In our previous article, we discussed how to know whether your company is ready to implement a business intelligence (BI) solution. Upon committing to the idea of starting a BI project in a company, one must choose the right kind of consultant. Just as you wouldn’t let an unqualified mechanic dig into the engine of a new $250,000 Ferrari to make sure its dashboards are operational and properly tuned, you shouldn’t put your company’s dashboards into the hands of an unqualified consultant.
A skilled BI consultant will help you to figure out your needs, analyze requirements, properly implement a solution and, if needed, provide further support. Let’s take a closer look at the qualities you should seek in a BI consultant.
Although there is no single certification that can guarantee a consultant you choose is best for the job, he or she should have certain technical skills. Look for fundamental knowledge of database management and maintenance. At the end of the day, a beautiful dashboard that end-users see is only the tip of the iceberg. Behind all the visuals, a good BI consultant should have an expert level of knowledge of the underlying data system, models and programs that create the data itself. Without this foundation, visuals are simply eye-catching posters.
Thus, a successful BI consultant should be well versed in core practices of database design, ETL, data modeling and report development. Regardless of a client’s industry, a consultant should be able to quickly grasp the ins and outs of data, where it comes from, analyze existing trends and patterns.
A successful consultant must have strong communication skills. In fact, if you can’t properly communicate ideas and suggestions to a client, all your technical knowledge is irrelevant. A BI implementation project can be a long and complicated process, and for some clients without a prior IT experience it can be a difficult subject to digest. That is why a good consultant should be able to not only explain the nitty-gritty details of separate stages of a project when it is required, but also provide a bird’s eye strategic view of the entire project and how it benefits the business as a whole.
Look for someone who has good project management skills. A consultant should be able to successfully engage a team, break down a development process into smaller, more digestible pieces to help track a progress. A good communication with the consultant will also help you to understand how the work is being done, before a final product is completed. That way, after a project is finished, your team will learn a work process quicker and depend less on others to run the business.
Look for consultants with a solid knowledge of your industry. Someone with an experience in your industry would be an ideal choice. That way, when a consultant joins a team, he would quickly grasp a company’s needs due to his own experience dealing with similar things in the past.
The most important part of a BI project is the process of requirements gathering. Usually, it is a conversation between you and a consultant during which you, as a team, discover where to best start, how to progress throughout the project and the type of outcome both of you are looking for.
With a rising popularity of BI tools, a number of consulting firms in the market has increased in recent years. It is important to realize there are firms that simply integrate various IT solutions without a proper understanding of your business. They may demonstrate a shiny new tool in front of you, but without a proper understanding of your industry and business, a partnership with them would not bring the results you want. There are many BI integrators out there, who believe that a simple one size fits all IT-based solution would work for everyone, but in reality it does not work that way. A consultant, who launched a BI solution for a marketing firm, may not be as successful when handling a budget planning project for a large enterprise. In other words, beware of the halo effect and make sure a BI consultant you choose has a specific industry knowledge required for your project’s specific needs.
That is why, if you are implementing a BI project in a company’s finance department, for example, you better choose someone who can “speak finance” and understands the pain of budgeting.
Centida is one these few firms that combines the IT expertise and finance experience. We follow the principle of “from finance practitioners to finance practitioners”, focusing on the improvement of operational, day-to-day activities in finance and controlling departments with the use of modern BI solutions. If your company is looking to speed up budgeting processes and improve reporting, please feel free to get in touch with us at email@example.com.