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Business Intelligence and Analytics: Organizational Readiness to Overcome Barriers Impeding Success

Originally published December 22, 2011

There are cases in which organizations have committed to implementing a business intelligence and analytics project yet still faces barriers and delays in executing the program. Often, the barriers to success are not isolated – they are rooted in a general lack of organizational preparedness to take advantage of the value of an integrated framework for evaluating, reporting, and changing based on performance measures.

What is meant by organizational preparedness? At the highest level, it is a state within the organization in which both management and staff are prepared to:

  • Execute performance improvement measurement

  • Identify opportunities for benefits

  • Make changes to processes

  • Make changes to behavior as a result

  • Monitor improvement in relation to process and behavior changes
There are numerous aspects to preparedness, and you can get a good sense of the degree to which the organization is ready based on three areas of concentration: organizational, management, and operational readiness.

Organizational Readiness

From the organizational readiness perspective, you want to assess alignment between the (stated and de facto) objectives at different levels of management and the overall mission of the company. When the interests of the middle managers or the staff members in a particular group differ from those of the organization, it is challenging to even recognize that their behavior is motivated by alternate factors.

It would be difficult to inspire any significant change to the organization without involvement from key individuals. We can assess the degree of programmatic preparedness in relation to the support provided by those key individuals. The first thing to consider is the support of a program champion who can influence both upper management to gain their buy-in and stoke interest among the stakeholders who would either help fund the program or benefit from it.

Management Readiness

Establishing management readiness really focuses on communicating the impact of business intelligence (BI) – the definition of performance measures coupled with the expectation that as opportunities are identified for improving the business, those managers are committed to making changes to processes, changing behaviors, or even making staffing decisions that are in line with strategic decision making.

Without management support, the program is likely to stall. But even with management support, the program still needs the resources to put the operation into production.

Operational Readiness

Operational readiness implies that engagement has been institutionalized: budgets have been allocated, skilled staff members have been hired, the customers and stakeholders have been engaged and trained, and there is an organized governance and approval infrastructure in place.

Prepare for Changes

So how do you prepare the organization for the kinds of changes that will result from performance measurement and reporting? If you have the foundation in place, an exercise considers the future operating model and compares it to the current state. For example, the future vision may incorporate changes in the ways that customers are engaged based on their demographic profile. But in order to make that change, the sales staff members need to incorporate demographic profiles into their sales process. Therefore, that awareness and training must become a priority and be done before handing off a newly developed sales application.

Essentially, the future state can reflect a generic approach to “problem solving,” in which the BI teams work with the business users in:
  • Understanding the business problem by examining the core business challenges, determining what is known and what is unknown, describing the desired results, and considering similar scenarios or related problems;

  • Assessment and determining feasibility by considering the unknowns and seeing whether the methods of addressing the similar business problems can be adapted to this problem, considering the effects of the solution, and determining if the changes can be deployed;

  • Planning to develop the analytical solution by performing a data requirements assessment, determining the tools and methodologies to be employed, conditions for success, and barriers to execution; and

  • Execution of the solution by engaging the team members, assigning their tasks, building the solution, and measuring improvement.
The current state can be assessed in relation to the critical aspects of preparedness for change. A simple beginning is to use a low/medium/high approach, where specific criteria can be assigned for each assessment level. For example, the absence of a program champion would be measured as “low,” the presence of a champion who is deeply engaged would score a “high,” and anything in between might be a “medium.” Given the current state assessment, the future state can be compared to identify gaps, determine action items, and develop the roadmap. As an example, you might determine that the line of business teams are extremely siloed, with a low level of alignment with the corporate mission. The corresponding action items involve establishing awareness of how line of business activities contribute to corporate objectives and determine where local optimizations impede enterprise success.

The complete assessment will shed light on areas of risk of achieving change. The resulting plan should detail what needs to happen, who must be involved, and how the champion maintains management engagement. It will help in achieving the operational readiness levels including resources, funding, training, and plans for continuity. In turn, the roadmap will direct the socialization of business intelligence and guide the marketing and communication of short- and medium-term successes within a management plan for program sustainability.

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