One topic that always comes up when talking to customers about investments into SAP business intelligence (BI), be those content development or technology-related, is how to justify the benefits.
As with all investments that involve time and money, a benefits case comes into play which almost always becomes focused on monetary values. BI investments are of course no different. However, it’s not always easy to put hard numbers behind BI projects, as there are lots of intangible benefits. It can be difficult to know upfront all of the things that may help your business by investing in BI, sometimes making it difficult to justify the outlay.
Focus on business outcomes
When justifying your BI investment, what must take precedence is the focus on the business outcomes that will occur as a result of the initiative - both financial and non-financial.
While this is not an exhuastive list, here are 7 key areas that you should look at more deeply to help you evidence the benefits:
- The ability to automate (i.e. efficiencies which are therefore a little easier to monetise) and this means improving people productivity
- Exposure to key business insights to enable smarter decisions
- Identifying new opportunities that had not been spotted previously
- Improved data quality (particularly in visualisation/dashboard projects)
- Increased internal collaboration, interaction and engagement
- More business innovation and new ways of working
- A stepping stone for future organisational changes and development
Take an agile approach to measurement
Your investment in BI is a 'cost of doing business' and it’s a foundational pillar, much like many other tool necessary to run your enterprise. BI is something that needs constant improvement and optimisation, but with that comes regular investment.
At some point, you may have to take a leap of faith and invest in SAP BI with the feeling that it’s the right thing to do, rather than as a result of a robust business case. Nevertheless, you must still monitor and assess both the financial return on your investment, as well as the intangible value being derived from it. An agile approach can certainly help with this, as it ensures constant feedback on the business outcomes (with the feedback coming from the business themselves).
The cost of doing nothing
There’s always an opportunity cost with SAP BI investments, which means you won’t always know exactly what’s possible until you actually start your journey. There’s also a cost of doing nothing, which is rarely explored to the same level of scrutiny as any proposed expenditure, but often doing nothing can be far more detrimental. Just think of the impact of frustrated users stifled by outdated tools, limited business innovation, untapped revenue opportunities, information siloes with offline development and ungoverned local BI solutions.
One thing is certain, those companies that do invest in SAP BI, through whatever means of justification, do see the value. Market research from those companies who are investing in analytics are substantially more likely to outperform peers with some studies showing 33% higher revenue growth.