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Wayne Eckerson

Welcome to Wayne's World, my blog that illuminates the latest thinking about how to deliver insights from business data and celebrates out-of-the-box thinkers and doers in the business intelligence (BI), performance management and data warehousing (DW) fields. Tune in here if you want to keep abreast of the latest trends, techniques, and technologies in this dynamic industry.

About the author >

Wayne has been a thought leader in the business intelligence field since the early 1990s. He has conducted numerous research studies and is a noted speaker, blogger, and consultant. He is the author of two widely read books: Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business (2005, 2010) and The Secrets of Analytical Leaders: Insights from Information Insiders (2012).

Wayne is founder and principal consultant at Eckerson Group,a research and consulting company focused on business intelligence, analytics and big data.

Ever walk through mud up to your ankles? It's dirty and slow going.

And that sums up the experience of many BI teams these days. They are mired in organizational and technical mud; they find it difficult to capture the interest of the business community and gain momentum to deliver real value to the business. "We need a spark," one BI manager confided in me recently.

Typically, ERP and other IT projects divert resources from the BI team, which can't get ahead of its queue of major BI projects. Casual users are slow to adopt self-service BI tools, while power users continue to create spreadmarts at a furious pace. Many users continue to submit requests for highly personalized versions of existing reports, sucking up the BI team's spare time. Meanwhile, the BI team struggles to find time and money to upgrade its data warehouse and BI platforms and deliver the functionality and performance that users demand. As a result, the BI team gets a reputation for being slow, unresponsive, and expensive.

For every step forward, it feels like you're taking two backwards. And most of your day is spent fighting fires or defending your processes and people.

You're Not Alone! If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. According to TDWI's BI Maturity Model assessment, almost two-thirds of BI teams (64%) are in the Teenager phase of their BI journey, teetering on the precipice of the Chasm which separates BI adolescence from BI Adulthood. There are a lot of growing pains involved in achieving BI adulthood and there are rarely shortcuts. Often, the only recourse is patience and persistence: keep moving ahead and eventually you will succeed. Trust me.

Sponsorship Issues

Why? In the long term, nothing stays the same. If you have a competent BI team and effective processes and you're still mired in the mud, then in all likelihood, you have a sponsorship problem. (See "Humpty Dumpty and the CEO.") Business executives that don't value fact-based decision making--or business intelligence--don't last long. If they don't understand that lasting competitive advantage comes from combining human intelligence and business intelligence, then they are managing blind. Eventually, the marketplace will catch up with them and knock them out of the game. (See "What Every Executive Should Know about Business Intelligence.")

So, if you wait long enough, the marketplace will get you a new set of executives who hopefully value fact-based decision making and look to your team to drive new strategic initiatives.

In the meantime, as you struggle with unenlightened sponsors, your only recourse is to evangelize BI relentlessly. But remember words are cheap, and no one really listens much these days. A picture, on the other hand, is worth a thousand words.

Find a Quick Win. What you need is a quick win to galvanize attention and help executives see the possibilities of BI. (See "The Art of the Quick Win".) Find an executive with a burning need for information and then volunteer to build something fast that relieves their pain. Be ready to work overtime for a few months and be ready to break your own BI team's "ironclad" rules regarding architecture, development, and tools. Plead with a vendor to allocate resources free of charge to get an application up and running. Or use open source tools and the cloud to deliver fast with little upfront cost.

Bottom line: show what BI can do! If you capture the imagination of the business, you'll get funding to put the application on a sturdier IT foundation. (It's always better to meet the business needs first and fix the architecture later.)

Of course, there is a chance that your quick fails, and your reputation suffers. If that happens, do a post-mortem to figure out what happened. Talk to consultants or experts to get their perspective. (Let's chat!) Learn from your mistakes. And then move on.

If All Else Fails....I mean that literally. Find a new job. The industry is always looking for good, talented BI professionals. There is no reason to suffer in a dead-end environment forever. Consider doing a stint for a consultancy to broaden your horizons and skill sets. The more BI projects you work on and the more BI teams you work with, the more you know and can contribute to other BI projects.

Change is good even if the only thing you can change is yourself!

Posted January 28, 2011 6:39 AM
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