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10/17/2007
09:01 AM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Career-Maker Or Reputation-Breaker: BI Projects And Today's CIOs

A recent survey on the impact of BI projects offers little value because all the respondents are IT folks, rather than hard-core business users. But what's not so silly -- in fact it's quite scary -- is that this example serves as yet another reminder that in far too many companies, the IT community is totally detached from customers and is thereby becoming increasingly irrelevant. Is this hitting close to home?

A recent survey on the impact of BI projects offers little value because all the respondents are IT folks, rather than hard-core business users. But what's not so silly -- in fact it's quite scary -- is that this example serves as yet another reminder that in far too many companies, the IT community is totally detached from customers and is thereby becoming increasingly irrelevant. Is this hitting close to home?The survey results were brought to light in a post on our sister site, IntelligentEnterprise.com, which specializes in coverage of BI, enterprise apps, and data and information management. Poster Neil Raden described the survey this way:

"CIO Insight's October, 2007 report "How Valuable Is Business Intelligence to the Enterprise?" is another example of so-called research that makes no sense. The most curious aspect of this survey was that the respondents were all IT people. For my money, if you want to know how BI is doing, you should ask the people who use it (or don't use it). At the beginning of the article, it clearly states, "72 percent say their BI efforts have had a major and measurable impact on their companies' bottom lines." This is a classic softball question. When you consider that significantly less than 72 percent of companies have had a major, measurable positive impact on their bottom lines in the past three to five years, does this imply that BI can have a major negative affect?"

Raden goes on to dissect some of the findings of the study, and one of his primary cutting tools is his contention that while the IT folks involved in implementing the project likely have some opinion about its success or lack thereof, those opinions don't matter nearly as much as the experiences of the business users who rely on the systems throughout the day to make real-world business decisions. Almost off-handedly -- as if there were no other possibility in this universe here in the early 21st century -- Raden summed up the utter detachment of IT from the daily experiences of businesspeople engaged with business intelligence:

"The only conclusion I can draw form this survey is that IT executives of large firms are more optimistic about their BI efforts than their counterparts in small companies. But based on my experience, they are too distant from the actual work that people do to assess this properly. In our own surveys, we find a very different picture, where BI is making only slow and marginal inroads into the current standard of practice, which is Excel."

Believe me, I don't mean to sound like a broken record here. But as we consider the current state of the IT profession and the role of the CIO atop the IT team, read that money-quote one more time and see if you recognize in it your own organization and your own experiences -- and if you do, how quickly can you try to change that reality before you're pushed aside as just too detached and disconnected? Here it is from a guy who founded a company that offers consulting, research, and analysis in BI, performance management, and real-time analytics: "But based on my experience, [IT executives] are too distant from the actual work that people do to assess this properly. In our own surveys, we find a very different picture...."

In the London Underground, the ubiquitous signs warn riders to " Mind The Gap." The gap into which lots of CIO careers are going to disappear is that increasingly open space between internally focused IT intricacies and externally oriented business outcomes, the spreading blackness that leads experts to say things like "IT executives are too distant from the actual work that people do to assess this properly." How about you -- is your gap narrowing, holding steady, or spreading like a bad rash?

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