How to avoid falling into a business intelligence trap

Monday 21 October 2013

Business meeting

As your organisation plans its business intelligence (BI) strategy, it is important to be conscious of the potential pitfalls which could hamper attempts to draw insight from your data. There are a number of proven practices widely accepted in the BI arena, and where possible you should follow these closely, ensuring your project retains its focus. Being aware of what to avoid when planning your strategy is an important part of the process.

In the report 'Business intelligence (BI): How to build successful BI strategy', Big Four consultancy Deloitte identifies a number of common pitfalls in project planning. Author Prashant Pant, a senior specialist with the firm, noted that organisations often make the mistake of starting out with too narrow a vision. Rather than adopting a holistic strategy which considers the business as a whole, they focus too much on a specific area, he claimed. Mr Pant said BI strategies always need to be prepared in the context of the wider BI definition, if businesses want to maximise the return on their investment.

Take your time with BI planning

Another common error when starting out with BI is to move too quickly. All too often, a business decides to invest in intelligence solutions, and the next moment a new system is being rolled out across their organisation. Mr Pant suggested that a more measured approach has benefits. "Don’t plan to use big-bang implementation approach - it has been proven that iterative implementation works better for BI initiatives," he claimed.

Mr Pant also highlighted the problem of focusing too much on the technology aspect of the BI deployment. While the solutions you choose will have a significant bearing on the success of the project, this does not override the importance of developing a wider strategy, he said. "Often the mistake is made by BI architects to associate the BI initiatives to specific technology components, such as implementing parallel processing database technology or building OLAP cubes or dimensional modelling," Mr Pant stated.

Be clear with the BI strategy

He identified the importance of having a clear BI strategy document to guide the deployment process and ensure the project retains its focus at all times. Otherwise, there is a risk that BI solutions will be introduced haphazardly throughout your business, which will ultimately have a major impact on the intelligence environment you create. It is important to assess BI needs in each department, and also assess priorities - ensuring those who stand to gain most from intelligence solutions are among the first to benefit.

A key point for organisations to remember when introducing BI is that the strategy must consider more than just data integration and state-of the-art tools. Mr Pant said that any BI strategy should be comprehensive, incorporating more than just data warehouse or BI tools. If this is not the case, you could soon have multiple - and potentially conflicting - plans working in parallel.

Mr Pant urged businesses to be as flexible as possible with their BI plan, responding to changing demands and requirements as they emerge. "Don’t adopt inflexible approach. BI strategy should be treated as a living artefact," he claimed. "It should be constantly tuned and adjusted to reflect the needs of your business."

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Posted by Dan Smith