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Crossing The Chasm Part 1: Delivering Strategic Value

TDWI’s Maturity Model is represented by a bell curve spanning five stages of maturity. The curve, which represents the percentage of companies at each stage, is broken in two spots. The first is the Gulf and the second is the Chasm. (See figure 1.)

The Gulf and Chasm represent the series of obstacles and challenges that early- and later-stage programs encounter during their BI journey, respectively. Companies in the Gulf struggle with sponsorship, funding, data quality, project scope, and spreadmarts. Companies in the Chasm struggle with the politics, logistics, and dynamics of delivering an enterprise BI environment. (An enterprise environment may span the entire organization, a business unit, or profit-loss center.)

While the Gulf is difficult, the Chasm is downright perilous. Many BI programs fall into the Chasm and are never heard from again. During the next several weeks, I’ll write a series of blog posts designed to help BI professionals better understand the hazards of the Chasm and how to overcome them.

    

Figure 1.

From Cost-Savings to Strategic Value

The first major challenge that companies face in the Chasm is re-justifying their existence. By now, the BI team has squeezed all the cost-efficiencies out of the reporting process and must justify itself by the strategic value it offers the organization. Executives funded early data warehousing projects in part because of the projected ROI from consolidating legacy reporting systems and freeing high-priced analysts from having to manually create standard weekly or monthly reports.

Now, the BI program must do more than reduce costs and streamline IT processes. It needs to become a mission-critical resource that executives see as critical to the company’s growth. This is especially true if BI represents a sizable portion of the IT budget and employs more than a handful of full-time staffers. With a six- or seven-figure budget, the BI program has a huge bulls-eye on its back during budget season. To address the question, “What has BI done for us lately?” the BI team must have a ready and compelling answer.

Astute BI directors craft a vision for BI in business language and peddle it constantly. More than pitching proverbial “single version of truth,” they discuss how BI is critical to understanding the profitability of every customer or every product and how this information drives critical decisions about how the company invests its time, resources, and money. They talk about how BI is critical to achieving a 360-degree view of customers or suppliers and how that information has increased revenues and decreased procurements costs, respectively.

Savvy BI directors also discuss how BI is bridging the barriers between departments. For example, they talk about how finance directors and operations managers can speak the same language because general ledger data is aligned with product sales at a detailed level. They also show the company’s performance has improved since the BI team started displaying metrics with detailed, supporting data within easy-to-use dashboards and scorecards.

Talking the Talk

Of course, BI managers won’t have much to talk about if they haven’t done these or other strategic initiatives. But at least they can relay the vision they are working on, and bank on goodwill until they have tangible results to show.

But even “talking the talk” can be a stretch for some BI managers who grew up in IT with a technological perspective of the business. Thus, the first key to crossing the chasm is understanding the business and developing a strong rapport with business executives and managers by framing BI in their context.

Stay tuned for a description of the other major challenges facing companies in the Chasm in future posts.

Posted by Wayne Eckerson on October 19, 2009


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