Courtesy of IT Business Edge
Whether it's user-driven, vendor-driven or some combination of the two, there's a lot of fuss about getting business intelligence into the hands of more folks, not just the super users who pride themselves on their abilities to whip up data-intensive reports at the drop of a pivot table.
In order for this to happen, BI projects must move beyond selecting the right hardware and software to encompass change management, knowledge management and other cultural issues. That was a key takeaway from my interview with Desmond Mullarkey, Paulo Dominguez and John Brkopac, all of Technolab Corp.
Technolab, a consulting, software development and training company that provides business performance solutions, helps its clients establish competency centers. There’s a particular demand for BI competency centers due to companies’ largely unmet expectations for BI. Dissatisfaction with BI is “not a well-kept secret,” Brkopac told me. “As significant as the promise of BI is, many organizations haven’t gotten ROI from it,” he added.
Not only that, but BI technology is changing rapidly and so are business conditions in general, which means companies often find themselves scrambling to keep up with users’ demands for new reports or types of analysis.
Competency centers should be created and operated with four dimensions in mind, Mullarkey said. Technology, selecting the proper hardware and software, is one dimension. Human capital/culture is another, and it’s the one that relates most directly to getting users on board with BI. If users lack confidence in BI applications, they simply won’t use them.
“A lot of times you find BI applications are used by only a small number of people,” Mullarkey sruaid. “That could be due to a lack of confidence in the application itself or maybe a lack of a standard in the organization about what technology to use.”
Infrastructure, the third dimension, relates to both of the other two. While its relationship to technology is pretty obvious, the connection to human capital/culture is less clear. Mullarkey explained an underperforming infrastructure will result in slow response times, which is a major cause of user disappointment in BI.
The fourth – and trickiest – dimension is process. It includes both technical processes, such as creating and enforcing standards for data extraction, data staging and data quality, and human processes; such as training users.
A “big trap” associated with the process dimension is “is treating BI as a project for a particular area of users within the organization, so it doesn’t transform into a process,” Mullarkey said.
It’s important to consider all four dimensions when crafting a BI strategy, Mullarkey told me, “When you talk about less than optimal BI implementations, almost always it goes back to a strategy based on one of the dimensions without the other three involved.” And guess what? Companies tend to focus more on technology, while neglecting the other three dimensions.
My theory: Technologists continue to lead BI efforts at most companies, and they are more comfortable tackling technology challenges than cultural or process issues.