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How to turn a good BI into a great BI

As a society we’re obsessed with overachievement. What happens once you build the perfect BW –>business is very happy and your BW project delivers anticipated business value. Budgets and resourcing are not a problem because Business can see true value in their BI investments.

However reality is that not all BI projects go wonderful as Gartner, ASUG, AMR all report that BI success hovers around the positive side of 50%, give or take 7%.So what happens to BI projects that head south-east or due south. Business stops using the BW, your sponsors stop answering your calls, and budget approvals become tougher. Infact people start to work harder and continue to get no-where.

If you are great in your non BI work it is easy to get caught in an ‘Intelligence Trap’,i.e. because I am always right in what I know, I am always right in everything I do. “Successful people routinely fall into their own ‘intelligence trap’ prompting an inability to change as they have been successful in their past decisions.”

For successful BW management it is quite easy to rest on our laurels and continue to do things the way we have done before – but the world around is changing rapidly as are business demands.

In 2003 it was important to get a report even if it ran slow, in 2009 that is not acceptable. It was excellent to provide cross-application reports in 2009 that is a given. In 2003 we provided all detailed, line item reports from ODS even if it took 18 minutes to run the report, in 2009 that is not acceptable. We built InfoCubes without ODS’s, and included data elements from quotations, sales orders, billing and invoicing into the same Cube, in 2009 this is not acceptable. In 2003 we had no accelerators in 2009 we have one. In 2003 standards were desired, in 2009 they could kill your ‘Ad-Hoc’ report delivery process. In 2003 we did 99% of BI development in our enterprise, in 2009 most of it may be off shored 3% or even 100%.

Add to this the changing technologies, the need for ever greater query performance. With Gartner, AMR, Forrester and now SAP clearly stating ‘Ad-Hoc’ or ‘Self-Service’ queries as the prerequisite for a DW to be called a success in 2012 is a prerequisite. Note: Ad Hoc query resides on a foundation of database access performance, not just any performance great performance at that.

Add that ASUG reported that 52% of SAP implementations do not deliver anticipated business value at the time of go live and we are faced with a 48% chance of low or no success.

Add that we currently measure BI Project success only by PMP and PMBOK measures, i.e. finished on time and in budget, and that is no assurance that Business Value has been attained.

Add that that in Feb 2009 1,400 CEO’s tell Gartner that despite investing over $8 billion on BI software alone in 2008 they are not achieving business expectations.

Just like we cant afford to sit back in this horizontal economy so too we cannot afford to sit back in Business IntelligenceIn todays dynamics it is important to realize that what got you here will not necessarily get us there.

1. Customers need to Install a structure and guideline for efficiency, that means we need to lower the probabilities of failure from 48% to under 10%, that means they need to attain high Business Value

2. Be able to measure success not on PM criteria’s but on true Business Value Attainment. A separate binary measurement technique of Business Value Attainment that is quantifiable

3. Enable democratic documentations and idea workshops and autocratic business value governance. Stern adherence to Business value standards to align all tactical tasks towards strategic success

4. For a US reader we have the power to do it right, right now, as Quality is the only thing that floats to the top. We have the skills, the resources and the perception of global leadership. For non US readers there is a need and Business Value Attainment is the key to getting the competitive advantage.

5. We need to change our fundamentals of Value Compliance, Business value advisors and teaming together for global standards and processes.

David Bridges (fictitious name true statement) quickly rose from ABAP developer to BW Developer and was finally granted the position of BW manager for a global company. “I was my own biggest fan and soon became cocky. I would try to force my ideas of data modeling because that is how I had always built my data warehouses. Lets just get all the data in and then we can write ABAP conversions and transforms to meet reporting needs, mostly at Report runtime as that gave us the maximum flexibility, but,” said he,” he didn’t take time to understand business needs. Initially he was excellent but he was reluctant to change, very soon his results were way below BW benchmarks and business expectations. Seventy percent of his reporting objects were DSO, because SAP had told him to keep detailed data in ODS and critical reports were taking 700 to 300 seconds to run. A few daily cross application reports took over 6 hours to run”David didn’t realize he needed to change until Leo, his boss transferred him from US to Singapore for their new BW rollout, and said to him that if his business audit score did not improve he would be fired.

