Challenges in Business Intelligence

Executive sponsorship is critical but so is employee buy-in

Ever heard the term, “you can’t push a rope”? Leadership can have the greatest plans for moving the business forward but unless each and every contributor to the processes that affect the outcome have bought into the mission and actively participate, the movement won’t get very far. Yes you can use the hammer and tie incentives to performance immediately instead of over time for which you will receive immediate backlash as a result. Or better yet positive reinforcement by making progress and goals at a high level visible and celebrated for all to see and introduce some cross department competition on conformed measures. A good leader inspires the best in people, not the worst.

Pro tip: Leadership should make every effort to communicate not just on the metrics but also adoption and accuracy.

Drive vertical then go horizontal

Lofty enterprise goals are very hard to implement across an organization, it requires massive amounts of cooperation amongst departments to define measures, setup architecture and extract from complicated source systems which can be expensive. Instead start with one process that, for example, drives one channel of your sales funnel and then drive that vertical to the individual contributor level in the form or actionable reporting, “Here are the clients that need to be called today for satisfaction feedback”. In this way you can start to see immediate results and use it as a template to implement in your organization for other processes and departments.

Pro tip: Setup a regular BI governance and education roundtable meeting to foster communication and iterative improvement among the BI stewards at all levels.

Stay focused on the business drivers, not the technical hurdles

There is an odd dichotomy to business intelligence depending on your business or technical background. If you are a business person maybe you’ve heard of the Kimball methodology for data warehouse design. If you haven’t that’s okay but that’s what your IT professionals are using to build out your backend data repository and this may not always provide the data in the form that you need from a business perspective. It is an object oriented approach to data that, depending on the complexity of the data sources, can take months or years to develop and deploy. If your organization needs to be nimble shouldn’t you be able to make decisions faster than that? To overcome this as a business user, start with a coherent set of sample data and then prototype what you want in your role-based reports and dashboards, including objectives and goals. You should define the calculations, granularity, security, availability and as much agreement from business leadership as you can before approaching IT. Your month long sprints should include visible deliverables back to the business even if they are very small iterative improvements.

Pro tip: Your business intelligence architect is the best translator between business and IT, they will make this communication much easier.

Organizational change and data visibility is unsettling

When you first begin your BI initiative you will probably begin with interviews to better understand your processes from the different subject matter experts and data stewards. Through these interviews it will be pretty easy to spot who is not on board with your project. Everyone is busy and it’s not easy to squeeze out more time for yet another “pet” project of the higher-ups. Not to mention it may require change to already overburdened workers who are trying to do the best they can with less budget and time. But there can be other reasons as well, data visibility can expose weaknesses or mitigate control over a certain functional area. On the positive side, data visibility can also expose strengths and opportunities which may be leveraged in other areas. Once again, focusing on the ultimate objectives, clear an honest communication and support from the executive team is essential to moving through road blocks. The challenge is to make the change process as positive as possible for all involved. Rapid and successful improvements in processes leading to better metrics will help show value and increase confidence in the initiative.

Pro tip: During requirements be sure to measure the current state process in terms of hours or cost or opportunity and then the improved state so later you can show your BI on BI in the form of ROI.