How to make a case for data analytics and BI to your boss

Your company's data is a valuable resource, but only if it's accessible and organized in a way that makes it usable. Lots of businesses have data siloed in various applications, making it difficult to get insights from it. To get the full benefit of their data, they need to move it from those silos into a central cloud-based data warehouse, where they can model and analyze it using business intelligence (BI) tools to inform decisions and improve operations.

Some organizations are just beginning to investigate BI and data analytics. If the manager with budget approval for your company or department doesn't yet understand their value, these six tips will help you make your case.

1. Do research and preliminary planning ahead of time

Being prepared is crucial to making a successful pitch to your boss. Do your research, and go in with solid evidence of why BI is a good idea. You may want to recommend specific tools at each layer of the data stack – data warehouse, ETL, and analytics or data visualization software. At least consider the following questions:

  • Who are your end users? What features do they need, and what features would be nice to have?
  • What data sources and destinations do the ETL tools support? If support for a crucial source is lacking, how easily can you get it? (With Stitch, for instance, you can you write your own integrations using the open source Singer framework.) Similarly, what data warehouses do the BI tools work with?
  • How many people will be required to implement and maintain the solution?
  • What will your costs be?

You don't need to make a comprehensive implementation plan before you pitch to your boss, but you should have a basic idea of how your company could use data analytics and which kinds of tools would be best.

2. Tailor your pitch

Tailor your pitch based on the level of your boss's understanding of data analytics. If they're knowledgeable, include more technical details. If not, focus more on the broader benefits to the organization that the person could see in their daily work.

Do your best to choose an optimal time and place to pitch your idea based on when your boss has the time to hear you out and is most likely to be receptive to new ideas.

3. Highlight a problem to be solved

As you start making your case, focus first on the problems that BI would solve. Find a business issue that your company has been facing, and explain how BI could help address it.

If your sales team, for instance, is struggling to reach out to the right people at the right times, show how BI could reveal where prospective customers are in the purchase decision and the best times to reach out.

4. Show off benefits to the company

Next, discuss the benefits of each component of the data analytics stack – data warehouse, ETL tool, and BI platform – for the company as a whole. Be sure to approach the topic from a company-wide perspective rather than just focusing on the benefits to one group, like the IT department or marketing team. Make the advantages relevant to the outcomes your boss cares about most. You could also discuss how you'll use the time that an ETL tool could save you to benefit the company.

Data warehouse

You can often analyze data specific to any one tool in the tool itself, but to collect, organize, and analyze data from disparate sources you need a data warehouse. Cloud data warehouses like Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, and Snowflake can scale compute and storage resources with latency measured in seconds or minutes, so you can get just the performance you need when you need it – there's no need to provision for peak load when you can autoscale on demand. With that high performance you replicate data into your data warehouse quickly, so you can begin analyzing it quickly.

A cloud data warehouse's ability to scale has another benefit: You can skip the preload transformations and load your raw data into your data warehouse, then define transformations in SQL and run them in the data warehouse at query time as needed. Your centralized raw data store can support different transformations for different tools, analyses, and business processes.

ETL

With this transition to modern cloud-based data warehouses, ETL has become ELT, and newer ETL tools have emerged that run as services in the cloud. They let you connect to cloud-based SaaS applications, specify a data warehouse , and begin piping data through an infrastructure hosted on a cloud platform. If you use a SaaS ETL platform that supports your sources and your destination, you don't have to do any code development or maintenance, so you can manage your data more efficiently.

BI

Some of the benefits of BI include the ability to make better decisions because of improved access to information, faster reporting, and improved operational efficiency. It can help to describe unorganized, inaccessible data as a missed opportunity. Hidden inside that unusable data are valuable insights waiting to be discovered. Data is a powerful tool in today's business world, and competitors that have better BI than you have a significant advantage.

5. Eliminate concerns about cost

Cost is likely to be one of their leading concerns your boss brings up. You can eliminate, or at least reduce, these concerns by discussing the return on investment for BI tools and explaining the cost of not having BI. You can also explain that with cloud-native data warehouse and ETL tools, you can get just the performance you need when you need it, on demand. That lowers costs, as does that fact that you no longer need to support in-house hardware and software or develop and maintain your own analytics programs.

6. Anticipate questions

Before you pitch your idea to your boss, come up with potential questions or objections they could have. That way, you'll be prepared to deliver a well-researched, well-thought-out response. Your boss might, for example, ask why you can't write your own code to transfer data into a data warehouse. You might then explain that the general consensus today is that engineers shouldn't write ETL.

Conclusion

Business intelligence enables organizations to make a better decisions and improve operations. To convince your boss of the benefits of BI, research the potential benefits it can offer and present that information using the tips above.

Image credit: Airman Shelby Pruitt