Top factors misguiding BI decisions and impacting BI success

Paul Morgan, MD ASYST Intelligence
Paul Morgan, Managing Director of ASYST Intelligence, a focused provider of strategic BI and data management solutions to companies in Africa, discusses some of the issues companies are grappling with which mislead their BI decisions and ultimately impact on their experience with BI.

Although business intelligence (BI) solutions are maturing, many companies that want to use them may still be misguided when it comes to implementing BI.

One of the top factors, that misguide BI decisions in many organizations is a “biting off more than you can chew” approach.

Companies often dive in with bold designs for enterprise-wide BI. However, based on what we have seen, companies that have this kind of approach usually set themselves up for disaster. It takes years to achieve enterprise-wide BI and it can be hugely complicated to integrate BI tools with existing IT systems.
Companies cannot expect to do it within a short timeframe.

Unfortunately, when lofty goals for BI are set, BI never gets off the ground, projects get shelved and expensive BI tools become big white elephants. Rather than set their sights high on enterprise-wide BI, companies should start small, with the bigger picture in mind.

By starting off small, they can get it right in one or two areas and see results much faster. They can then apply the lessons learnt in other areas as BI is rolled-out to the rest of the organization. Furthermore, this kind of approach enables companies to adapt the BI strategy inline with changing business requirements, advises Morgan.

Another big factor affecting the success of BI in today’s organizations is assuming BI to be a solely IT initiative. BI should never be seen as an IT-only initiative. Instead, BI should be considered a business imperative, driven by business needs and aligned with business goals.

From the outset, there must be senior management buy-in and key users throughout the business should be involved in defining the expectations and requirements for BI. There should also be a good mix of representatives from both IT and the business on the project team. If there is no input and support from the business, BI has little chance of success.

This leads to the third factor which impacts on the sustainability of BI in an enterprise – underestimating the importance of user acceptance.

When too much emphasis is placed on the technical side of things, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that a solution lives or dies based on whether anyone uses it or not. Garnering user acceptance from the start is absolutely crucial for BI success. Users at every level must be included in the process from defining the requirements for BI right through to training.

Another factor is the choice of implementing partner. Companies simply don’t do enough research into the partner they select to implement their BI solutions and strategies. Companies should put the same level of effort into selecting a partner as they would when hiring a new employee for a key position.

Things go pear-shaped when an implementation is not planned and managed by experts who know what they are doing. Aside from having the necessary skills and technical expertise, it is critical that there’s a close cultural fit with the implementing partner, and that the partner understands the client’s business. Even best of breed technology can fail if not implemented properly.

The choice of BI tools is another area where companies fall short. Many organizations want a best of breed solution for each functional area; the best OLAP tool, the best solution for analytics and the best CRM tool. The result is that they often end up with multiple stacks that just don’t integrate well. Companies must do their homework to ensure that they choose solutions that can be integrated, otherwise they must think of standardizing.

Then there’s the over-analysis trap. This happens when a company is paralyzed by over-analysis and lengthy planning phases, where too much time is spent analysing BI, what the expectations for BI are, what it can achieve, and how. Instead, companies should build rapid prototypes and concentrate on delivering results – and value – faster.

Other top issues include concentrating on front-end tools rather than focusing on data quality and integration; over-emphasis on the “bling” instead of the business strategy when designing dashboards, and underestimating the importance of having decent supporting infrastructure such as networks, ERP and data systems in place.

As with any major technology deployment, implementing BI can be enormously complex. Companies should bear these issues in mind when implementing BI to ensure the greatest chances for success.