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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.

Let's face it: many of you have had discouraging results with business intelligence (BI). It's not that you haven't tried, but the deck seems stacked against you. The business doesn't invest enough to get the BI results it wants, partially for budgetary reasons, but also because it doesn't trust IT with large sums of money. You still believe in the potential that BI can bring to your company, but you don't know how to make it happen.

If you are in this situation, perhaps it's time to consider outsourcing your BI program. That's right. Outsource yourself--or at least a large part of your team--to a company that specializes in BI. There are a growing number of consultancies and cloud-based BI firms that now offer such services or are contemplating making the shift. The advent of cloud-based hosting services is certainly fueling the growth of BI outsourcing, but the biggest driver is the growing intolerance among business executives for failed projects. BI outsourcers increase the odds that you will reap real value from your BI investments.

A New Approach

Of course, the IT industry has had a long track record with outsourcing, and it's not all positive. However, IT outsourcing has been more about standardization and economies of scale--basically, cost savings. But BI outsourcing is different; it's about avoiding failure and delivering value from BI investments.

The BI outsourcers I've spoken with, such as Birst, a cloud BI vendor, and BI consultancies, such as Tricore Solutions and Information Control Company (ICC), are specialists that live and breathe BI on a daily basis and have a solid track record of delivering positive results. For them, BI is not an art, it's a science. They have well defined processes, specialized software, and highly experienced staff who can deliver positive results quickly. Now these providers are saying, "I can deliver even more value if you give me all the keys to your BI kingdom."

Traditionally, companies hire BI consultancies to build a predefined solution using the their existing tools and processes. But the consultancies often have to do a lot of remedial work with an organization's data or BI architecture before it can begin actual development. Consequently, these providers now want responsibility for everything, including defining the roadmap, managing data governance, selecting tools, designing the architecture, and managing operations. Essentially, they want to manage your entire BI Competency Center and guarantee success in return.

Options

Every BI outsourcer has a well-honed methodology for building BI solutions and each has its own secret sauce for rapidly delivering business value. Some leverage offshore resources or use software that automates data acquisition and modeling; others provide a highly integrated BI stack (e.g. Birst) or host BI solutions in the cloud or some combination of all these options. Expect more BI vendors and consultancies to get into the BI outsourcing game.

Pricing. In addition, some BI outsourcers charge monthly subscription fees rather than the traditional fee-for-service or fixed-price model. This eliminates upfront capital expenditures that often dissuade smaller companies or those with limited budgets from undertaking BI initiatives. However, BI outsourcers are quick to say that delivering quality BI solutions is not cheap. The hardest part involves wrestling companies' data to the ground until it's in a usable form for reporting and analysis. This consumes 60% to 80% of the effort in delivering any BI solution and it's the step that most clients don't invest enough time and money in to guarantee success. The subscription model spreads the cost across a longer time frame while wedding the BI outsourcer to your success since it often takes a year or two before it can make a profit on your business.

Considerations

To succeed with BI outsourcing, you need to carefully evaluate the track record of potential providers. You want one that has an outstanding track record for delivering successful BI solutions. You also need to assign a liaison from your company to manage the outsourcing relationship and ensure the provider has access to the proper business and IT constituencies. Also, you need to embrace the provider's methodology for delivering BI solutions and not force your on software development lifecycle on it. "When we're forced to bend our practices to accommodate sub-optimal processes, our velocity and customer satisfaction suffer," says Jim Gallo, national director for business analytics at ICC.

One of the biggest risks with BI outsourcing is getting locked into a third party vendor that holds your data hostage as it increases fees. Make sure there is a safety valve clause in your contract that enables you to insource your BI environment easily and quickly.

Conclusion

If you can't get traction for your BI program and business executives are increasingly reluctant to fund new initiatives, you need take drastic action. One option is to outsource your BI program to a highly experienced BI services provider who has an outstanding track record of success. With the right partner, you just might achieve the BI nirvana of which you've always dreamed.


Posted June 11, 2013 3:15 PM
Permalink | 2 Comments |

2 Comments

Thanks wayne, nice insightful article which talks on what business should do for managing Bi-analytics... the role of BI-analytics is going to play a bigger and bigger role in designing strategies and taking crucial decisions on faster note...Its also true that its specilize task and you need to build the expertise to get the desired results... there are very nice tools and companies in the market to provide professional services with highest returns.....some of them are SAP, IBM, Accenture, Infosys etc.. there are many emerging players as well like Tata Business Support Services doing great job in the field.

Thanks for this info.

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