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Four Business Intelligence Resolutions for 2009

In times of recession, business intelligence is more important than ever. In the year ahead, make commitments to use BI to beat the downturn, standardize tools, train users and invest in your own career.

2. Develop a BI Strategy and Standardize

If you are looking to trim your BI budget, consider the number of BI tools your company owns and how much you are paying in maintenance fees to vendors that provide overlapping capabilities. Are any of those software investments shelfware and likely to remain so?

BI tool standardization among 513 companies surveyed in 2007 (2005 stat for
BI tool standardization among 513 companies surveyed in 2007 (2005 stat for "single vendor" noted in gray box).
(click image for larger view)
A reduced BI tool portfolio means internal support costs decline, software maintenance costs decrease and support for the consolidated portfolio of tools should improve. But BI standardization is not for the faint of heart. It takes an enterprise approach to business intelligence and an executive-level sponsor who is willing to say that certain BI tools will no longer be supported. In a survey I co-authored for TDWI, only 24% of companies responding in 2005 said they had standardized on a BI platform. By 2007, this number had nearly doubled to 42 percent of companies surveyed (see "BI tool standardization" graphic above). Even more significant, companies that have a predominant BI standard reported a higher success rate and lower failure rate than companies that have not standardized (see the "BI standardization and success" chart below).

BI standardization and success as reported by 513 companies surveyed in 2007.
BI standardization and success as reported by 513 companies surveyed in 2007.
(click image for larger view)
BI standardization does not mean one tool meets all users' needs. It does mean, though, that you have a predominant BI standard complemented by tools that serve a specific purpose or capability not available in the BI platform.

3. Train Your Users

If you're hoping business intelligence will help your company through this economic downturn, IT cannot remain a bottleneck to information. You have to train more users on self-service access to information and analysis.

Vendor-provided training is readily available for power users who need to become experts on BI tools. More casual users would benefit from in-house training customized to their data and analysis needs. If you have developed a sound BI strategy and optimally positioned BI tools to specific user segments, then certain user segments should not require any formal training. For such intermittent BI users, cheat sheets and quick reference cards may be the most appropriate training assistance.

Ensure that whatever training you provide is on going and collaborative. Web-based sessions in which BI users share tips and tricks are ideal. When logistics allow, host periodic "lunch and learn" sessions as well as internal user-group meetings.

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