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What BI adoption can learn from Quality Management

Knowing your business, market, customers and competition is critical for any organization. A major part of any manager’s job is to make decisions. BI adoption helps the organization to turn data into useful and meaningful information.

Yet BI adoption rates are low, and IT leaders face a related problem—how to get people to use BI. What’s more, failure rates are estimated to be more than 65%. What are the reasons for all this and what can be done about it?

In a sense, with BI adoption, IT is aiming to improve the quality of the decision-making within the organization. It will therefore be interesting to draw some learnings from what quality management leaders have done for wider adoption and acceptance of quality initiatives.

If you can improve the overall quality of your organization’s decision-making process, you can improve the overall effectiveness of your organization. In short, BI adoption helps your organization to make smarter decisions, hence its original description as ‘decision support.’

Says Philip Crosby, the quality guru, “I always want the quality professional to be an integral part of the improvement process. They should be in there from the beginning, pushing and pulling to move it along. However, I do recommend that they not head it up. There are three reasons [for this]:

1) BI adoption could look like just another quality program.

2) Letting other people be in charge of the quality improvement team provides a greater opportunity for changing a lot of minds.

3) The goals of the department need to change from being a police force to becoming a wellness center.”

Thus, Crosby talks about the quality department encouraging the quality improvement teams in various departments, and helping them to set up show-and-tell sessions where individuals and groups come and bear witness to the management about the things they are accomplishing.

Playing the role of facilitators has helped the implementation of quality get into the DNA of an organization.

So far, IT departments within organizations have implemented BI, taking accountability for it, controlling data, and controlling the tools that enable the adopted BI. The result has been the constant process of ‘back and forth’ on user requirements, creating lot of frustration and heartburn for IT and the business, leading to having BI for the sake of it, and leading the business user back to using spreadsheets and working with limited data insights and more gut feel on the decisions to be taken.

However, technological strides have enabled a completely new take on the way organizations and IT leaders can look at BI adoption, either as a new initiative or by reconfiguring the way the already implemented BI is used.

Unlike earlier times, with BI adoption, business users can be empowered to look at and define their decision-support requirements and various levels within their functional hierarchy. IT can facilitate this discovery process and in turn enable them with access to the relevant data points from the database. Now, having taken users to this point, IT can further empower users to query the data, build reports and generate new insights with the data access given to these functions. Of course, not all the data may be in a database, or in a single database. But the technology now enables even non-IT users to write their own queries on a database without any programming or SQL knowledge, thus freeing them to slice and dice data as they wish to for data-based decision making.

There is a marvelous opportunity and a bright future for those who learn how to adopt and manage BI in a manner that makes it an obvious asset to the company to take better decisions—rather than making it just one more ‘IT initiative.’

 

About the author: Atul Vaidya leads the New India Initiative of the Corporate Renaissance Group, a business performance improvement company headquartered in Ottawa, Canada. A specialist in strategies for democratizing data, he is engaged with Rapid Fire Business Analytics & Data Visualization Technologies, and can be reached at www.rapidfirebi.com

This was first published in December 2010

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