Business Intelligence (BI) can have a profound effect on business decision making, but an increasingly complex environment teamed with heightened expectations from across the business often opens BI implementations up to a multitude of problems, risks and potential failings.
Conrad Bates and Cameron Wall*, managing partners of C3 Business Solutions, map out the best approach for CIOs to ensure their BI investment becomes a powerful corporate asset.
Growth, regulatory compliance mandates, mergers and acquisitions, and changing business models mean that designing business intelligence and information management solutions has never been so complex for CIOs.
This complexity has led to an unprecedented demand for scalable and flexible architectures as business users are requesting new levels of information integration, integrity, performance and usability.
Increased complexity and heightened expectations from across the business opens up a multitude of pressures and potential risks when implementing a BI project.
To ensure the greatest impact from BI, every aspect of the business needs to be considered from strategy through to implementation, project management and delivery.
A well designed and executed BI strategy must be aligned to business goals and take into account technology and data together with the people involved, the processes required, organisational issues, infrastructure limitations and concerns, governance requirements and of course, internal project buy-in and sponsorship.
Outlined below are the top five rules for CIOs to follow in order to minimise risk on BI projects and ensure successful delivery and outcomes.
- Start with the right strategy: Start with a comprehensively researched and finely detailed strategy and roadmap, based on the business outcomes your organisation is hoping to achieve.
Develop good data modelling architecture upfront as this will form the basis for all other system design, including reports and integration.
- Invest in experience: To implement large and extremely complex BI and data migration programs, a unique combination of project management, technical knowledge and business change management skills are required. It is imperative that the team responsible for project management has extensive experience and a successful track record in delivering multifarious business intelligence projects.
Ensure you have BI experienced and capable people in key roles; BI project managers, BI data architects and BI team leaders should have practical skills and knowledge of the technology.
Don’t be afraid to enlist help from those who can complement your internal skill set by seeking external assistance where required.
- Understand your BI maturity: Understanding where your organisation sits in terms of BI maturity will give you the right perspective on where your BI project currently stands, where it needs to go, and how it will get there.
The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI) has a simple, six-stage that can be used as a point of reference as you plan and progress through the project.
While it may be tempting to complete a project quickly by cutting a few corners, it is important to deliver your project in consecutive steps of maturity according to the standard model.
- Start small; deliver incrementally: Make your project milestones achievable and realistic. Trying to achieve too much too soon not only puts your project in jeopardy long term, but loses you credibility in the short term.
Set and then deliver on project goals to show the integrity and capability of the project team; people will start to trust you early in the cycle if you give them tools they can trust and use.
- Deliver to the business: Ensure you deliver what the business needs rather than focussing on the technology itself by keeping this goal in mind throughout the project and routinely measuring progress. Prototype continually in all stages of your BI project to ensure your business users are going to get the results they seek.
The desired outcome is to deliver a useful, functioning project to specification, on time and to budget. If this isn’t possible, communicate changes as early as possible so there are no surprises; stakeholder communication during project delivery, and ultimately their buy-in once the solution is operational, sets a successful BI solution apart.
A well-designed and executed strategy is the cornerstone of any successful business intelligence project. By using a pragmatic approach that is aligned to organisational goals and incorporates all elements of the business, CIOs can reduce project delivery timeframes and risk to any BI project, no matter how complex.
*Conrad Bates and Cameron Wall are the co-founders and directors of C3 Business Solutions. C3 Business Solutions is an award winning Australian Business Intelligence and Information Management company that delivers measurable business improvements for its clients.