Those of us who live in cold, icy parts of the world know that a pothole is a broken section of pavement that results in a hole – sometimes a deep one. Potholes in the road are created by repeated freezing and thawing. They slow motorists down and can cause vehicle damage and accidents.
As anyone involved in BI (business intelligence) projects can attest, potholes abound in BI as well. A couple of these potholes have to do with BI project ownership and collaboration across the organization. For example:
- IT and non-IT are mis-aligned. It sometimes works like this: business users need insights from data so they request BI software from IT. They ask for software that is flexible, easy to use, and self-service. IT asks the requestors what questions they want to be able to answer. The business users often don’t know, exactly. The IT team agrees to a project and applies a waterfall methodology using stages like definition, development, test, and go-live. By the time the solution is live it no longer answers the questions the requestors had, or business requirements have changed. Business users complain that the project took too long and the solution performs too slowly or only serves as a data source for Excel analysis. As a result of this mis-alignment, frustration abounds.
- The project lacks executive sponsorship or business ownership. We see organizations achieve the greatest success when a business team has the budget and builds a business case and then approaches IT for help coming up with a technical solution. In this case, the group that needs a business problem solved makes the final decision about which software to deploy. The project has top management support. An executive who is close to the business problems that led to exploration of BI in the first place is closely involved to ensure funding, make final decisions on sticky topics, and drive adoption throughout the organization. This executive can also help set the tone for what is inevitably a change – the intelligence in BI reveals the good, the bad, and the ugly. Some people will feel unrewarded by this exposure regardless of the positive impact for the organization as a whole.
In the most modern enterprises (what we call the “new enterprise,”) IT is seen and treated as an important enabler of other parts of the business, rather than as separate from the business. The role of IT in BI shifts from being the providers of BI to serving as the enablers of BI. IT’s role is not to create all the dashboards and reports business users might possibly need; rather, it is to ensure security, compliance, and auditability, and to provision users with high-quality data, excellent performance, and self-service. When IT and non-IT are closely aligned and the BI project has executive sponsorship and business ownership, BI projects have the greatest chance of success.
(This article is the first in a multi-part series featuring insights from many BI experts at QlikTech: Chaitanya Avasarala, Miguel Angel Baeyens, Gary Beach, David P. Braune, Greg Brooks, Annette Jonker, John Linehan, Brad Peterman, Olaf Rasenberg, Mike Saliter, Chris Sault, Matthew Stephen, Christof Schwarz, and Mark Wine. Stay tuned for more!)