While Business Intelligence (BI) is fast becoming a top priority for most businesses, achieving Return on Investment (RoI) through BI implementation still remains a big challenge for CIOs in India. Though many CIOs plan to invest in BI going forward, most of them fear BI failure. It’s interesting to note that BI is just a reporting tool for most of these CIOs. Now business intelligence is good, but there needs to be a solid business case for such deployments to avoid risk of BI failure. A case in point is that the large number of BI projects that go over-budget due to failure to meet timelines.
In spite of the risk of BI failure, it is a known fact that business intelligence can provide substantial benefits—but only when deployed in the right way, at the right instance, and with the right mapping. However, BI is not a sound investment option if you look at it just as a simple and basic reporting tool.
Despite the risk of BI failures, this technology has been maturing over the years. CEOs are getting more aware and demanding BI technology for better business decision-making. In view of the rising popularity of these solutions, it is imperative to look at some ways to avoid BI failure in order to ensure a successful project:
- Investments: In view of the risk of BI failure, true RoI is a problem as far as BI projects are concerned. Companies make large investments during the initial stages of the project. Now, the back-office analysts do not have capabilities to use those investments. Hence, it is better to have a step-by-step approach with the right analyst, appropriate talent and suitable tools to avoid BI project failures.
- Business value: Apart from the risk of BI failure, one of the most common flaws is that not enough business value is attached to every investment. Lack of business value in a project is bound to make it fail in the long run. Senior managers should work towards attaching business value and communicating the same internally, since in the process they can avoid BI failure.
- Bottom-lines: For avoiding BI failure, CIOs need to think how a BI project can affect the company’s bottom-lines. In fact, CIOs can go in for creation of BI competency centers — Centers of Excellence (CoE). These CoEs can help in streamlining the BI and data management processes, thus avoiding the risk of BI failure. Also, CoEs can bring IT and business users together. With this, the CIO can manage expectations, have unified strategy, and redefine the testing parameters; in the process, avoiding BI failure.
- Data quality: A key limitation and reason behind BI project failure is poor quality and lack of data definition. At times, data lies in silos across different departments. The idea is about how you can get this data together to make definite business decisions—a critical aspect which can help you avoid BI failure. However, most departments like to own their data and manipulate the same to make their bosses happy. Hence, cultural transformation of accountability needs to happen in order to avoid BI failure in the long run.
- Choice of vendor: The decision to buy BI from a particular vendor just because some enterprise applications were bought from him would be totally wrong. Such decisions could eventually lead to BI failure. So while choosing the BI system, it is very critical to evaluate different vendors in the market rather than going in for the current application vendor. Assessment is very critical in the BI adoption strategy, and a proper evaluation will ensure that you do not encounter BI failure. As the technology matures, CIOs have started contracting external consultants—thus minimizing chances of BI failure.
- Education: Education is essential to make a BI project successful. There are many who just want to deploy dashboards, though it should be the last step in an ideal BI implementation. Hence, you need to have a more integrated and unified strategy to keep BI failure at bay.
To sum it up, management buy-in is very critical for any project to succeed. Same is the case with BI projects in order to avoid their failure. You can convince top management only if you have the right understanding, appropriate strategy and suitable tools in place. Hence, many questions need to be answered before starting the BI journey to ensure that it does not end up in failure.
About the author: Sanchit Vir Gogia is an associate research manager at Springboard Research.
(As told to Yuga Chaudhari.)
This was first published in August 2010