In his 3 months in the US he attended an ASUG conference; his boss allowed him to work with a Business Value mentor where he learnt to pick up on looking at BI from a business point of view. He reviewed his US architecture with new eyes and saw faults in the Architecture, modeling. He learnt to replace data modeling with information modeling and how to listen to business. Once in  Singapore he built a BI-COE staffed with business owners a COE as defined by Gartner and woned by business and experts. If business did not attend or take ownership of a task he stalled all developments. Business had to , and drove, BI decisions, they defined their deliverables. In one year David received exceptionally high scores and came back as a hero back to the US and was promoted due to just his change of context, i,e. technology to Business Value Attainment

Becoming as successful as you can be – after you have climbed the ladder needs two simple checks. The first is to check if you are still listening. Outside customers are most critical so the need to listen and understand the pain before planning any solutions is critical. Aligning business needs to technological conflicts will help a great deal. The second is the ability to periodically take a hard look at yourself without rose tinted glasses.  Ensure you are not caught in your own state of ‘Intelligence Trap’.

If you are working with a large organization check with HR what training is available and what mentoring assistance is available in your area of expertise.  Large companies now keep a regular database of mentors and training. Take leadership, speaking and managing meeting courses.  Finally the most important thing is that if you are very skilled there is still not reason to sit on your laurels and let the world just pass you by. There is always room to move the bar a little higher. When David thought he was at his peak actually he was at the bottom of customer satisfaction. 

Develop direct customer alliances, teh primary purpose of ASUG, and alliances with people who think exactly the opposite of how you do  for they are your balancing act.”I for one did not initially want anything to do with a speaking coach, as I felt I had spoken many time and did not need any assistance.” said David, “then I find that all the presidents and famous speaker I admire mostly went through skill developments with coaches”. I immediately changed my mind and the rewards have been plenty.

“Leaders don’t simply follow, nor do they coast”

Just like the individual example enterprises too need to change.  Companies and their processes need to evolve. What got us all here is not going to get us global leadership in the future. In the above example replace the individual with a BI group and the story is still the same.

In a horizontal world, or the Flat World as stated by Thomas L. Friedman, the critical dominance is not in doing what the rest are doing but doing something no one else is doing – Innovative leadership.  BI implementations that are not delivering value suddenly find themselves in China, Mexico or India and while we are basically off-shoring our inefficiencies they may be learning fast what we should be teaching as global value leaders.

Steve Jobs did that very efficiently. He had a tall jar filled to ¾ with water and a very wide one next to it filled only 1/4th. The vertical jar is the US and the very wide one the world. As the world gets horizontal we simply connect a pipe between the two jars together to see how everything flows.

That is the reality today. We cannot afford to become more laid back but need to once again become more competitive – our shift was from manufacturing to services. Now we need to make sure our service models and frameworks enable the highest business value globally or loose it to someone who can.

There is no better way to prove this than by attaining it. US companies need to develop structure and standardize methods that take this current way of Implementing DW and BI to the next level. The future is about green, about efficiencies, about automation and most of all about elimination of waste and failure- success measure – quantifiable Business Value Attainment.

If what 1,400 CEO’s have said about their BI investments, to Gartner in 2009, and their Business Value Attainment is real, then we as the DW / BI community need to take this as a challenge and lead the methodology that drives BI to higher success and witness the effect it has on corporate decisions and overall business improvement.

The key is in Business Value Attainment, which is not the same as Value Attainment. Whereas Value is subjective, Business Value Attainment must become binary and objective so we can measure and quantify it.

BI Success is only that far away

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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Hi Hari,

      Interesting blog and the value of good editing, which is somewhat lacking in sdn, cannot be underestimated.

      You start very technically, but then move to a softer subject like career and business success, both of which are true and relevant to any organization. BI, or otherwise described also as OLAP, by its very nature caters to a very demanding and impatient audience. The business content of BI belongs to the most important within the enterprise, it consolidates all previously created data and has a potential of actually making that data public beyond the enterprise. I don't think any one large enterprise would have one person control the whole process as it's simply too risky for the whole organization.

