In recent years the turbulent global economy has wrought drastic changes on the business landscape, forcing organisations to either shape up or shut down, and has highlighted the vital role that IT plays in the success or failure of a modern enterprise.
On the back of this, the King III report, released in South Africa early in 2010, spoke of the need for IT to be better aligned with business strategy and for greater levels of IT governance, risk management and compliance to regulatory requirements.
These two factors both point to the importance of implementing a mature business intelligence (BI) solution that supports King III, delivering additional benefits.
Better corporate and IT governance relies heavily on having the right information available to the right people to enable them to make sound and timely decisions. As BI aims to support better business decision-making, properly implemented BI tools will provide sufficient data on time to decision makers. Investing in such a tool will not only assist organisations to adhere to the requirements of King III, it will also save companies both time and money. BI also assists with data governance by ensuring the availability, integrity and confidentiality of data, three very important aspects not only for corporate governance but for more successful decision making ability.
IT governance principles dictate that data must be effective, efficient, confidential, should have a high level of integrity and be readily available, compliant and reliable, all of which the proper BI tools will assist with.
However the two main areas where BI delivers on the requirements of King III are transparency and risk mitigation. In terms of transparency, BI ensures that data is available on time and can easily be viewed by authorised users and stakeholders. By controlling access to data, limiting this to authorised users only, BI mitigates the risk of confidential information leaks and unapproved access. BI also ensures that data is accurate and of high quality, compliance with both legal and regulatory requirements.
BI tools can assist organisations to achieve and execute business strategy by delivering timely reporting on required data. By aiding in measuring performance against strategic and operational goals BI tools also deliver insight to help businesses achieve these goals, enabling better outcomes as a result of sound decisions made based on reliable, accurate and timely information.
In light of these benefits it is easy to see how business intelligence solutions underpin King III principles and can assist businesses to become more effective and sustainable. However it is important to bear in mind that a simplistic solution that focuses on specific divisions, areas or types of reporting, will have limited impact here, especially if it is not implemented enterprise wide. Adherence to King III, regulations and legal compliance requires a mature solution that breaks away from this ‘tunnel vision’ approach to ensure a holistic, ‘bigger picture’ approach to BI across the organisation, and which can be linked into the company’s business strategy to ensure not only efficiency but effectiveness as well.
A mature solution provides a large amount of information to stakeholders, ensuring that data complies with legal and regulatory requirements, and is not just a quick reporting tool harnessed by a couple of users as is often the case with more simplistic BI tools. Added to this, the bigger the solution and the investment, the more interest will be taken by the board and by senior management, which will in turn help to close the traditional gap between non-technical board members and IT managers, enabling better value delivery and effectiveness.
Data quality, however, is often the biggest stumbling block in any BI implementation, as BI tools are dependent on the format, quality and availability of source data. If data is of poor quality, people will not trust the information provided by the BI tool and thus, no matter how large the investment or sophisticated the tool, the solution will not be used. This means that a large amount of time, money and effort go to waste.
In order to ensure data quality, IT staff need to know not only what data to provide but also why. This will ensure that, if changes are to be made to the system, they will understand the effect this will have on the BI tool as a whole and thus be able to apply better planning, testing and implementation. The finance department also needs to be made aware of the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of information so that the gap between IT and business can further be closed. On top of this, data feeds should be tested continuously to ensure that issues are identified in the shortest possible time frame and not just at crunch time as is the norm.
If data quality can be assured, and a suitable mature solution implemented in an organisation, BI has the potential to provide benefits beyond those traditionally thought of as being the realm of business intelligence. Not only will organisations be able to make better decisions, they will be able to have greater levels of transparency and risk mitigation, be able to better implement and deliver on business strategy, and will have greater adherence not only to the guidelines laid out by King III but also deliver greater levels of governance, risk management and legal compliance.
Sanet Orton, Operations Manager at Cortell Corporate Performance Management