Today, it’s essential to have the right data to drive your business forward. Yet it’s a big challenge to maintain data that’s structured in a clean, organized manner and setting it up so it can be delivered at a moment’s notice to those who need it.

Karma Bevelhimer, vice president of retail operations for National Vision, was tasked with doing just that for one of the largest and fastest-growing optical retailers in the United States. National Vision has five main distribution channels and operates more than 1,000 retail brick-and-mortar locations. To create a data enterprise that worked for the organization, Bevelhimer knew she needed to first get company-wide buy-in and participation in identifying the common core measures for National Vision. These are the metrics that the company has agreed to use so that all business units are defining and measuring success in the same way.

Karma Bevelhimer, Vice President of Retail Operations for National Vision
Karma Bevelhimer, Vice President of Retail Operations for National Vision

Get Your C-Suite on Board

According to a survey conducted by Forrester Consulting, only 51 percent of data professionals believe their C-suite executives fully support their organization’s data and analytics strategy.

Bevelhimer began the buy-in process at National Vision by holding key meetings with every department head, as well as every key reporting and analytical director. The idea was to preplan the template for the organization’s data—a wish list of sorts. She asked them, “What are you using today? What are you missing? What is it you wish you had?”

Demonstrate What Data Can Do

When she first came on board 16 years ago, the organization was running reports out of an IBM AS/400 system. These were limited to canned reports that didn’t provide much information. Bevelhimer couldn’t even answer a question as simple as, “What have sales been like on Tuesdays for the last seven years?”

Organized, easy-to-find data will prepare your business to answer those types of questions. It can also inform the C-suite about your customers, help you streamline existing operations, and manage risk and compliance. To get buy-in from your leaders, Bevelhimer explained that you need to start by showing them that data can do these things and more.

Find Common Ground

The first step of understanding how to use your data is to identify what you want to gain from it. Both people and technology play a critical role in the process of defining the common core measures for your organization.

“We approached this process democratically,” Bevelhimer said. Her team held a meeting with company leaders to explain the project’s objective and ask everyone to identify their key wants. “After they all took the time to think about it, we had this massive list. Some stuff was unrealistic, and some stuff was already available.”

Bevelhimer and her team pared the list down to come to a consensus. “If merchandising wants units of something and marketing wants units of something, but they’re both thinking of these in a different way,” she asked, “is there a commonality that everyone can agree on?” Her team set out to find those answers.

Choose the Metrics That Matter

At the end of the exercise, Bevelhimer’s team was able to form common definitions. In some cases, this was easier said than done. “There were a lot of things that we said no to,” Bevelhimer noted. “If it isn’t a common metric and if it isn’t driving your business—every day, every week—then it shouldn’t be included.”

She let everyone know that they’d still be able to get to the data they wanted through other means. This exercise was simply to bring the immediacy of how they were managing the business to the attention of the whole company through key metrics.

Identify Your Stewards Early

No matter how well-prepared or how well-defined the process, there’s a point where it will no longer be democratic, especially in a large enterprise. “This is when having a steward becomes very helpful,” Bevelhimer said. “You need someone to be able to say, ‘We’ve listened to all of you, but these suggestions are not practical for this purpose.’”

Finding consensus is a pain point for many organizations. But if you can identify the key players that represent the common core measures and who are in a position of authority, then it’s not as painful to find that consensus.

Your stewards will also need to know how to interact with the IT department. “Those working in the IT department are like the mechanics of an organization,” Bevelhimer said. “They don’t really drive the car every day and see that something might be going wrong. The data steward, on the other hand, is the driver. That person should not only have good business acumen but should also be able to relay what they know based on their expertise to the IT department.”

Keep Developing Your Data

After about 18 months of meetings, implementation, and onboarding, National Vision identified 100 key dimensions of the business to measure. “We have other variables like all the facts about a date, or about a store,” Bevelhimer said. “But the key metrics revolve around 100 common core measures.”

All 100 measures undergo an annual review by each department to identify whether anything needs to change. “We have an annual strategy and planning meeting for the upcoming year to identify goals. We also evaluate our metrics on an as-needed basis if there is a new product launch or promotion.”

Bevelhimer encourages everyone receiving the reports to keep up with their wish lists. “We keep those in mind and have the IT teams build new measures when they have time.” She makes it a point to remind everyone in the organization that the IT team is good at IT stuff, but they’re not business users. “Business users know what they want, but they don’t know how to ask for it,” she added. “Trying to get those two together is the magic hat trick. For our organization, that’s why my department exists. We are that liaison and translator.”

Work Your Data so It Can Work for You

You’ve done the hard part of identifying stewards and getting buy-in. You’ve started cleaning and organizing your data so you can decide how to best use it. You’ve put a process in place to audit these measures and refine them. So, what’s next? You need to teach everyone how to use it, and then let it work for you.

“We have a few power users in the organization,” Bevelhimer said. “We’ve got them writing their own reports now. We have it set up so it’s a self-serve process.” Her team sends out the same report to the entire field organization, but the recipients have the option to take the same content and rerun it in a different report version. “We train them to be able to write formulas, drag, drop, sort, or filter. For a district manager who operates between 12 and 20 locations, to be able to get that kind of information without going to an IT guru is very valuable.”

Even still, it can be a struggle to educate new and existing employees about how these reports work and how they can get the full benefits from them.

Set Yourself Up for Self-Serve Success

National Vision is looking into SAP Analytics Cloud as well as SAP Fiori for next steps. “When I saw the tile structure of SAP Fiori, I thought what if I could get each brand its own page with those tiles? It’s still the same commonly used reports, but that visual I think would get them over the, ‘I’m afraid to push the wrong button’ type of response,” Bevelhimer said.

For the C-suite, Bevelhimer said her team provides dashboard like reports with information compiled into one to three pages. They are designed so the leaders can quickly get a high-level view of the business.

Let the Data Lead the Story

“These changes have been very beneficial,” she added. “It’s helped all our stores. Whether we want them to focus on something that needs correcting or if we want to celebrate the things they are doing right, we can easily show this.”

At the end of this process, National Vision was able to define key performance indicators and measures, get consistent data throughout the entire organization, and gain confidence in its data quality. Now Bevelhimer is looking forward to making their system even faster and easier for everyone involved.

If you’re looking to learn how your peers are doing more with business intelligence and analytics, you should join us at the BI+Analytics Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, March 9–11. Early-bird registration is available through Jan. 31, and ASUG members receive $200 off registration.