Who Needs a Business Intelligence Strategy?

November 7, 2009
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Surveys performed each year clearly show that business intelligence (BI) is a top priority year after year, and almost every company invests in some sort of BI initiative. But why are there very few saying that their BI program was a huge success and dramatically improved the performance of their company?

Many organizations have data warehouses which integrate operational systems into one place and, and they produce some reports from them. Although they may have differing degrees of maturity, organizations have the right to claim that they have the BI systems in place. But there is a big difference between having a data warehouse that is obviously disconnected from the decision making process and having a BI program that is integrated into all aspects of the business and decision making process.

Is it IT Intelligence Strategy?

I happened to see a podcast from Gartner about how to create a BI strategy, which basically says that an organization’s BI strategy is simply a technical document written by IT for IT, and about IT. IT functions just give this document to their business audience saying that it is the BI strategy going forward.

This document includes a list of



Surveys performed each year clearly show that business intelligence
(BI) is a top priority year after year, and almost every company
invests in some sort of BI initiative. But why are there very few
saying that their BI program was a huge success and dramatically
improved the performance of their company?

Many organizations
have data warehouses which integrate operational systems into one place
and, and they produce some reports from them. Although they may have
differing degrees of maturity, organizations have the right to claim
that they have the BI systems in place. But there is a big difference
between having a data warehouse that is obviously disconnected from the
decision making process and having a BI program that is integrated into
all aspects of the business and decision making process.

Is it IT Intelligence Strategy?

I
happened to see a podcast from Gartner about how to create a BI
strategy, which basically says that an organization’s BI strategy is
simply a technical document written by IT for IT, and about IT. IT
functions just give this document to their business audience saying
that it is the BI strategy going forward.

This document
includes a list of architectural diagrams showing which data warehouse
platform will be used, which BI reporting tool will be used, which ETL
tool will be used to get the source data loaded into data warehouse,
which analytical applications will be used to create predictive models
or which EPM (enterprise performance management) tool will maintain the
budgeting and planning process. This document also includes list of
strategic vendors to be used by the company.

This is a very good
document that could be used to define enterprise BI architecture, but
this is definitely not a BI strategy. This document does not
communicate anything valuable to the business.

Business Intelligence for Business

As
the name implies, business intelligence is for business, which means
that a BI strategy should be adopted by business stakeholders.
Stakeholders need to have a good understanding of what the purpose of
the BI strategy or program is. To build this common understanding, the
first thing to do is take their needs into account at the very
beginning. Go to them and ask what it is that business would like to
achieve with the BI initiative or program. And then create a strategy
document that describes all these objectives and aspects with no
reference to any technical consideration.

If you don’t really
get any alignment with the business, you never get any value from any
BI initiative, which is why many organizations cannot clearly see any
improvement on the performance of their company. If there is no
alignment, there will be no benefits.

By addressing these
questions in plain language, BI leaders can promote understanding of
business intelligence and persuade business users to adopt business
intelligence – and in some cases become leaders of business
intelligence.

Components of Business Intelligence Strategy

Gartner identifies 3 main components of a well established BI strategy.

WHO:
This is simply an area where you define who will have which roles in
building and consuming these BI initiatives. It includes defining
organizational and individual roles and combines the IT and
businesspeople together. This where the BI competency center (BICC)
comes into play – a team of individuals with different skill sets
ranging from technical and analytical to business skills.

WHAT: The
second is identifying the role of BI in an organization. What are you
trying to achieve with the BI program? Do you want to achieve a single
repository across the organization or do you want to build company-wide
metrics or KPIs (key performance indicators) that can be used to
measure and drive company-wide strategy, or do you want to reach the
point where you build decisioning engines to help identify some
patterns and take some actions based on those patterns?

HOW: This is the area where technical architectural document plays a role identifying how to achieve those objectives.

Conclusion

Many
organizations have talented BI resources who could build a very well
designed BI architecture. And it is obvious that it is not the
technical competency that fails in building the BI strategy, but the
leadership within the organization.

Without appropriate BI
strategy which covers enterprise-wide aspects and promotes a culture
that support business intelligence to make better decisions, BI
programs will not pay off and will be seen only as technically
successful.

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