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"5 Barriers to BI Success" is Strategic Finance Cover Story

I was fortunate enough to have an article of mine featured on the cover of the latest issue of Strategic Finance magazine. The article “5 Barriers to BI Success (and how to overcome them)” looks at the importance of linking business and BI strategy. The full article is available on Strategic Finance’s website. However, since their readership is primarily finance executives, and I believe the article has a broad application to other business users as well, I wanted to provide an overview of the article on our blog.

Determining BI success

Business intelligence is used to create value by enabling a company to increase revenue, reduce costs, or do both.  While the idea is simple, there is a tremendous amount of complexity in understanding which BI applications a company should develop and support to create this value.  BI success is going to look different if you’re in finance, operations, marketing, sales, or other departments in your organization. Because determining the right approach for BI can be so complex, we’ve often found a number of strategic barriers to BI success. Here is a summary of five of the common strategic barriers we’ve come across in our experience.

Confusing terminology makes the value of BI hard to determine

BI is often used as a blanket term, and thus ends up meaning very different things to different people. Is analytics different from BI? Is standard reporting BI? Is BI the data warehousing infrastructure, the front-end tool used for visualization, or an approach to utilizing information for more informed decisions? Finding exact definitions for BI terms isn’t as important, though, as understanding what value BI can bring to you, no matter what it’s called.

The mission and importance of BI are unclear

In short, to define the mission for BI at a company, you first need to determine the strategic importance of BI to that company and to the industry in which it competes. Understanding who your customers are, the complexity of your supply chain and the complexity of your varied product offerings are all essential to understanding how important BI can/should be to your company

No clear link to business strategy and critical business processes

It’s crucial (though often not practiced) to closely match planned BI investments with specific business processes. Doing so allows companies to target and measure performance improvements in a concrete way.

No sense of urgency among upper management

Establishing a “burning platform” – a need for immediate and radical change – is essential to creating the commitment to a successful BI program (which includes not only a change in one’s technical infrastructure, but of its corporate culture as well).

Not everyone is on the same page

The disconnect between business and IT is fairly common in organizations, and is often a major barrier to BI success. In addition to this business/IT disconnect, there’s often a disconnect between IT and BI. In other words, there is often an attempt to apply the same development and support methods used in other IT projects to a company’s BI program.

The Full Article

The full article goes into detail about each of the five barriers, and then goes on to describe ways that companies can avoid or knock them down.

You can download the full article on the Strategic Finance website.

By Steve Williams, President

© DecisionPath, 2011

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