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Federal BI Roadmaps: Smash through BI Roadblocks

If congress is able to breakthrough the seemingly impenetrable gridlock and pass a debt ceiling measure why can’t some federal IT managers get past the roadblocks thrown the in path of their BI program? While the impact of defaulting on US obligations is obviously more important than implementing a BI program, the frustration of hitting roadblock after roadblock is all too real for the federal BI manager. The BI landscape is littered with abandoned BI projects, stopped by a roadblock the federal BI manager couldn’t get around.

As Business Intelligence consultants working with both federal and commercial clients, we have identified common barriers to successfully implementing BI programs. These are the roadblocks your program will face and the federal BI manager needs a strategy to overcome them. The key actions to take to smash through BI roadblocks are listed below:

Ensure Business and BI Alignment

BI initiatives that are aligned with business needs and objectives have a high likelihood of successes. Those that have little business alignment or are purely technology-driven will be slowed or stopped along that way. To ensure business alignment:

  • Establish explicit linkages between the BI initiative and your agency’s strategies and goals;
  • Clearly communicate how BI will create business value;
  • Align key stakeholder expectations; and
  • Sequence BI projects based on risk/reward (start with low risk, high reward projects).

Create Effective BI Governance Structure

Running a BI initiative involves active and sustained participation among multiple business and technology organizations. To establish and maintain an effective governance structure, ensure that:

  • There is active executive level business sponsorship (it is their project after all);
  • Organizational roles and responsibilities are clearly outlined, communicated and agreed upon;
  • A clear organizational change management process is established; and 
  • Business processes exist and are actively managed for program, data, technical, and project level governance.

Develop BI Technical Excellence

Even the best aligned and governed project will not succeed if the organization does not have the technical ability to deliver the BI project. To develop BI technical excellence, ensure that:

  • The IT organization is structured to deliver BI applications;
  • The organization has (or can obtain) the specific BI skill sets needed for BI projects (they are different than traditional development);
  • The development methodology is focused towards BI development; and
  • Technical infrastructure, tools, and technology support BI development.

Maximize Business Adoption

The biggest roadblock to smash through is the business and organizational change required to leverage BI applications for maximum business value. Once the BI applications are developed, the business users should incorporate the new business intelligence into their business processes. To maximize business adoption, ensure that:

  • Organizational change management is an integral and leading component of the project approach;
  • The benefits of the BI project are continuously communicated;
  • Training and user support are key components of the project plan; and
  • The BI ecosystem is able to rapidly adapt to shifting business priorities.

The recent passage of the debt ceiling measure demonstrates that people can come together to accomplish something important. Just as there were dissenters on the debt ceiling measure, there will be dissenters on your BI program. By taking the actions detailed above, you will create the conditions that minimize the dissenters (there will always be some) and maximizes the value your BI program delivers to the advocates. You will be able to smash through BI roadblocks; or better yet, avoid them all together.

By David McIntire, Director of Federal Consulting

© DecisionPath Consulting, 2011

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