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|Your Single Source of Truth is a quick-read for busy business and IT professionals struggling to create a Business Intelligence solution. Packed with advice, proven methods, and real-world uses cases, this book provides the knowledge to get you not only started but to keep your Business Intelligence solution going.
This book is intended to help you understand how a business can deal with their epidemic data problems and see a bigger clearer picture from the data they are collecting. There are mountains of data being collected in many different departments each with their own transactional system (silos). And each silo is not being joined to give a bigger and clearer picture to the business. This is a data centric world and businesses are collecting and saving data at an enormous rate but most are doing nothing with that data. They are not learning from the data and not making actionable and informed decisions from the data.
Business Intelligence and silos of data is not just a small business issue — it’s an issue that all different size businesses are facing and are having problems getting their arms around. Whether it is lack of resources, low priority, or a lack of understanding that there is a problem. I believe if I can explain the issue, analyze it and point companies in the direction in solving their Business Intelligence issues then I would get to see many businesses grow and flourish. I want to help businesses answer those questions that I believe every business wants to answer: How is my business doing right now? How is my business doing compared to how it did in the past? Are all my areas of my business performing well? Which areas can have better efficiencies? What are my customers thinking and how can I better serve them? This is just a very small sample of questions that I know a business intelligence solution can help businesses answer and this book will help get you started.
Before building out the plan for a bi solution project, I always like to think about what other projects that I have done or know about that are similar to the one I am going to embark on. I always ask myself what issues or obstacles did I encounter in those projects? There are so many reasons why projects get dragged out or just do not succeed, either from the start or they dwindle out if the project exceeds its expected delivery date. Lets just review some and see how many you came across in your professional career on why a project has failed.
- No Executive sponsorship. There is no real buy in from the senior management team, which can lead to many different problems for the success of the project. You have to be persistent here and spend time presenting and socializing how important this project is to them and the company.
- Battle between departments. Believe it or not I have run into this issue so many times when I have investigated why so many companies have failed in implementing a business intelligence solution. So what I mean here is that each department is acting like a ten year old child that does not want to share their data or their process because they believe it is their own secret sauce or they have something to hide.
- No real project plan in place. This is were a company decides they would like to shoot from the hip on this project. They have no real kick off, no steps, no definition of what success is for the project, no anything. They fail to realize that this is a company wide project and the need for a project plan not only holds everyone accountable but ensures the right steps are completed before the next step are taken. It is this mentality that will kill any project almost from the start,
- The IT department wants to build everything from scratch. This can be a problem in a lot of companies were the IT department wants to build everything custom. This can be not only very time extensive but also very costly. I always tell my clients to take the build, buy, or align approach when looking at the different areas of a project. There are several reasons when you should consider building a custom application over buying or aligning: Off the shelf products cannot meet every need, off the shelf products are to rigid, off the shelf products may not be compatible with your existing applications. Now let me give you several reason when you should be thinking of buying an off the shelf product: budget is limited, lack of time, lack of technical proficiency, and technology would not give you a competitive edge.
Above are just a few examples why your project could take longer than expected to be completed or just fail. I am sure that you can think of many more or even have experienced many more. I know in my long career as an IT professional I have come across reasons why projects have failed that would make people laugh and then some other reason that would make people cry. I will save those stories maybe for another blog. I think the main reason why I wanted to get you thinking about project failure is so that history doesn’t repeat itself and I am a firm believer that if you can learn from all failures, you will have a more successful future.
When you look at each silo of data individually you do not get a complete picture of what a visitor or prospect is interested in, you only see what that one piece of the puzzle is showing you. You can get good information from your Google Analytics data (silo) when you look at it by itself and you can get good information from your marketing data (silo) when you look at that data by itself. What I am writing about in this blog is bringing those silos of data together to give you more insight into a potential customers journey, like when you put pieces of a puzzle together you see the picture clearer. Lets say that your business is utilizing Pardot as its marketing tool to not only manage email campaigns that are guiding potential customers to landing pages that are hosted on your web site but you are also gather customer information from forms that are being embedded within your business’s website. Wouldn’t it be great to see what content that prospect was looking at prior to and after they filled out a form on your website or where did they navigate to after getting to that landing page from one of your email campaigns? You have all the information in Pardot first name, last name, email address, etc and now you would be able to gather additional intelligence about them by what they are viewing within your business’s web site. You could even use that information to send out more direct campaigns based on the new knowledge that you have obtained from joining the data. For instance the prospect was on your website for 5 minutes and they visited the integration, business analytics, and warehouse pages. I know what I want to send to that prospect now.
You have to join that data somewhere so lets bring that data into a warehouse. I used the CopperHill AIR Platform to run all the jobs that I created with Talend to move the data from Google and Pardot into the AIR Warehouse. Lets start with the steps I took with Google first. I opened Google Query Explorer which is a tool that allows you to play with the Core Reporting API by building queries to get data from your Google Analytics views. This tool allows you to set different metrics, dimensions, sorts, filters and segments so that you can see the end results before applying them into your data integration tool. Once I got the queries working just as I wanted them to and the data looked good, I move those exact settings inside my Talend tool. With Talend I had to install the Google Analytics Component as it is not part of the base install. The component is free and very easy to install. Once I setup the component and deployed it to the AIR Platform I was immediately streaming data. Below is just an example of one call to Google’s Core Reporting API within the job. I repeated the same steps for each call I wanted to make to Google Analytics API and all the data transfers were handled inside that one job.
The next step was to get Pardot data flowing. Pardot does have a great API that you can access and read your marketing data from. Again I used the AIR Platform to run the job that I created in Talend to move this data out of Pardot and into the AIR warehouse. Let me say this, you do have to have knowledge of the Pardot API or creating this job can be a little tricky. What I did was setup a REST call to each of the Pardot objects that I wanted to receive data from and store within the AIR warehouse. I have attached a portion of the job I configured to retrieve data from the Pardot campaign object. As you can see the setup and configuration is a little more complex then the call to the Google API but the data is flowing just as fast.
Now that all the data from the two sources Google and Pardot are streaming into the AIR warehouse we can create the reports showing exactly what we stated in The Why section. This thought process and build out can be applied to really any marketing tool that a business is using and join that to your Google Analytics data. If you want to gather great actionable information around your prospects then joining google and marketing data is definitely a great idea for you and your business. Finish the data puzzle so you can see the big picture and just do not look at the pieces by themselves.
What are silos of data? I define silos of data as points of data that have been collected and being stored in many locations that could bring value to your business. Many times these silos of data store similar to identical information. Usually these systems are considered transactional systems that employees and/or customers are entering data into every single day. These transactional systems typically have different databases that are storing data related to your business and can be hosted on and off premise. Other silos of data that you will need to consider are spreadsheets, word documents, text files that are being maintained by employees on their personal computers. Employees (which includes everyone from the CEO down) are most likely storing data that could be important to the business. Identifying and coming up with a solution to collect all that data will not only help give you the big picture of the business but also protect one of the businesses greatest assets their data.
I would like you to think about not only where all the silos of data are and how valuable it would be once connected but also be thinking about how that data is being protected and who else is viewing that data (if that does not keep you up at night, I do not know what will).
I typically tell my clients, ask yourself two questions every time you walk out your business doors. Is the data on my laptop important to the business and/or sensitive in nature? If it is, how is that data being protected on my laptop? This is an area were I think a lot of businesses fall short and not only do they not have policies in place but do not even think of this situation. I have seen so many times employees storing sensitive information on their laptops, walk out their companies doors without even considering the security and responsibility that they should have in protecting that data.