sometimes it is due to a lack of communication and coordination between an IT team and their business users.
3. Not finding a solution that is flexible enough to meet both IT and business demands
If one thing is true in the technology world, it’s that IT solutions will always be rapidly evolving. While this means there will always be more emerging opportunities to take advantage of, there will also be pitfalls.
One common mistake is letting enthusiasm for technology dictate solution, tool, or platform selection. There are many options and solutions available, running the gamut from full-blown business intelligence built over a data warehouse to simple query tools.
IT may be more concerned with security and protecting data while business users are concerned with getting the data they need when they need it. It is important to maintain objectivity and understand how a potential solution might create difficulties, or more ideally bridge the gap between technical and non-technical needs.
Here are some questions to ask to help guide you in the right direction:
What does IT want? The ability to:
- Automate data delivery from IBM i and beyond
- Manage and monitor access to critical data for security purposes
- Provide key information without having to write time-consuming code
- Deploy quickly and easily to meet service levels
What do business users want? The ability to:
- Have on-demand access to key information and mission critical data
- Export data to Excel and other file types easily
- Look at data in different ways without coming to IT for every change
It’s important to ask tough questions before adapting your IT and business strategy to any new technology trend. When in doubt, fall back on the intended goals of your initial plan and determine how a given solution could solve some real problems within your organization.
4. Sacrificing data integrity for easy data access
When IT gives business users unfettered access to data, it opens the company up to unnecessary security and data integrity problems. Without IT supplying data, business users will ultimately turn to their third-party tools to access and analyze data. Without guidance from IT at some level, business users might not realize that the data they are using for their analysis is inaccurate and not up-to-date. Then the incorrect data can be disseminated throughout the organization. On top of that, not having user authorizations in place means that business users might get access to data they shouldn’t be seeing. So, while providing users self-service data access is a worthwhile time-savings for IT, leaving IT out of the data picture entirely is too much of a risk.
So, how do you improve productivity?
It’s one thing to understand the elements of data access individually. It’s another to bring them together to improve productivity in both the technical and user aspects.
If your goal is to improve the productivity of everyone involved with data retrieval and analysis, you need to look for the right tool that is:
- Flexible enough to bridge the gap between IT and business needs
- Powerful enough to address IT security concerns with business demand
- Robust enough to reduce programming for IT and provide analysis for the business
That’s where a BI tool like Sequel comes in. With Sequel, IT can save time by providing a solution that business users can use themselves to access and analyze data from IBM i and beyond.