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LESSON - Enterprise Business Intelligence: Making the Case and Keeping the Promise

By John Williams, Senior Vice President, National Practice Director, Collaborative Consulting

It seems these days everyone is embarking on an enterprise business intelligence initiative. While the catalysts are varied, the basic mission statement is the same: Make information available across the enterprise in a consistent and easily accessible manner.

This seemingly innocuous and laudable mission statement is fraught with challenges and roadblocks. The first—and perhaps least obvious—challenge is answering the question, “Why?” Isn’t it obvious? Isn’t the goodness of correct, consistent, and readily available business information enough? Add the equal goodness of a more manageable technical environment with fewer packages and platforms to support, and you certainly have a compelling case, right?

Wrong. Transitioning from the typical departmental, application-centric, or fragmented BI environment of today is a nontrivial exercise involving resource costs, user tool changes, and (in some cases) business process changes. It requires executive involvement and buy-in, and in today’s age of closely scrutinized IT spending, the usual altruistic arguments just don’t wash. Even with buy-in, once the spending begins, the business will demand to see positive business impact in a reasonable timeframe or the funding will be quickly cut off.

Making the case for enterprise BI in your organization:
  1. Align directly with business goals. This sounds like an easy thing to accomplish; however, it is more of a challenge than one might think. It requires a focus on what the business is trying to achieve and alignment with those goals. BI is almost never the complete solution, but rather an enabler, and must be positioned as such.
  2. Don’t just settle for consolidation. Many IT groups are in the process of consolidating core platforms such as enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management systems. The difference with BI systems is that users have heavily customized them to their own departmental or group needs. In order for enterprise BI to be successful, you need to consider the user needs in aggregate and show how the new solution will provide better capability than exists today, not just similar capability.
  3. Investigate the reason for the current implementation. Take a closer look at the reasons for multiple technologies and fragmented data, and you may discover things such as department-level funding, lack of corporate-level drivers, and separate lines of business as the root cause; these must be considered and addressed before an enterprise BI initiative can be successful.
  4. Create alignment with key business organizations. You need to ensure that the large, business-driving organizations’ needs are satisfied, even if it means compromising in some of the less core business groups. While not very egalitarian, this is practical and helps ensure that the initiative is adopted and funded by the business.
  5. It’s not about one tool or environment; it is about the right tools and environment. Many enterprise BI initiatives focus too heavily on an enterprise BI tool instead of an enterprise BI solution. It is about an enterprise capability to deliver information in the right for efficiently and with consistency. While this may imply fewer tools, it does not imply just one or just one set.
  6. Clearly identify cost savings. Just saying that having fewer tools, environments, integrations, and platforms will reduce the IT workload is not enough to create a compelling business case. In the near term, this initiative will cost money, not save it.

In such a brief article, we can’t cover all of the bases; however, if you follow these fundamentals, you should be on your way to avoiding some of the pitfalls and solidifying your initiative’s opportunity for success.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

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