Business Intelligence and Project Management: What, Why, and How
Organizations that want to get more insight from their data often implement business intelligence processes and software.
Business intelligence, used to transform raw data into actionable information, can also improve projects.
In this article, you’ll learn more about business intelligence and how this practice can help project outcomes.
You’ll also see how to leverage a popular business intelligence platform, Microsoft Power BI, for project reporting with SharePoint.
What is Business Intelligence (BI)?
“A set of concepts, methods, applications, and technologies, which are utilized to transform raw data into meaningful information that can be utilized by stakeholders to make informed decisions.”
BI helps organizations to:
- Consolidate data from internal and external sources.
- Clean and analyze that data.
- Generate insights to drive change, for example, reducing response time to customer queries.
BI is divided into three areas, each offering increasingly sophisticated levels of analysis and insights.
- Descriptive analytics: Tells users what has happened and what is happening now. Examples include inventory tracking and annual benchmarking. Typically, this form is aimed at non-technical users and relies on visualizations.
- Predictive analytics: Uses a range of techniques like data mining and statistics to make predictions about what could happen.
- Prescriptive analytics: Leverages AI and machine learning to help users select the best course of action from a set of choices.
Business intelligence encompasses several processes, depending on goals and objectives. These include:
- Data mining: Used to find trends and usable data in large datasets
- Data preparation: Compiling data from internal and external sources for analysis.
- Data cleaning: The process of fixing incorrect, corrupted, duplicate, incomplete, or incorrectly formatted data within a dataset. This step ensures data is high-quality and reliable.
- Data visualization: The transformation of data into easy-to-consume charts, graphs, and dashboards.
- Reporting: Sharing data analysis with stakeholders to review. Unlike traditional reports, BI software generates rich, interactive reports based on more data sources and context.
With the rise of self-service business intelligence software like Microsoft Power BI, business intelligence is no longer limited to IT teams and specialists.
Anyone can access the right information and perform analysis relevant to their role. If a report generates more questions, users can drill-down further and use filters to find what they need.
This allows teams to act quickly upon information to reduce risk or maximize opportunity.
That said, organizations still need business analysts to configure and manage the system and to perform more complex analyses.
Benefits of Business Intelligence
BI enables organizations to put their data to good use. This helps data-driven organizations to:
- Make better decisions, based on past and current data.
- Increase revenue with a better understanding of risks and opportunities, customer behavior, and competitors.
- Improve strategic planning.
- Understand the context of KPIs and results.
- Standardize data management and analysis throughout the organization.
- Drive change and improve performance.
- Find and reduce inefficiencies.
- Improve communication with stakeholders and teams.
Now we’ve discussed the basics of business intelligence, you may be wondering how to apply this practice to your projects and portfolios.
Keep reading to see how BI can improve project reports and performance.
How to Apply BI to Project Portfolio Management?
From task duration to costs, customer feedback, and risks, projects and portfolios generate huge volumes of data.
As a project or portfolio manager, you’re likely familiar with the mammoth effort involved in collating and analyzing project data from different sources.
Often, these reports are static; if a stakeholder has further questions, you’ll need to spend more time tracking down the answer.
Business intelligence helps project and portfolio managers to get visibility into the project with a clear picture of the current status and how the project is trending overall.
Drill-down dashboards allow stakeholders to dive deeper into individual projects, eliminating follow-up reports and emails.
As data is automatically loaded into your software and cleansed before reaching end-users, reports are more accurate and up-to-date than spreadsheets or presentation decks.
Business intelligence processes also improve cross-functional projects as reports are standardized.
Depending on the project and stakeholder requirements, you can track numerous KPIs and metrics such as:
- Resource allocation and availability
- Milestones ( % missed or delivered on time)
- Planned v actual task duration
- Stakeholder satisfaction
- % of overdue tasks
With these insights, it’s easier to manage the pipeline, balance resource allocation, and deliver more business value.
BI can also help to improve project delivery by making wider business processes more efficient.
A business process is a set of steps performed by an individual or a group of individuals to achieve a goal.
Business processes, such as project request management and risk management, create the environment for project delivery.
Efficient processes lead to faster project approval and support project execution, for example, with quicker responses to vacation requests and procurement.
As mentioned above, self-service business intelligence tools are on the rise.
In the final section, we’ll take a look at Microsoft Power BI to see how this platform can help your projects.
Business Intelligence Software: Power BI
Microsoft Power BI is a “collection of software services, apps, and connectors that work together to turn your unrelated sources of data into coherent, visually immersive, and interactive insights.’’
Power BI helps organizations collect, analyze, and use data from multiple sources such as SharePoint, Excel, and non-Microsoft systems, in one tool.
Capabilities include data visualizations, AI-powered Q+A, reports, dashboards, DAX statements, maps, and more.
Simple and accessible, Power BI allows end-users to work with multiple datasets – no coding or statistical experience is needed.
The platform is available in three formats:
- Power BI Desktop: Used to create and share reports.
- Power BI Service: Used to view reports and create dashboards online.
- Power BI Mobile Apps: Used to access reports and dashboards on Windows, iOS, and Android.
There are two main end-user roles for Power BI:
- Consumer or user: Anyone who uses Power BI Service in a browser to view reports, create dashboards, and complete light editing on datasets.
- Designer: An individual, often a business analyst, who creates and shares reports using Power BI Desktop.
Power BI and Project Management
Power BI simplifies project reporting for managers, teams, and senior executives.
Instead of searching through sites, emails, and spreadsheets, the project team can track performance in real-time dashboards.
Power BI dashboards give senior managers and PMOs leads visibility into:
- Current projects within the organization.
- Portfolio timeline by year, quarter, month, week, and day.
- Resource allocation, including project managers.
- Key project metrics.
- Overdue projects.
- Risks and Issues.
In this short video, you’ll see how to combine Power BI with SharePoint for tracking portfolio timelines.
Project managers and teams can track:
- The project timeline
- Active items and tasks
- Project status reports
- Issues and risks.
In this short video, see how to use Power BI and SharePoint for reporting on late project items.
BrightWork Power BI Pack
At BrightWork, we’ve developed a Power BI pack for SharePoint with six pre-built dashboards.
Aimed at senior executives and project managers, the Power BI pack includes:
- Portfolio dashboards with a roll-up summary of all project sites. The dashboard offers four filtering options: “Project Status,” “By Project Manager,” “By Project type,” “By Department,” and “By Priority.
- Portfolio timeline, a Gantt view of all project sites. Drill down by year, quarter, month, week, and day.
- Project and Task Timeline, a Gantt view of projects and tasks. Filter by project name, project type, project manager, and task owner.
- Work Reports allow project managers to check the status of tasks, risks, issues, and goals.
- The Status Report Dashboard includes RAG indicators, weekly updates, highlights, lowlights, and next steps.
- The Issue Report helps project managers to get further information on issues, including the task-owner.
The BrightWork Power BI Pack is available to BrightWork customers and is delivered by our Customer Success Team.