      I feel some sense of soul searching in your blog, though. Almost, as if you were looking for an approval of your own approach and career choices you have made. No amount of training and technical prowess will replace good mentorship and the sheer luck as people jump over career rungs. BI market is so big and competitive that there is a room for all of us, but not all of us will use it as a jumping board to launch their career.

      I realize my technical tool kit is probably much more modest than yours, but I also share the passion of BI and see the untapped need that it will satisfy. It's an uphill battle, however, as most of our customers don't have the luxury of one single platform, but a multitude of systems, vendors, and changing priorities within their organizations. Many times, implementation failures are not due to the product lacking features as there is always something new that the customer will want, but more often to internal politics and the funding cycle of a project.

      Let me finish with BI, since this is what you have used as the main (and only) topic. It's a $14B market with four major players: Microsoft (pivots), IBM (Cognos), SAP (Business Objects) and Oracle (Hyperion/Essbase). All are formidable competitors and coexisting with each other on so many levels, but when you look at it, BI has a really very simple premise: to deliver a quick summarized number which is relevant and provides context to the end user to help him or her to make a decision. Maybe, making the end user realize that is more important than trying to navigate their IT organizational structure.

      Author's profile photo Witalij Rudnicki
      Witalij Rudnicki
      CzeϾ, Greg,

      I just would like to comment on "I don't think any one large enterprise would have one person control the whole [BI] process as it's simply too risky for the whole organization." I would say this is what many organizations are trying to achieve - central control of BI - yet not by one person, but rather by some governance board with right mixture of business and IT perspective and power. Otherwise, if it is one person, indeed he or she is a bottleneck and a single point of failure.


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Hi vitaliy,
      I would agree to your statement in most common situations.  However according to Michael Porter 'in a state of crisis there must be one person that makes the decisions'
      in times of peace it makes total sense not to have an commander in chief as that may be not necessary, but when there is a critical decision to be made 'too many cooks will spoil the broth'.

      You are absolutely right that the overall control must not be with an individual but a set of rules and regulations like in a 'Enterprise BI Cookbook' a handbook of standards, processes, principles and methodology that ensures that no matter where in an organization some task is performed it is consistent with all other similar tasks.
      But we once again come to the point of crisis.

      I fundamentally believe in the 'Singularity approach'. that means in times of a crisis there must only be one decision maker. When building standards they must be built in such a way that when BI instances have to be merged there is no conflict of standards.

      The distributed model sounds very democratic but principally the singularity model works best strategically.
      The recent evolution from the EDW to FEDW leverages all the strengths of the EDW and eliminates the weakness, one being loss of local autonomy and decision making capabilities.

      In my model, as you rightly state, 'BI Cookbook' is the highest standard, but at time of conflicts there must be a single person that rules.
      - Hari

      Author's profile photo Witalij Rudnicki
      Witalij Rudnicki
      Hi Hari,

      I know I am from what used to be Soviet Union, where belief in "good czar" is still very popular. But I do not share this belief. 🙂

      Hope to see you soon,

      Author's profile photo Rahul Urs
      Rahul Urs
      so here is my $79256  QUESTION !

      how do such blogs get approved without a SPELL CHECK ???

      Author's profile photo Jim Spath
      Jim Spath

        This might be called a "coaching moment".  One could send the blog author a list of suggested corrections privately (if they've published their contact data), or refer them to a wiki page such as this one for tools one could use.  To answer your question "how did this get approved" it's probably because blog moderators and editors are human, eh?


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Hi everyone.
      My apologies for the typo errors and the random flow in this blog.
      I had been trying to get my blog working and for the last 10-15 times I would hit some technical snag or the other, like copy - paste from word would hit technical snags.

      I was just typing directly into the blog master to figure out what actually worked..

      So once again the thought is there but not as crisp, or focused, as I would have it in print.
      Hope you all understand and now I'm trying to figure out how to edit an error.


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      This is what networking is all about.
      Thanks and I stand corrected. The entries are now in control and in compliance (I hope)
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      interesting survey on data where SAP and BI get mentioned in this week's issue of The Economist (subscription may be required).