All too often organisations complain that they are getting a continual negative return on their business intelligent (BI) investment. But often this is because they are looking in the wrong places.
“It’s a matter of putting together a set of ingredients and investing in people, process, organisation and culture and a good dose of leadership,” says Sean Paine, chief operations officer of information solutions specialist, EnterpriseWorx.
“Research shows that these factors make up 75% of whether a project will be a success or failure. But, as IT specialists, we tend to spend 90% of our time on data and technology, and forget about the rest.
“Large projects tend to focus on business processes and information management, and not on the people using the system. Usually a change management team is involved, but often it wields little influence. In the case of a BI project, it is particularly important to involve people throughout the organisation, because BI is creating sets of reports and analytics for their own use."
As BI authority Timo Elliott puts it: “BI is a crucial interface between the millions invested in your information system over the years, and the people who are in a position to unleash some of the value in that investment.”
In the BI world, business users are often viewed as the end-point for the process. “Instead they need to be involved as the process evolves,” says Paine.
“It’s not simply about the project team drawing up a set of elements to be processed in a BI environment, and ensuring that data flows to the relevant people. That distorts the point of the exercise. We’re focusing on how to get information to the people, instead of focusing on what they are going to do with information.
“To avoid these traps demands strong leadership, and a team that understands it needs to concentrate its energies on changing the status quo. BI is about creating a knowledge culture in the organisation.
“We need to get information to the right people where they can take advantage of it. In this way we can instill a culture in the organisation where BI matters. Then we can make analysis part of driving performance. By analysing the data, we can tie people’s key performance indicators to their ability to improve the bottom line. Once we start educating people in the organisation in this way, we start to win the BI game.
“By creating an analytics platform we create a positive feedback loop – a virtuous cycle – where giving people information triggers demands for more. In this way, an analytics culture can grow deeper in the organisation.”
Paine believes this is the only way to make BI worth the investment.
“To achieve this, a close link must be built between the BI specialists and the BI users. If they work as a team, with a continuous feedback loop, the organisation is on the way to creating a BI solution that pays for itself. It’s Darwinian-style BI progression. The BI system will evolve over time and result in the survival of the fittest elements.
“When embarking on a BI initiative, companies need to ask how they can engage across all seven levels – people, process, organisation, culture, leadership, data and technology – to ensure that the project is a success. Most executives do not give this full consideration. They need to make sure that their team consists of technology specialists as well as consultants who can advise on the people aspects.
“And don’t forget the importance of perseverance. It’s tough to get buy-in when comes to changing leadership mindsets and the way organisation is structured. It’s about a culture and attitude change. If there’s a negative culture around using analytics in an organisation and no-one trusts it, you can have the best system in world and BI will still be a failure,” Paine concludes.