We know that your data works hard for you. It can find inconsistencies in processes, it can save the entire enterprise money, and it can assist with forecasting to help prepare for the future. Data does a lot for us, and unfortunately, those of us who work with data every day can easily forget that data science isn’t something that immediately makes sense to everyone. There are a lot of users who are new to business intelligence (BI) and understandably will have difficulty stepping beyond their comfort zones (i.e., manual reporting and Excel). We won’t lie; business intelligence is an intimidating concept. Luckily, there are ways to make data and business intelligence more palatable and ultimately increase adoption across the company. Here are four of those ways:

Top-down and lateral initiative support

Start your BI initiative by taking stock of which employees understand and use BI in their jobs. You can then use those existing systems to transform how their peers and colleagues use data science. Those at the top of the company hierarchy probably already use aggregated data to make decisions that drive the company. The C-suite uses progress toward high-level key performance indicators (KPIs), actual vs. forecasted goal revenue numbers, and aggregated output numbers to make decisions that affect daily business. Companies can build a top-down data strategy by teaching data in direct report meetings and tying individual or departmental outcomes to data-driven forecasted goals. First, examine how managers use data. Survey upper and middle management on how they currently use data and how business intelligence could help them better understand the status of their departments and projects. Learn how managers model reporting and analysis for their teams. Do they teach their employees to use data? From the information you gather, make a plan for the teams implementing the BI solution. Set goals for how data experts will work with management to increase adoption of BI among individual contributors (ICs). Track metrics like reports run per team, new dashboards made, and frequency of access. When you measure adoption and share those metrics transparently, you help instill a culture of data science vertically into teams. Some teams achieve greater success by using peer-to-peer learning. To do this, management should approach high performing individuals interested in data science or reporting. Those individuals can spread the word among their team, showing colleagues how they’ve utilized data and reporting to make real-time, data-driven decisions that produce results. If you choose a peer-to-peer methodology of data adoption, consider providing incentives to your data influencers. Referral programs aren’t just for retailers: reward ICs for introducing their colleagues to new data features. Track referrals, dashboards built, and data usage on public leaderboards for added value.

Market BI as a winning brand

Marketing isn’t just for the marketing department. Good managers know that much of their job is increasing their department’s visibility — even to the point of proving the department’s worth within the enterprise. While others in management may understand why the data department is important, other ICs may not fully get it. Take a lesson from your marketing peers, and enlist their help to spread the message of business intelligence by promoting the value of a data-driven organization to everyone within the company. BI and data aren’t scary; data-driven teams win at productivity, revenue growth, and transparency. Organizations buy in when they see an initiative will improve their positioning. Show your company how data makes their jobs easier. This is less about logos and search ads than it is about brand messaging. If you start to think of the BI department as a brand that drives data usage across the business, you can begin to shape the message you want to send to the rest of the company. To shape your message, think of what you want to tell about the BI team and the solutions you’ve built. What feelings do you want other teams to have about data and BI? What success stories can you tell (and how can you tell them) that tap into those feelings? For example, have the solutions you’ve built: Take those examples and successes and make them visible to other teams in a way that sparks their curiosity. Maximize your office’s real estate and place dashboards in lobbies and break-rooms; in prominent locations and embedded in the most important apps to ensure everyone sees them. Remember to add a contact email so other teams can inquire about how putting their data to work can benefit them.

Make BI accessible

Like any tool, business intelligence has to be accessible for people to learn it and use it. This means going above and beyond simply handing out user logins. Accessibility for BI means bringing easy to understand data into the tools and applications your employees are already using. Embedded analytics increases data accessibility and enhances your users’ experience as it lets them access the data they need, when they need it, in a manner that suits them best. Adding analytics to your existing applications doesn’t have to be a huge initiative. Begin by building a single dashboard that shows data most useful to those who use the app. Make sure the dashboard is situated in a highly visible part of the application, and consider publishing some of this data to the entire company. Try to hit at least one of these targets:
  • Show how easy it is to see important data in visualizations
  • Show comparisons or data mash-ups that would otherwise take several manual steps to get to
  • Show progress over time that would otherwise be difficult to see
Embedded analytics make data part of everyone’s daily routine. Rather than blocking off several hours a month to pull together reporting on key metrics, team members can check their progress toward goals as soon as they sign in to the company app. Instead of scrambling to make up for missed targets at the end of the month, users can receive notifications when their metrics fall into a danger zone and respond before a slump becomes an emergency. When companies embed data into their existing apps, they make data-based decision-making everyone’s business. No longer is the responsibility for reporting relegated to upper management or data science teams. With a BI tool that gives you flexible, customizable access to your data and is built to scale, data is democratized and makes every employee a stakeholder in the company’s success.

Educate and support new users

Business intelligence is scary because it sounds complicated, but it’s more complicated to try to understand data without BI. Experienced BI users know this, but outside teams will need a little bit of help getting there. Implementing formal training and informal, ongoing education will improve BI adoption across the enterprise and ensure ongoing success. Like any new initiative, success hinges on training. Schedule time to train employees how to use the BI tools that you want them to use. Choose your training method and plan to connect new users with step-by-step instructions on how to best use the BI tools. Try classroom instruction, help documents, wikis, online courses, and direct instruction. Give employees the basic skills to learn how to use the tools and provide them with further learning opportunities. Start out with test cases from inside a few departments and use those to train the rest of the company. “This is how we helped marketing get 50 percent more leads last month” or “This is how we helped sales close 150 percent more deals last month.” If people see that other teams find success with a tool, they’re more likely to want to know how that tool will help them, too. Try any of these ideas to keep a spotlight on BI at your company:
  • Publish a periodic email newsletter highlighting exciting new ways data has helped a department
  • Set up dashboards for display on public TVs around public office spaces. Bonus points for interactive charts and graphs and on-screen instructions on how to manipulate the data.
  • Join departmental meetings for training sessions on running mission-critical reports, new features, or setting up custom dashboards.
  • Embed, embed, embed. Put your data in apps. Ask team leads and ICs the types of data they need most or is hardest to access, and put it where they can see.
And if that’s not enough, don’t be afraid to leverage the support good BI vendors offer. These experts can do more than triage in-app bugs. Use your vendor’s support resources for training ideas, in-house marketing tips, and advice on new ways to drive data adoption in your enterprise.


Through support, branding, and accessibility, companies can improve their data culture across the enterprise. Find data allies and plan for a long-term rollout that supports how data is used in every part of the company.