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Seven Steps to Successful BI Competency Centers

From setting a strategic vision and gaining C-level support to promoting successes and responding to emergencies, follow these seven suggestions for developing BICCs that boost business performance.

Maturity and success often go hand in hand. That's as true for business intelligence (BI) deployments as it is for people.

In a recent survey of 358 business technology professionals conducted by InformationWeek and Intelligent, two thirds of the respondents who rated their BI deployments as "very successful" (see "BI Improves Business Performance" chart) also said those deployments are "mature" or at least "centralized" in their approach. In contrast, three quarters of those who reported less success ranked their deployments as either "just moving toward centralization" or stuck in "decentralized deployments with little or no coordination of practices and investments" (see "Maturity Equals Better BI Success" chart)

BI Improves Business Performance
BI Improves Business Performance
(click image for larger view)

How do you move toward a mature BI deployment — one in which proven practices as well as technologies are shared across the organization? BI Competency Centers (BICCs) or BI Centers of Excellence are the answer for many firms. The very act of creating a cross-disciplinary team aimed at sharing competencies and investments is a sure sign that the organization is moving away from a dysfunctional departmental approach.

Maturity Equals Success
Maturity Equals Success
(click image for larger view)

Creating and maintaining a BICC is no simple task, but a well-balanced and empowered group can change the corporate culture and align decision making with high-level strategic goals. This article presents steps that will promote BICC success together with real-world examples and tips from BICC veterans.

1. Start with a strategic mission.

Don't think of it as a "BI Technology Center"; the BICC should be a repository of knowledge and capabilities around BI applications and priorities. Most importantly, the mission should be guided by high-level strategic goals that cut across the organization.

"The whole point is making it strategic and repeatable," says Gartner analyst Bill Hostmann. "The BICC should promote the idea of using information to make better decisions and to manage the performance of the business."

Work with the BICC team to clearly spell out a written charter that will guide the BICC and make the mission clear to others. The BICC can then promote a shared vision, shared approach and shared technologies whether the project(s) at hand deals with the call center, marketing, financial management, the supply chain, manufacturing or human resource initiatives.

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