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Gartner Says: Organizations Flying Blind When It Comes to Implementing Business Intelligence

You’ve often thought it, but it took consultancy Gartner Inc. to confirm it: not every organization has a coherent business intelligence strategy.

You’ve often thought it, but it took consultancy Gartner Inc. to confirm it: not every organization has a coherent business intelligence (BI) implementation strategy. More to the point, Gartner researchers say, many organizations will continue to squander the lion’s share—at least 70 percent—of their BI budgets to resolve a passel of familiar issues related to people, process, and governance.

This is money that could otherwise be spent supporting or enhancing their BI investments, Gartner officials note.

"Due to a lack of a cohesive strategy, many organizations have created multiple, uncoordinated and tactical BI implementations, which has resulted in silos of technology, skills, processes and people," said Betsy Burton, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, in a statement. "This organizational ceiling limits business and management from achieving business goals and leaves IT people and architects wary of supporting BI efforts. It is not only important to understand why these disconnections happen and the negative impact they can have on realizing the value and benefit of BI, but that they can also increase the total cost of ownership of BI for the whole organization."

One Rx for BI incoherence is a BI Competency Center (BICC), Gartner analysts say. The aim of a BICC is to develop an organization’s overall strategic plan and priorities with respect to BI. This involves defining organization-wide requirements—including data quality and governance—and helping the organization effectively use BI insights to drive decision-making.

Not surprisingly, Gartner doesn’t stop there. It compiled a list of practices to which organizations hew when building their BICCs. First and foremost, Gartner researchers caution, organizations strive to create a dynamic BICC that can adapt to changes in business strategy, processes, people, services, and technology. One upshot of this, Gartner cautions, is that the membership of a BICC—which typically consists of business and IT stakeholders—is never fixed and immobile; a dynamic BICC not only fluctuates in terms of membership, but also in terms of membership size and membership roles and responsibilities.

Elsewhere, Gartner says, BICCs need to have C-level sponsorship in order to be effective. This means not only finding a C-level executive to sign off on the BICC in the first place, but involving that sponsor in the process and soliciting guidance, direction, and other input. Sponsorship, too, is rarely a static quality: business sponsorship should change as BI and performance strategies change, Gartner researchers note. As for the composition of the BICC itself, it should comprise a range of business users, analysts and technology-skilled resources.

The BICC’s focus won’t necessarily be static, either. In fact, as things change (as business strategy shifts, people come and go, processes and technologies evolve) the BICC must try to understand how the new (or subtly altered) mix of tasks will support different phases of the BI initiative.

The BICC is not a military barrack (or a parochial school, for that matter): in most organizations, incentives and positive reinforcement—instead of punishment or negative reinforcement —are the surest means to drive BI success. In this respect, Gartner researchers say, participation in the BICC shouldn’t so much be mandated as encouraged—typically by incentives from management. Such incentives can take the form of cash bonuses, rewards, or recognition.

Nor is the BICC a place where stakeholders simply come together to hash out BI strategies and eat cold pizza. In this respect, Gartner analysts say, BI strategizing isn’t so much a black art as a coldly scientific enterprise: BICCs must define a priority list of projects, metrics and people based on the degree to which they—either singly or collectively—impact business objectives. Similarly, a BICC must be the catalyst for helping business units identify and resolve issues in accordance with an overriding, business-centric vision.

No BICC is an island unto itself, either. In this regard, Gartner researchers urge, BICCs should reach out to and work with (when applicable) other competency centers throughout an organization. Elsewhere on the outreach front, Gartner says, BICCs should solicit feedback from IT personnel, analysts, managers, and garden-variety business users about the usefulness or applicability of BI and performance management initiatives.

Finally, BICCs should try to assess the business impact and value of an organization’s BI investments not just from an ROI perspective, but from the perspective of the overall strategic goals of that organization.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a technology writer with 20 years of experience. His writing has focused on business intelligence, data warehousing, and analytics for almost 15 years. Swoyer has an abiding interest in tech, but he’s particularly intrigued by the thorny people and process problems technology vendors never, ever want to talk about. You can contact him at [email protected].

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