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TDWI Insight: Guiding BI From the Top

To develop effective business intelligence programs, lead with organization, not technology. That was the advice from keynote speaker Tracy Austin here at the TDWI World Conference and Executive Summit here in Las Vegas this week. Austin is the former CIO of Mandalay Resort Group and former VP of IT at Harrah's Entertainment, one of the most celebrated BI-driven enterprises in the world. Here are Austin's 10 principles for guiding "BI From the Top:"
To develop effective business intelligence programs, lead with organization, not technology. That's the consensus advice from many of the speakers here at the TDWI World Conference and Executive Summit here in Las Vegas this week. I spent most of Monday at the Summit, a conference within the conference aimed at the higher-level executives, and I was most impressed with a kickoff presentation entitled "BI From the Top," by Tracy Austin, former CIO of Mandalay Resort Group and former VP of IT at Harrah's Entertainment, one of the most celebrated BI-driven enterprises in the world.

Her IT credentials notwithstanding, Austin said "BI is not implementing tools and it's not an IT initiative. IT does not have the empowerment to make end users turn information into strategic actions."

Speaking with the authority of someone who has learned from years of experience what works and what doesn't, Austin presented 10 principles for guiding "BI From the Top:"1. BI must be business driven, tied to measurable business goals. If BI is currently IT driven, find a way to evolve it into a business-driven initiative. 2. Data management has to be in place. If data quality isn't there, no amount of cleaning will make it work. Just say no to more BI work until you can put proper data management and data quality in place. 3. Ensure the right mix of business and IT people. "Mandalay had competent people who were used to working in silos, but you can't operate on your own when it comes to the data warehouse. You need architects and data modelers and people who can bring everything together and tie it to the larger strategy. Even if tools are there and the data is good but the people aren't in place, it's going to fail." 4. Focus on quick measurable wins, not big, monolithic projects. 5. Create a formalized marketing plan. You have to sell the BI program to top executives and the entire organization. "You can even sell it to Wall Street, as we consciously did at Harrahs." 6. Base BI investment decisions on business value. Ditch the smoke and mirrors or black-box approach. Have the rigor to commit to quantitative and qualitative deliverables and follow up with reports on progress toward goals. 7. Institute joint business and IT planning. Gather key business and IT leaders once a month so you get into a proactive mode. Let the business people tell you how they're using BI and how they would like to be using it so you can plan the next releases. 8. Foster a business-savvy IT department. The more you can familiarize your IT people with the business drivers and business problems the better. 9. Develop the right BI architecture to meet the goals. Some organizations build as they go and end up with underpowered infrastructure. Some build everything at once in a big-bang project and they end up with overblown architecture. The best approach is to plan and architect in advace and then build as you go, spending one step at a time. 10. Optimize the human and information resources. Institute continuous measurement and continuous improvement. BI is not something you put in place and forget. You have to go back and reexamine the fundamental assumptions and success of existing projects.

Finishing with a list of "BI blunders," Austin cautioned leaders not to let BI become "a batch-oriented, back-of-the-house tool. BI needs to be on the front lines with employees, it needs to help them deliver better service and it needs to be real time. If we're not thinking that way, we're five to 10 years behind!"To develop effective business intelligence programs, lead with organization, not technology. That was the advice from keynote speaker Tracy Austin here at the TDWI World Conference and Executive Summit here in Las Vegas this week. Austin is the former CIO of Mandalay Resort Group and former VP of IT at Harrah's Entertainment, one of the most celebrated BI-driven enterprises in the world. Here are Austin's 10 principles for guiding "BI From the Top:"

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