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Driving BI across the enterprise

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Although business intelligence (BI) and performance management (PM) are gaining momentum, business markets are still far off the mark in terms of developing ideal BI/PM environments, technology and approaches.

What has emerged is the need to drive BI and PM standardisation across the enterprise and to implement a BI Competency Centre (BICC) that will take organisations to the point where BI and PM are effectively answering the three fundamental business questions: how are we doing, what should we be doing, and why?
At Cognos' recent Performance Management 2007 User Conference, Graham Cobb, Cognos' Senior Manager for the Banking Industry, explained how businesses
can leverage standardisation and the BICC to fast track their journey to achieve high PM.
He explains: "According to research, 70% of the international market operates in a state of 'uncontrolled behaviour' that is further exacerbated by projects driven by a 'siloed' approach, the deployment of many different tools, re-inventing the wheel by not applying past experience and best practices, and a lack of reuse of technical and human capital. In fact, research conducted on Fortune's Top 200 Companies highlighted that, on average, these companies had between five and 15 BI tools deployed in their organisations.
"Leveraging your technology investments to its fullest potential requires a plan, a pragmatic approach, an understanding of what others have done successfully, and services to assist where needed. The goal, of course, is to help your organisation establish winning conditions so that it may increase user adoption and productivity, increase your Return on Investment (ROI) and shareholder return, increase confidence with decision making and compliance, drive accountability and improve human capital management.
"What is required is an enterprise-class platform that is deployed across the entire business to deliver meaningful information that is available anytime, anywhere."
Standardisation drives higher levels of performance in an organisation and is the cornerstone of shifting from a technology focus to a business focus. In addition, it reduces the total cost of ownership (TCO) and delivers one common view, with one common tool and one version of the truth. These were some of the key findings of Cognos research conducted with 27 companies worldwide.
Adds Cobb: "Companies must mature their standardisation efforts to maximize the reuse of tools and resources in the organisation. One way of reusing knowledge is through the formation of a BICC."
A BICC is a focused, working team of IT and business users that groups people into interrelated disciplines, domains of knowledge, experience and skills, so promoting and encouraging the user adoption and standardisation of BI across the organisation. These can take the form of dedicated centralized teams, virtual teams or a mix of both.
Says Cobb: "A BICC is the single largest contributor driving BI adoption within an organisation. It eliminates the gap between business and IT and maximises the efficiency, use and quality of BI across all lines of business. In addition, it leads to higher success rates of BI deployments, delivers more value, takes less time and costs less."
There are, however, a few barriers to the success of a BI implementation, even with a BICC. Says Cobb: "Organisational change is often met with resistance and the need to work with familiar technologies and processes often challenges the success of a BI implementation. This requires buy in from all levels, especially executives."
There is also no 'one size fits all' BICC and it is not easy to understand the success path for a BICC. Says Cobb: "The BICC needs to establish an operating framework that supports BI as a strategic asset and it is challenging to create a balance of centralisation versus decentralisation. Business units or departments that operated in isolation now have to work in a collaborative environment."
Best practices is one way of resolving some of these issues with the design, fomalisation and management of a BICC.
Cobb explains: "The alignment of technology, people and process is a crucial approach that is accompanied by a host of evolving best practices. Some assist to align the people aspect of your organisation, others improve processes and or apply technical techniques to arrive at an optimized design. Being aware of the challenges, inhibitors and pitfalls can greatly improve a BI implementation and adoption thereof."
When setting up a BICC, there are four principles or best practices that can guide an organisation to achieve a BICC that offers all that it is supposed to.
Scope of BICC services – due to the diversity of each organisation's equirements, it is necessary to create a pragmatic plan. People and Culture ensuring greater adoption and consistent communication. Foundation Design the established base to help the BICC to grow Pcement and Structure – to establish where and how the BICC is formed, balancing the real, virtual, centralised and decentralised touch points by function.
The BICC is central to the development of skills and the balance of these people skills across business and IT. The average head count in a startup BICC is between three and five resources depending on its initial scope, but this grows naturally through the journey of reaching the phase of a mature BICC. It is important to note that key skills must be aligned to functions of the BICC. In so doing, businesses are able to plan the supply and demand balance of these skills.
Cobb concludes: "Forming a BICC together with standardisation is now becoming a more widely accepted practice, driving the success of BI implementations across organisations.  To ensure a BI/PM initiative thrives, best practice need to be applied and a customized model must be deployed on top of an already proven and successful one. Your success is our success and Cognos is thus always available to assist its customers and partners through its various 'community' initiatives."