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A how-to guide to better BI budgets

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A business intelligence initiative need no longer be seen as a complex, lengthy process that will be difficult to implement. Six crucial steps must be followed to ensure BI delivers real business gains quickly, clearing the way for a bigger BI budget and wider implementation in the organisation.

This is the view of Sean Paine, chief operations officer of information solutions specialist, EnterpriseWorx. According to Paine, the six steps are:
* Concentrate on business basics.
* Build the front-ends first.
* Make it mobile.
* Use templates.
* Proselytise.
* Invest in building the correct back-end processes.
“The first step is to get back to business basics,” says Paine. “Business managers usually know what the burning issues are, but they don’t always look to BI to address these. They rely on intuition and gut feel, instead of making decisions backed by BI and analytics. Often this is because BI is seen as cumbersome and difficult to implement.
“We’ve moved on from those days. BI can give results quickly. The BI specialist should identify goals that can be achieved in a relatively short timeframe. In order to generate enthusiasm in the business, you need to demonstrate quick wins. You can prove the value of BI by starting on a small scale.”
The second step, says Paine, is to build the front-end. “Invest in graphical representations of issues identified within the business. Show the business user what the screens and charts could look like, get them built, and demonstrate the value that can be obtained, say, from three months’ data in an Excel spreadsheet.
“Remember, the CEO is our audience-of-one. Usually, IT and operations do all the work up-front, and then cross fingers that it’s what the CEO wants. We’ve turned that upside-down. Early on, devise a dashboard showing the CEO what he or she needs to see. That way you’ll drive BI adoption from the top down.
“Thirdly, make it mobile. Put the dashboard on your CEO's phone. Soon, managers throughout the business will be clamouring to get access to the information and insights on projects that the CEO is holding them accountable for.
“All CEOs want to keep their fingers on pulse. The moment you give the top executive information, the need for that information cascades down through the business. In that way, you create a need for insight in the organisation. That’s a big step towards real change.”
The fourth step concerns templates. “Templates are the secret weapon of the IT manager,” says Paine.
“A lot of BI groundwork has been done, and there are templates available for most industry verticals. In the past, BI projects went through a long analysis phase where it could take up months to obtain key metrics and performance indicators, only to come up with a list that is startlingly similar to everyone else’s. It’s important to get the key performance indicators in place quickly.
“You don't need to customise all of your BI. Save the customisation for the areas within your business where you derive competitive advantage.
“Fifthly, proselytise. You need converts. You need to create islands of energy and excitement. Once the BI tool is seen to be adding value, it can take fire and spread throughout the organisation.”
The CIO does need someone on their side whose decisions have an impact on the income statement or balance sheet.
“Make that person’s job easier by giving them insight from BI,” says Paine. “If you can help someone make or save money, they will help you spread the BI message. Remember, without enthusiasm from the business, you are not going to get budget to continue.
“Quick, while you have management’s attention, move to step six: invest in building the correct back-end processes to support and develop this new BI environment.
“You’ve created a hook to go into BI in an enterprise way. Take time to build a larger, more sustainable and long-term BI environment. Enthusiasm can get the budget you need to build a data warehouse that allows you to analyse data across the business and longer time periods – gaining more and deeper insights into significant trends.”