The value of analytics and business intelligence in business, government, education or other nonprofit organizations is generally undisputed, however, how to get a high return on investment (ROI) from analytics can be a significant challenge. What do you apply analytics to? What are the best tools to use? How do you integrate analytics into an organization? These are just a few of the many challenges organizations face when adopting analytics for their business.

Five Essential Steps to Maximizing Analytics ROI

1) Plan Ahead

Companies should have both short-term and long-term plans for the integration and use of analytics within their business operations. These plans should determine how analytics will fit into their existing operations, how they will integrate it further in the future as their businesses go through changes, and how the use of analytics will ultimately revolutionize their business practices.

2) Integrate analytics on a wide scale

Integrating analytics throughout the entire organization and familiarizing all employees with analytics will allow the organization to run more efficiently, ensuring maximum utilization of analytics, analytical reports, and analytics tools.

3) Communicate

Companies should not rely strictly on analytical reports and statistics; they should also keep an open line of communication with analysts who can provide greater insights on the data gathered. They should actively work cooperatively or in partnership with analysts and analytics departments to allow for better decision-making and insightfulness.

4) Make informed decisions quickly

Companies should utilize insights and reports they get from analytics tools in a timely fashion. Though it is tempting to fill as many informational gaps as possible by collecting more information before acting, once you gather enough data to make an informed decision, it is better to act fast rather than accumulating more—often unnecessary—data. Remember that data isn’t a crystal ball which will reveal the future, once you have noticed a trend in the data, act accordingly.

5) Measure what matters

Don’t get caught up in measuring Facebook likes or Twitter followers unless the information is essential to your company’s success. ‘Vanity analytics’ and focusing purely on social analytics can distract from established goals and real progress, and often focus on things that do not directly correlate to increased customer retention, customer satisfaction, or revenue. Companies should instead focus on web and social media engagement to analyze how people interact with them and their online presence rather than using likes and followers to determine how to attract and retain customers.