Software // Information Management
Commentary
5/3/2007
08:39 AM
Rajan Chandras
Rajan Chandras
Commentary
50%
50%

Six Steps Toward Spreading BI

A recent survey by InformationWeek brought out two interesting findings: the percentage of businesses providing BI tools to more than a quarter of employees remains unchanged since last year, and major challenges to more widespread adoption include complexity and unclear ROI. These are non-trivial challenges, but here are six steps vendors and IT practitioners can take to push the pedal.

If it seems like your BI initiative isn't picking up speed, you are probably not alone. Recent findings seem to indicate that although everybody is talking about business intelligence, not everybody is doing it yet, at least to the extent expected. What to do?

A recent survey by InformationWeek brought out two interesting findings: the percentage of businesses providing BI tools to more than a quarter of their employees remains unchanged since last year, and major challenges to more widespread adoption include software/implementation complexity and unclear ROI. These are non-trivial challenges from both a technical and business perspective, and the onus is on vendors and IT practitioners to push the pedal.Vendors have a bigger burden to bear. To begin with, BI does not tell a single, coherent and easily understandable story. What exactly is a "BI implementation"? OLAP? Data mining? Operational reporting? Performance management? Historical or predictive? Latent or transactional/real-time (does transactional mean real-time)? Can real-time data be meaningfully combined with a data warehouse? Why is a data warehouse or data mart needed if BI solutions have their own analytical data stores? How much of data integration/ETL is needed to benefit from BI? Is data quality built into the solution, or is that extra? To these questions, add serious concerns surrounding architectural complexity, ease-of-use issues and licensing costs, and it is little wonder that BI is not making as much headway as it could, considering its potential for business impact.

Clearly, vendors have a tremendous opportunity to seize the initiative for building a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship. Here's how. • Customers are confused about what they need and what they are buying; help them understand the bigger picture without looking for quick returns. • Help business users understand the benefits more clearly - give them verifiable, unexaggerated real-life stories; provide them with (believable) ROI findings; be more generous with proofs-of-concept and training. • Address the licensing costs issue - sometimes it seems like vendors have built future returns into the solution price, a little like forward EPS built into stock price: "You will have fantastic benefits from your BI solution in the future, so let me charge you more already".

IT practitioners have a "job" on their hands as well - after all, vendors cannot usually make much headway with business users unless facilitated by the technology arm of the enterprise. In your role of business enabler and confidante, you must:

• Understand the pain-points of the users: businesses have limited resources; where would BI provide the most bang for the users' buck? • Educate the users. Help them understand the value of BI, and how it can integrate seamlessly into operational and decision-making processes. • Partner with BI vendors to make things happen in the right direction and at the right speed. Provide them with the insight needed for all-round value and success.

Forrester Research analyst Boris Evelson also attributes relatively sluggish market penetration to lack of understanding on the part of enterprises (and I would add vendors and integrators as well) in trying to roll out reporting and analytical tools in isolation from the rest of the BI "stack" - data discovery and integration; analytics; metrics management, presentation, etc. - and in neglecting to tie BI together with other tangential but important related solutions such as Knowledge Management (e.g. discovering reporting capabilities), a BI Portal ( to bring together all these capabilities) and eLearning (to facilitate intuitive, contextual learning). Evelson also encourages data governance & stewardship, linking BI and business processes closely, and - this may come as a surprise to some - pushing Microsoft Excel as the main BI user interface.

Do you agree? What's your experience?A recent survey by InformationWeek brought out two interesting findings: the percentage of businesses providing BI tools to more than a quarter of employees remains unchanged since last year, and major challenges to more widespread adoption include complexity and unclear ROI. These are non-trivial challenges, but here are six steps vendors and IT practitioners can take to push the pedal.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The Agile Archive
The Agile Archive
When it comes to managing data, donít look at backup and archiving systems as burdens and cost centers. A well-designed archive can enhance data protection and restores, ease search and e-discovery efforts, and save money by intelligently moving data from expensive primary storage systems.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Dec. 9, 2014
Apps will make or break the tablet as a work device, but don't shortchange critical factors related to hardware, security, peripherals, and integration.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of December 14, 2014. Be here for the show and for the incredible Friday Afternoon Conversation that runs beside the program.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.