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Communication key to delivering effective BI

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As with the roll-out of any IT application within an organisation, getting user buy-in from the start, and encouraging organisation-wide adoption is absolutely essential for the successful implementation of business intelligence (BI).

Relegating BI as an “IT-only” initiative and failing to involve key users from the outset can cause a BI project to fall flat. And yet, this is a costly mistake that Paul Morgan, MD of Asyst Intelligence, says many organisations tend to make.
“From the start, there must be senior management buy-in and key users should be involved in defining the expectations and analysing the requirements for BI; establishing the criteria for BI tools against these requirements; tool selection; prototyping; testing and, training. If there is no input and support from the business, BI has little chance of success,” says Morgan.
“Few companies recognise the importance of allocating top resources from both the IT and business sides of the business to BI project teams. A lack of collaboration between business and IT makes for less than effective project teams. Teams should ideally comprise top business performers, with a good mix of business and IT.
“IT must understand the business needs and business must have an understanding of the IT side of things to ensure that everyone is on the same page and speaking the same language. It is beneficial to encourage IT presentation to business people and visa-versa. Both sides should have the opportunity to state their case.”
When it comes to driving acceptance amongst users across the business, Morgan says BI project teams should start feeding back to the business on what is being done and what the achievements have been from an early stage.
“Project teams shouldn’t wait until two years down the line to show the business what’s been achieved. Early prototyping of what is being produced should be demonstrated to the business to help generate excitement and elicit support. This needs to be done in a practical way. For instance, in a performance management project, teams could install flat-screen monitors in relevant areas of the business so that people can actually see test scorecards and dashboards as they are being developed.
“Seeing results is what gets people going. If people can see the results and grasp the potential benefits of BI, they are more likely to adopt it.
“That’s why we advise companies wanting to implement BI to start small rather than set their sights high on an enterprise-wide BI strategy. Companies should identify where they can get a competitive advantage straight away and start there,” recommends Morgan.
Starting small, in an area of the business where there is good access to information and the data quality is relatively good, means that the process won’t be slowed down by systems integration issues and poor data quality so the architecture can be built quickly and the team can start delivering dashboards, reports and queries as soon as possible. In parallel, teams could be assessing, repairing and integrating data from other areas as part of a larger deliverable.
As business can immediately see the value and buy-in to the solution, companies can also apply the lessons learnt in other areas as they roll-out BI across the rest of the organisation.
“The trick is to start delivering and demonstrating results as quickly as possible, even if it is in just one or two areas of the business. It’s about getting the ball rolling and keeping the momentum going. In all of this, collaboration between business and IT is essential and, communication with the rest of the business must be maintained,” concludes Morgan.