On The Dashboard Effect podcast, Brick Thompson, Blue Margin CEO, and Caleb Ochs, VP of Delivery Operations, devote two episodes to the precursors of successful BI initiatives: 1) clearly defining the impact of the project and 2) aligning the team around key metrics. 

As Brick puts it, “[Lack of alignment] can blow up an entire BI initiative.” 

Listen to the episodes, or read on below:


Define the Impact 

Prior to starting a BI initiative (whether it’s a full data warehouse build, or a relatively simple report addition), define the desired impact on the business and how that will be measured.  

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” - Peter Drucker 

A project that isn’t clearly tied to a business need is destined to produce suboptimal reporting and marginal results. Inversely, defining the expected outcome will inform every aspect of the project design, yield greater ROI, and ensure adoption. (Read our white paper on the topic here: Dashboard Design to Ensure Adoption.)

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Align on Key Metrics 

Misalignment around key metrics is a hindrance to successful project execution. It’s not uncommon for metrics as simple as “net profit” to be defined differently across departments, and that variability translates into confusion by end users and mistrust in the final reports. Ultimately, the project will fail or require extensive rework to be adopted.  

To avoid misalignment: 

  • Ensure you have the input of key stakeholders when identifying and defining key metrics as they will be essential to monitoring the company’s performance and must accurately reflect the highest-value areas.
  • Establish a centralized and ratified list of key metric definitions.

Skip the Rework

To set your data project up for success, avoid jumping into development without thoughtful business impact definition and metric alignment. You may save time up front, but you’ll pay for it several times over through countless iterations and rework. Additionally, missing the mark will diminish the credibility of your BI initiative and hinder adoption. By contrast, a successful launch will demonstrate the impact and benefit of data visibility which is essential to begin shifting the culture toward data driven.  

 “If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.” - Patrick Lencioni, Five Dysfunctions of a Team. 

About Blue Margin

We help private equity and mid-market companies quickly organize their data into dashboards, the most efficient way to turn strategy into action, and create a culture of accountability focused on growth and profitability. We call it The Dashboard Effect, the title of our book and podcast. Our mission is to meet your needs and budget and deliver breakthroughs to our clients early and often.

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Jon Thompson

Written by Jon Thompson

Jon Thompson is co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Blue Margin Inc. An author and speaker, Jon sheds light on how businesses can take advantage of a revolution in business intelligence to become data-driven and accelerate their success.