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Government BI Strategy: Turn Critics into Champions

The current Fiscal Year is about half over and federal agencies are still operating on a continuing resolution as congress has not yet passed a budget. There is a lot of noise about slashing federal budgets and critics abound with opinions on which programs to cut. And while IT spending is predicted to remain fairly stable, according to a recent IDC Government Insights report, IT programs are subjected to increased scrutiny by critics in their ability to deliver value to the agencies they support. 

An important goal, then, for BI managers is to transform these critics into champions. One way to achieve this to be proactive in determining and delivering value for their business intelligence programs.  With this in mind, and with increased scrutiny of federal funding, it’s time to relook at your BI strategy and take actions now to energize your BI program. In our work as business intelligence consultants, we have seen that agencies with effective BI strategies have the following characteristics:

Provide Relevant and Timely Business Information: 

The overall mission of a BI program is to support the business information needs of your business users. As organizations are in constant motion, the most effective BI programs are also in constant motion supplying relevant and timely business information to support decision making. Review your organization’s strategies, goals and objectives on a constant basis and ensure your BI program is in perfect alignment is supplying the right information.

Have a Robust Information Architecture: 

 The optimal information architecture is robust and should enable your BI applications to adapt with the changing business. As your organization is constantly changing, your information architecture should elegantly change with it. If there are shortcoming in this area, it might take some time to change this (think about remodeling your home while you are still living in it) but a fresh look at your information architecture will pay dividends in the long run.

Effectively Leverage Tools and Technology: 

The best BI programs effectively leverage tools and technology to supply critical information to business users. The technology follows the business need and not the other way around. As business intelligence consultants, we have seen countless cases where organizations have bought a BI tool (sometimes, a very expensive BI tool) and then don’t know how to effectively use it. In other cases, the application has become too slow or the user interface too complex and business users have abandoned it and get their data by other means. Ensure you tools and technology enable, and not hinder information access.

Manage BI Programs as an IT Investment: 

 A well managed BI program has engaged business and IT stakeholders and a defined governance structure. The agency views business intelligence as an important investment and manages it like other important IT investments. Taking this approach to managing your BI program provides the leadership, direction and resources critical to program success. It also ensures your BI program is accorded the respect it deserves as an important business initiative.

Moving Your BI Strategy Forward

As a first step towards moving your BI strategy forward, review each of these key areas and identify the major challenges. Create a list of candidate initiatives that will help overcome these challenges. For example, if your information architecture does not enable elegant reporting and analysis by business users, an information environment redesign may be in order. Or perhaps a few technology upgrades or enhancements are needed to win back your business users. Maybe you never had a BI strategy and now need one.

Be sure to perform a thorough root-cause analysis to discover the real cause of the problem. A slow running information environment can be fixed. But if it doesn’t provide the information the users want, an infrastructure upgrade only delivers useless information faster.

By refocusing your BI strategy, you can deliver value to your business users, helping to turn them from critics to champions, and keep your budget safe.

TDWI World Conference – Washington DC, April 3-8

If you want to find out more about public sector BI strategy, come to The Data Warehouse Institute’s (TDWI’s) spring World Conference in Washington, DC April 3-8. Nancy Williams, DecisionPath’s BI/DW Vice President, will be speaking about aligning business performance management and business intelligence (http://tdwi.org/Calendar/2011/04/World-Conference-Performance-Management.aspx). There is a special summit on managing the public sector data explosion (http://tdwi.org/Calendar/2011/04/Government-Summit.aspx).

by David McIntire

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