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Defining Requirements Is Key To Delivering Successful BI Projects

The Business Intelligence arena is smoking hot. It tops the priority lists of most research firms and enterprises today; however, there are also many instances of BI implementations going off track.

Business Objects, an SAP company, is an established player in the Business Intelligence domain. In a one-on-one with Biztech2, Sanjay Deshmukh, country manager, India/ SAARC, speaks about some of the common issues that occur during BI implementations and shares some thoughts on optimising BI within enterprises.

What are some of the issues that are plaguing Business Intelligence today?

The single biggest issue I foresee plaguing the industry is the lack of awareness about the potential of Business Intelligence (BI) as a performance optimisation tool among business users.

According to a recent Gartner survey, business intelligence is among the top three priorities for CIOs and senior executives. Yet, it is estimated that a mere 20 percent of adopters actually use BI proactively.

In other words, enterprises globally are still not using BI to manage performance. There are also multiple challenges that organisations should address suitably in order to maximise RoI and gain real business value from a well orchestrated BI strategy.

Organisations need to agree upon a collaborative process for building and integrating their BI and Performance management (PM) strategies. This process should be based on a shared set of goals and the realisation of such goals should in turn be linked to RoI.

Enterprises need to build BI and performance management architecture as a best practice. Working with BI technology in silos or having a tactical approach can lead to inflexible applications, inconsistency in delivery and higher cost of ownership.

Research also suggests one of the biggest barriers to the success of BI is the lack of skill sets and knowledge required to use the tool. Enterprises need to provide relevant and adequate development programmes to build up core competencies of employees.

In your experience with BI initiatives, what are some of the issues that commonly occur during the deployment phase?

Many companies today face the challenge of having to manage extensive amounts of data that may have accumulated over the years and may vary in type and quality. Information appears in multiple systems and formats, and can be structured or unstructured. For organisations that do not have a proper information management strategy, IT systems can experience data quality problems such as inconsistent definitions, semantics and silos of information and a lack of transparency.

BI extracts and presents all this data in an understandable format, enabling companies to make better business decisions. However, a BI deployment is a collaborative process that is implemented within set parameters, which are defined by the customer and are aligned to their business requirements and strategy. Companies often face issues on this business alignment front.

Another challenge is to educate and empower users of BI to leverage the technology to slice and dice the relevant information and drill down to the specific data they require.

Gartner recently released a study, which discussed nine common mistakes made during BI initiatives. One point mentioned dealt with a lack of understanding from the business administration. Do you see this as a current trend within enterprises, where IT has an issue putting forward a value proposition to the management?

If the BI project is sponsored and developed independently by the IT department, they will face the challenge of convincing the management about the value proposition of such a project and will not be successful in driving the usage of the BI system.

We strongly recommend that all customers involve 'business users' from the inception stage of a BI project and let the business team own the initiative. This will help the customer drive the usage and adoption of the BI system in the organisation. The ownership of the BI initiative by the business team will also ensure that BI project deliverables like dashboards and analytics are in line with user expectations and reflect the correct and updated definitions of all key business measures and performance indicators.

Do you see BI as a service becoming a plausible reality? If yes, when do you think vendors such as yourself, will start offering these solutions?

Software as a Service (SaaS) is growing at a rapid pace globally and we have a large number of subscribers to our on-demand BI service. Our on-demand offering is targeted towards SME enterprises, who are seeking increased operational excellence, automation, profitability and growth at a lower TCO. More and more SMEs are using technology to make informed decisions by converting raw data into trusted information, leading to stronger business insight and forecasting capabilities.

Do you feel that currently there are discrepancies in the methods that enterprises are using to deploy BI? How do you think enterprises should handle BI implementations? Could you give us some best practices?

Discrepancies in methods to deploy BI arise when enterprises do not successfully marry regular business processes with BI. One of common discrepancy that often occurs in BI deployments is that the customers start with a particular departmental BI requirement in mind, which is critical for the organisation and in this process lose sight of the enterprise-wide BI view. As a result, when new requirements arise from different user groups and departments, the customer ends up developing siloed BI strategies for the same. We recommend that before deploying a BI application, organisations should develop a blueprint for an enterprise-wide BI roll out and then start putting the individual blocks together.

Enterprises should also identify critical areas, which affect the final RoI of BI solutions. Enterprises must seek partnership with technology providers, who offer a) tried and tested methodology to minimise project risk and accelerate time to customer self-sufficiency and b) adhere to standardised best practices.

To ensure discrepancies are avoided, enterprises should take cognizance of the following best practices:

à Get a management buy in/ executive sponsor for the Business Intelligence initiative. This will help to drive the change in culture/ processes required to adapt BI and integrate the same in day-to-day business processes.

à The business and the IT team should jointly own the ownership of implementing the BI project. Business needs to define the KPIs, reporting requirement and scope of analysis and the IT team needs to focus on the underlying infrastructure.

à Build an enterprise-wide BI vision and roll out the individual blocks/ data marts based on organisation priority.

à Assess the quality of the data and implement steps to enhance the quality so that users can trust the information they see in the BI system.

à Empower all business users with BI applications and not a select few. This will help the organisation to transform into an information-enabled enterprise where informed business decisions are taken.

Updated Date: Nov 18, 2008 18:00 PM

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