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Nancy Williams

The Intelligent Pathway blog is an informal channel for sharing our ideas and experiences in the areas of business intelligence, performance management, analytics, and data warehousing. This blog is intended to provide our business and technical perspectives on new developments and future directions of the fields. Our blog posts reflect a pragmatic bent that balances business and technical perspectives. As always, feel free to contact us or add your perspective if you wish--we're always willing to hear from people who may have had different experiences or who hold different opinions.

About the author >

Nancy serves as Vice President for DecisionPath Consulting. Focusing her work on how business intelligence (BI) and data warehousing (DW) can be leveraged to improve business performance, Nancy is a well-known industry educator, author, and practitioner. Nancy’s experience includes more than 25 years of business management and technical experience. She has been involved in numerous consulting engagements, providing expertise in the areas of BI/DW assessments, BI/DW strategy, portfolio development and roadmaps, BI/DW requirements and data modeling, and BI/DW project and program management. Nancy is a regular speaker and keynote presenter at TDWI industry events,  co-hosts the BI impact channel on the BeyeNETWORK, and is co-author of the highly rated book The Profit Impact of Business Intelligence. She received her MBA from the Darden School at the University of Virginia. 

Editor's Note: Visit Nancy and Steve Williams' BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel for more articles and resources as well as Nancy's blog.

I just finished reading a couple of new business intelligence/analytics research reports: Business Analytics: Benchmarking the Analysis of Data to Gain Insight, and The Analytical Masses: Building Self-Service Insight for Line- of-Business Decisions, by Ventana Research and the Aberdeen Group, respectively. Both provide good insights into BI adoption and in some cases the lack of adoption. Many of the themes brought up in these two reports reflect what we've found in our work as BI consultants and researchers. In this post, I'll take a look at some of the more interesting findings.

1. Successful Companies Know how to Align Key Performance Indicators

According to Aberdeen, best in class organizations reported that they were three times as likely (53%) to have clearly defined and frequently measured KPIs that supported company strategy as laggards did (16%). This statistic aligns (no pun intended) quite well with our research findings. We found that companies aligning their performance management with business intelligence were three times as likely to see major performance improvements compared to companies that didn't. I think of these two findings as being complementary: in order to measure the effectiveness of your business strategy, it's imperative to have confidence in the underlying data (provided by BI). Companies that do this well outperform those that don't.

2. Successful Companies Have Process Driven Cultures

The Aberdeen report shows that best in class organizations are twice as likely to have strong process driven cultures as laggards (68% vs. 32%). It's good to see survey responses that help to support a position we've advocated for quite a while. In fact, we recently blogged about, in-depth, the need for developing a process improvement culture. In short, we discussed the role of decision process engineering, the practice of using structured decision processes to increase the effectiveness of decisions that organizations face on a recurring basis, was one of the keys success factor for businesses. Those structured decision processes use the information, analytical applications, and quantitative methods that BI can provide.

3. Lack of Executive Sponsorship is a Major Impediment to BI Successes

Based on the Ventana research report, one of the major people-related issues that limit BI maturity is lack of executive sponsorship (lack of skilled resources is the other, which I'll get to below). While this issue isn't a new one, and many may find it surprising - given the degree to which awareness of BI and analytics has entered the mainstream - that so many respondents still regard this as a major issue. We spoke about this in our recent Strategic Finance cover story, though. In short, there is often a lack of urgency among executives to invest more deeply in analytics, partly because of having been "successful enough" with current decision making processes, and in some cases actually fear the accountability that a structured analytics program would engender.

4. A Business-Centric Approach to BI Leads to Greater Company Success

Aberdeen reports that best in class companies are 82% more likely than all other companies to have business managers initiate analytical projects, rather than IT. It's great to see more organizations recognizing this approach to BI, and it's one that we've been advocating for years. In fact it's the basis of our book, The Profit Impact of Business Intelligence, and of our BI Pathway Method. Essentially, a practical guide to a business-centric approach to BI boils down to identifying BI opportunities based on business (corporate or line of business) strategy, and vetting those opportunity based on their risk and likely bottom-line impact.

5. Successful Companies Will be the Ones Who Compete for Skilled BI Talent

The other people-related issue that limits BI success is a lack of skilled BI resources, according to Ventana. While there's not a great detail in the report about how they classify BI resources, I think it can boil down to two different skill sets among business and technical professionals. On the business skill set side, we've found that one of the biggest contributing factors to BI success (or at least readiness for BI success) has been a culture around the use of information and analytics. On the technical side, this involves architects and developers who have an understanding of the uniqueness of BI (vs. other IT projects). But these kind of resources are in short supply, and will continue to be for some time.

Mapping Greater BI Success

There's a great deal more in each of these reports that I haven't touched on here, so I'd highly recommend picking up a copy of each if you have a chance. Taken together, though, they really provide some solid insight into the ways that a company can strategically develop a more successful BI program.

By Adrian Alleyne, Director of Market Research

© DecisionPath Consulting, 2011


Posted August 25, 2011 8:37 PM
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