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Originally published 4 November 2009
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 very few saying that their BI program is a huge success and dramatically improves the performance of their company?
Many organizations have data warehouses which integrate operational systems into one place 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.
I happened to see a podcast from Gartner about how to create a BI strategy, which basically says that 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, BI reporting tool, ETL tool to get the source data loaded into data warehouse will be used and analytic applications 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.
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 they (the business) would like to achieve with the BI initiative or program. Then create a strategy document that describes all these objectives and aspects with no reference to any technical consideration.
If you don’t align 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.
Gartner identifies three main components of a well-established BI strategy.
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.