Business intelligence (BI), the architecture and set of integrated technologies, methodologies and processes that translate raw data into meaningful, actionable information, is an indispensable part of improving business strategies and experiencing greater success. But it's not always easy for most organizations to implement.

In fact, there are common roadblocks to BI that trip up even the most well-intentioned, process-oriented organizations time and again. Typically, these obstacles can be attributed to a few root issues ranging from a lack of transparency and collaboration to the use of too many disparate systems. Once identified, however, each can be easily overcome.

1. Data savviness

First, let's address the elephant in the room--data and analytics savviness. While leaders have always relied on data and analytics to help inform important business decisions, over more recent years it's grown more complex than ever to not only synthesize all of the data inputs, but also make sense of it.

As result, this is often the biggest barrier to BI for most organizations. The degree to which your team understands how to derive meaning from analytics can be a hindrance, but it also could be an indicator that adopting of BI is needed.

Often, an organization will fall into one of the following stages, or somewhere in-between:

  • Analytically impaired --might rely on business sense or old processes, but lack deep insights into why something happened or how to recreate it or prevent it from happening again.
  • Analytically confined --you have insights into how things are being done, but the current processes limit the ability to make improvements. In this stage, you might know there's a problem or a better way, but struggle to pinpoint exactly what it is or lack the insight to make the improvement.
  • Analytically ambitious to analytically competitive --between this range is where most organizations reside. You might implementing data and analytics technologies, but need support in deriving meaning from the data or effectively using it to innovate. At the other end of the spectrum, BI may be in full force within your organization and you're using it to identify how to stay ahead and explore new realms of possibility.

The ultimate goal is to reach the point in which your organization is actively and sustainably driving performance and value through informed strategies. Take a hard look at which category you might fall into, as this will help identify what is needed to overcome the barriers you may be experiencing.

2. Disparate systems and silos

Another common barrier to adequately engaging in BI best practices is the use of multiple, disconnected technology solutions. Depending on your business' size, you might have two disparate systems or you might have 12; either way, a lack of integration between them significantly impacts your team's ability to effectively utilize the data those systems generate.

Conduct an internal audit of the software and systems you're currently using across your business to see where there may be overlap, untapped integrations, or if there may be a better tool. It's not uncommon within organizations of all sizes to have some individuals manually keeping track of things in spreadsheets, while others are using more advanced, automated systems.

Make this a collaborative effort across all teams and departments. The goal is all systems (and teams) communicating with one another and operating from the same data sets. If there are individuals on the team adverse to adopting new technology to support BI efforts, it's important to identify the root of their resistance to ensure everyone is contributing to the goal.

3. Lack of time to devote to processing data

If you've historically struggled with BI, you might be running into a common roadblock that countless other companies face: 'no time' to dig into the data.

This obstacle is typically the easiest to overcome, because it's more about a mindset shift than a true obstacle. BI needs to be considered a non-negotiable priority across your company.

Keep in mind, BI-related processes should not fall on the shoulders of just one person or even a few department leads for that matter, it must be a company-wide initiative --everyone shares the responsibilities. This also helps guard against siloed and serial processes and departments, which can mean the difference between your organization crawling versus running.

Consider ways various processes can be dispersed across departments or individuals, and tap into the bevy of tools now available to help automate data synthesis, evaluation and reporting. Don't let lack of time be what holds your organization back.

4. Closed-off architecture

Last, but certainly not least is the issue of a limited or closed-off architecture within the business. Earlier I mentioned the importance of collaboration for BI to be effective, and as such, information sharing and transparency also must be a priority.

How is your organization structured? Is it an "information dictatorship" in which only key leadership has access to data to inform decisions and KPIs? Or is it a true collaboration in which everyone operates from a shared set of KPIs and analytics to manage the full value chain.

Obviously, a collaborative architecture is the goal. To realize the full benefits of a business intelligence system, collaboration is key for not only dispersing responsibilities, but also ensuring everyone has stake in the game and is operating from a shared source of information.