Building a Business Intelligence Team

What goes into building a successful business intelligence team/ unit/ department? I wrote a post earlier about what business intelligence is as it relates to the sports industry. But how does such a department find success? Certainly, there are many variables – let me run through a few that I see as imperative to finding success.

Good People

They say you’re only as strong as your weakest link. I think the same goes for personnel. I like to think that if I happen to be the smartest person in the room, I’m in the wrong room. As a manager, I have always strived to hire individuals that cannot only be coached and developed, but that have complimentary skillsets to those around them. Having good people who make the room smarter raises the bar for everyone.


It’s obvious, but not always the case – having resources at your disposal is vital. If you’re the worlds best racecar driver but you don’t have a car, you aren’t going to be successful. This isn’t to say you have to have a license to spend a lot of money, but you have to be able to operate within a solid foundation of tools and resources to make you and the organizational teams around you better.

Buy-In From the Top Down

I cannot express the importance of this. How often in your life or in your career have you had what you thought was a great idea, only to have someone above you or empowered to help you realize your idea, not be completely sold or convinced it was as great as you thought it to be? It sucks right? It sucks because that is a huge roadblock in being successful or in bringing an idea or program to life. When those above you give you the go-ahead and all buy-in on the same unified goal, the sky is the limit on what you can accomplish.

Unified Goals

Speaking of having buy-in from the top, having unified goals is another major component in building a strong foundation from the start. I’ve written about it in the past, but I’ll mention it here again for good measure. When I’m working, I ask myself if what I’m working on does at least one of the following – is what I’m working on 1) build the brand, 2) build the database, or 3) build revenue? If what I’m doing doesn’t do at least one of those things, I closely examine why it is I’m working on it. I also tell my staff something similar, and I do it because it helps us continually ensure that we are unified in our approach. Certainly, we get more granular on tasks and objectives on a monthly, weekly, and daily basis, but the overarching goals are the same. It should be this way across your organization, top to bottom, left to right.

Communication & Transparency

I’m a huge proponent of efficiency. Ask anyone that has ever worked for me. I preach efficiency and am always open and willing to change processes if they make my team more efficient. Change is not a bad thing, quite the opposite. That is why I have never understood why communication & transparency should ever be a major factor in improving efficiency. These are fundamental core components to any well-run organization, yet I often see individual, teams, and department struggle as a result of bad communication and not being transparent enough. Not being able to be successful as a result of not having the right people or right tools in place is one thing, but not being able to be successful as a result of not communicating or being clear seems crazy to me!

Measure Twice, Cut Once

It may seem like a no-brainer, but taking the time to survey the surrounding landscape, considering the various variables that may be in play, and developing a strategy based on the information you have available, goes a long-way in creating effective change and effective impact. There’s nothing wrong in moving fast and quickly, but taking an extra moment to consider the moving pieces around you (whether it be hiring new personnel, signing a vendor contract, or implementing organization wide strategies), is a sound practice.

A good manager and an effectively structured business intelligence unit should have control or influence over each of these variables.