How Does Data Become Business Intelligence?

Today’s guest blog post is written by Sally Boucher, senior sales consultant, analytics, at WealthEngine. WealthEngine, a partner of Patron Technology, is an add-on application that operates within PatronManager.

For the past several years, we have all been inundated with the admonishment to collect and use data in decision making. As Joe Tish, senior manager for client success at Patron Technology, suggests in his December 4 blog post, many are asking, “Is this really something I can do at my organization?”

In truth, using data wisely takes an organization-wide commitment. But there are steps you can take now to move your organization forward. Earlier this year, we surveyed and interviewed organizations about their use of data and technology in making business decisions. We canvassed a cross-section of non-profit organizations and received 1,126 responses, 11% of which were from arts-related organizations. Respondent organizations ranged in size from those with fundraising budgets of $10,000 and below to those with budgets of $25 million and above.

Wealth-engine-chartOur research shows that there are five distinct stages of non-profit data maturity: oblivious, aware, emerging, investing, and optimizing. Based on a study of these different levels of maturity, we identified the following key areas that differentiate those who are practicing data-informed decision making from those who are less data-informed. From our survey, data-informed organizations:

  • Enrich their data with wealth, demographic, and behavioral data regularly
  • Use a variety of sources for data enrichment when needed, such as surveys, focus groups, and demographic information
  • Are much more likely than other respondents to have a data and analytics department or a designated person conducting analytics
  • Are actively planning for technology needs into the future, either as a part of their strategic plan or with a separate technology strategic plan
  • Have a satisfactory or very satisfactory opinion of their technical support, with a slight preference for dedicated technical support or organization-wide technical support over outsourced or no support
  • Have access to information in the form of reports, preferably by pulling reports directly on their own and/or by accessing real-time data through dashboards
  • Have leadership that supports and encourages measurement of ROI and accountability for results

Whether your organization has been slow to adopt a data culture or is leading the pack, understand that we are all at the nascent stage of using data and technology to drive business intelligence (BI) and decision making. If you want to push your organization forward, there is still time! Consider these tips for building a case for business intelligence within your workplace:

  • Find the pain points in your organization. Talk with each decision maker, including marketing, development, community outreach, finance, human resources, and programming, to determine which decisions they struggle with, where they are seeking new information and insight, and how your competencies can complement their needs.
  • For each, show how a structured approach to BI would alleviate uncertainty, and maximize accuracy and confidence in the decision.
  • Develop a map of current organizational competencies. Do several departments employ analytics and prospect and/or market research expertise? Where are there overlapping or complementing competencies? Can forming a loose or structured business intelligence group or unit improve collaboration, generate ideas, or provide added attention to the potential value of business intelligence to the organization?
  • Find and form relationships with those in your organization who have the competencies you lack — perhaps data, IT, programming, or other technical specialties. Or alternatively, on the business side, those who bring business strategy and business process understanding to the table.
  • Find and form relationships with decision makers in the business environment who believe in and will help champion your case.
  • Where possible, begin by helping with some of the smaller projects. Small successes will feed your case and your project pipeline.
  • Strive to develop a reporting relationship with strategic and business decision makers rather than with IT or technical decision makers. A BI unit can become the organization’s problem-solving team as long as it interacts with leadership and is encouraged to flourish in a top-down environment. Where BI is housed and reports to Information Technology, projects tend to be bottom-up and the value may not be evident to leadership. More importantly, the problems being solved are less likely to have a strategic business purpose, and the value to your organization will be lost.

About Wealth Engine:
WealthEngine is the leading provider of wealth intelligence and marketing services to non-profit, higher education, healthcare and commercial organizations. Over 4,000 clients across the U.S. and UK use WealthEngine’s products to find prospects with the propensity to spend and the affinity to engage. WealthEngine goes beyond wealth, allowing its clients to influence and retain their customers in unique and personal ways.

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