The Importance of Skilled Consulting in Business Intelligence Solution Management

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This article will explore the need for skilled consulting in maximizing your Corporate Performance Management and Business Intelligence solutions.

I recently wrote about the importance of a Support package when it comes to owning and managing a Corporate Performance Management (CPM) and/or Business Intelligence (BI) solution – and how that fits into the context of professional services and training as well.  That article led me to explore more in the area of consulting.  How does an implementation go – with or without consulting?  Why is high quality consulting such an important, if not essential part of getting the most out of your BI and CPM solutions?  This article will discuss the significance of consulting in owning a data analysis and management tool today.

I reached out to a consultant who has worked with both BI and CPM tools to gain some insight into that realm, which helped a lot.  My friend, Stephanie, has built an impressive career in delivering dynamic BI/CPM consulting services for some time now, and she explained her purpose in such a simple way.  She emphasized that one of the most important aspects of any successful consulting engagement is more individualized training for the customer’s personnel. The goal of training is to get each user to a level of expertise where they are comfortable building their own reports and dashboards, as well as modifying and maintaining anything that the independent software vendor (ISV) has designed. It is important that customers don’t feel they have to rely on “the experts” or IT for making changes that come up during regular course of business.

When it comes to more complex reports or budgets models, the consultant’s role is to ensure everything is built in accordance with design best practices so that it is easy to use and maintain. Your consultant will work closely with you to catalogue data sources, discuss design requirements, identify key improvements to any existing models, and thoroughly test every template and integration before it is deployed to production. Consultants are able to draw on expertise gained from hundreds of implementations with different customers representing many different industries and distill that into actionable advice when designing your solution.

How does consulting fit into the bigger picture?  Think about the solution as a parallel of an automobile, from manufacturing to consumer-owned.  The software solution is designed and produced by the ISV, just like a car is put together in a factory.  Next, consultants help you to learn how the product can work for your organization, so you harness the power of your new reporting, budgeting, dashboards, or data warehousing solution, similar to how a car goes from inventory on the lot to being your vehicle.

Consulting pinpoints your specific business needs and connects them to the feature and functionality offerings of your purchased solution.  A consultant’s product, functional and industry knowledge is much deeper than knowing where the gas tank is on the vehicle, so they assist in teaching your team how to optimize the connection between your data sources, the BI or CPM solution, and the analyses you need.

Training is an option for end users to deepen their product expertise.  Imagine never learning how to sync your mobile devices through the Bluetooth feature.  Consulting is a form of training, but is typically more expensive because of the more one-on-one attention you get, and the hours are billable.  Training invites you to deepen your product knowledge in a group setting, usually in expansive, hands-on practice, sometimes with more of an ad-hoc learning session about a specific feature, function, or module.

Support functions as your pit crew as you move through the course with your new CPM/BI tool. Support provides training, whether that be reaching for their in-depth grasp on the product, so you can achieve certain results through specific maneuvers in the product – or as fixes to problems you encounter along the way.  In terms of our vehicle comparison, the pit crew steps in when you need to refuel, repair, replace tires, and so on, which is similar to how the support team helps you troubleshoot with the solution.  A support team is generally producing a knowledge base (KB), or a library of articles, visuals, videos, and/or simple step-by-step instructions that are accessible to users.  The support team is another partner in maximizing your return on the investment for the product.

However, none of these offerings usually come with your purchase, de facto.  Consulting hours can become relatively pricey, especially as the hours pile up during your implementation.  However, after discussing what consulting provides, it’s hard to imagine getting up to speed with a new product without the infrastructure of consulting.  If you had to eliminate one of the professional services we’ve explored in this article, you could probably do without training – only if you had to – because all three are functions of training, with the experience and effect varying, depending on end user preference.

When investing in BI and/or CPM software and then, go on to manage that investment, you have several things to consider in order to achieve the most return.  Don’t make the mistake of trying to save money when it comes to opting in or out of consulting.  A consultant is an initial user experience infrastructure partner that will pay dividends through the duration of your product management.  Solver, Inc. is happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s web-powered, easy-to-use Excel and mobile BI tools, as well as a robust offering of professional services to accelerate company performance management.

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