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Author's profile photo Nic Smith

Why BI Strategy Matters?

A study by WCI Consulting

Good ideas often begin with a vision of a conclusion of how we would like something to be. Yet when contemplating a business intelligence (BI) solution, it is common for business professionals to focus on the tools they want to achieve their goal, and not the vision itself. In fact in many cases, it is easy to lose site of the vision completely.  When we work with clients who are still searching for BI success, and really drill down into how their vision of success should be defined, it generally comes back to end user adoption. While this vision may sound simplistic, it is often quite elusive. In order to achieve this vision a strategy is required.

WCI Consulting recently conducted a business analytics forum. We spent two days with clients talking about BI tools and how best to utilize them. A common theme ran throughout those discussions; many were focused on tools rather than strategy. Dashboards, big data, ad hoc, report writers, data warehouses, ETL, databases were being thrown around and it quickly became clear why BI success has become difficult.  WCI believes that it is essential to cut through this noise by developing a clear strategy that focuses on business results, and then discover the tools that will make it work.

For years the BI industry has projected large returns for BI projects. By some estimates there is a 10 fold return, implying that a $100,000 spend should yield an organizational return of $1 million. Many professionals that we have spoken to are skeptical of these figures. This skepticism is healthy in our view.  Any investor going into such a return forecast should be aware that inherent to such return is risk.  In fact, it is commonly reported that half of BI implementations fail to meet their objectives. Now skepticism can also result in missed opportunity, so how is it possible to see end users using BI to produce such returns while minimizing risk?

Here is a list of variables we commonly see that interfere with a BI strategy that leads to end user adoption:

  • Tool Confusion—the majority of Fortune 500 organizations have 5+ BI tools for getting “data to decision makers” with differing strategies on how to use them
  • Lack of interoperability—each BI tool has it’s own nuances and not all of them work together, resulting in complex and time consuming processes that interfere with delivery timelines.
  • Politics and competing priorities-a business vs. IT mentality has led to competitive, non-productive duplicative organizational efforts.
  • Organizational frustration with a lack of historical results and consistent change in strategy has led some to lose hope and resign themselves to their inefficient processes.
  • “Start and end” in mind vs. a “start and evolve” based on incremental success.
  • End to End BI vs Business led data exploration- a strategy to develop an environment which can be reusable/secure and dependable is valid but it doesn’t have to eliminate the possibility of data exploration outside of the enterprise approach to BI.

These variables can be addressed by a strategy to deploy tools for end users that fit into an enterprise approach to BI.  By establishing a vision that is focused on the business application of these tools, organizations are increasingly likely to see the returns that they hoped for. 

About WCI Consulting (and Keith Metcalfe)

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