Here’s a sobering thought: Seventy per cent of organisations that were in the top Global Fortune 500 list of companies ten years ago have now dropped off the list. Some don’t even exist anymore – mainly because they didn’t successfully adapt to change. Business agility has never been more important in the age of the empowered customer. This is putting the spotlight (and the pressure) on BI initiatives.
If business agility is hinging on BI, then most companies have a problem. Pretty much all industry analysts agree that in general, the business and technology management BI relationship is broken. On the one hand, a technology management driven BI approach is often complex, inflexible and well… not exactly agile. This in turn triggers the creation of home-grown BI applications, built largely out of need and/or frustration for getting insights faster. Although they are agile, they usually can’t scale, often reside in yet another silo, and most of them carry some level of operational risk. And so the dance goes on.
The real question is how can organisations balance the needs of business users to produce their own BI content without being at the mercy of complex technology processes and infrastructure, while also minimising enterprise risk, achieving economies of scale and avoiding the silo trap?
The answer is to deliver a business-driven, agile approach. Forrester outlines this extremely well in my opinion in their latest report on the subject: “It’s Time For A User-Driven Enterprise BI Strategy”. By merging technology-driven enterprise BI with business driven home-grown BI initiatives, you get a win-win environment. This will shine a much needed light on three basic but important realisations.
- First, if the penny hasn’t already dropped, it’s time to acknowledge that old approaches to enterprise IT are simply no longer enough. Yes, centralisation, rationalisation, scalability, risk and cost reduction and a single version of the truth were all very good steps in the right direction. And yes, they did help thousands of organisations in the process. But they only offer a tiny slice of all the possible use cases and insights that enterprise data can now provide.
- Second, pick your battles. Not every single BI project needs to have 100 per cent accurate, trusted data. Many of them do, but not all of them. In fact, two dimensional data (by this I mean accurate, trusted data vs not trusted) may be full of outdated or even conflicting messages. For example, a CRM record might include tweets saying a customer loves a new product, yet he may well be on the phone complaining about it and threatening to throw it out. Such is the reality of multi-dimensional, modern 21st century customer data.
- Third, remember what the “B” in BI stands for – it’s business intelligence, not technology intelligence. Embrace the business-driven approach to agile enterprise BI. That means leaving the creation of the BI content to those in your organisation that have intimate knowledge of the customer, but empower them with the right tools and platforms that are fit for purpose that is agile, scalable, robust and secure so they don’t need to create anything home-grown. This is a polite way of saying if you do your job well, they won’t try and do it themselves.
BI should be a marriage of business and technology. And like all good partnerships, technology should not restrict the business and the business should not be working in isolation of the rest of the IT landscape. BI doesn’t need to stay broken anymore. By empowering business users’ needs to produce their own content while reducing risk and data silos, organisations can not only achieve economies of scale, but more importantly stay agile, responsive and successfully navigate a changing business climate.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Let me know in the comments section below!
Head of EMEA Center of Excellence BI