According to Gartner both CIOs and CFOs list BI or Analytics as their top priority.  Despite this focus, organizations have had a difficult time deploying BI successfully. According to the BI Scorecard, BI adoption rates have essentially hovered around the 25% mark since they started surveying companies back in 2005.   (That was the year that the first YouTube video was uploaded.  And, the iPhone wasn’t even introduced until 2007!)


This discussion is usually phrased as driving a more “analytical culture”: one where there is a general desire and willingness to make decisions based off of factual quantifiable data versus intuition.  Usually, I would say that culture is one of the hardest things to change.  But this time the likes of Google and Apple have done much of the heavy lifting for us.  Rather than rely on gut feel, many of us have become information junkies over this same time period.  So why is BI adoption so hard?


Multiple issues are at play of course and a successful BI strategy will need to address each of these.  Here are my top three factors contributing to lackluster BI adoption.  What would you add to the list?


IT Centric vs. User Centric Models of Delivery


A typical BI report, visualization or view can answer a question which is well understood in advance.  However, when business users have a follow-up question (which they will), they typically have to go back to IT.  In this IT centric model of BI delivery, users are unable to answer business questions in a timely manner so they become frustrated with the system and with IT.


In a user-centric delivery model, IT is still hugely important.  However, instead of asking “What question does my business want to answer?”, we instead focus on “What types of questions does my business want to explore?”.  In other words, IT does not focus on delivering a solution but instead a tool.


Lack of Business Partnership


According to a recent study that looks at the changing role of the CIO, one striking finding is that only about half of CEOs felt that CIOs understood their business and the problems that face them.  Long gone are the days when monolithic technology solutions are seen as long term investments.  On the other hand, evaluating and selecting tools department-by-department doesn’t leverage the economies of scale that large enterprises enjoy.

IT can still invest in stable centralized technology.  But rather than a one-size-fits all approach, IT needs to deliver flexible tools at the enterprise level that provide services which can be rapidly adapted to the changing needs of each individual line of business. In this way, IT can deliver stability as well as being seen as responsive.


If we want to grow BI beyond just a deployment of tools for our power users, we need to consider the skills of our entire user community.  In the U.S. where I live, this last point recently became painfully highlighted.  A study published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development places the United States as #17 out of 19 for numeracy skills.

As we race forward into what many refer to as an ‘information economy’ the ability to understand data and to think in numbers is becoming even more critical.  Training our employees on the data and the use of data is just as important (if not more important) than on how to use the tools themselves.


What would you add to the list? 

What issues do you think we need to address in order to improve our ability to drive pervasive business intelligence?

Over the past few months, I have seen the following quote from this year’s IDC Predictions publication. 

Growing Importance of Line of Business (LOB) Executives: By 2016, 80% of new IT investments will directly involve LOB executives, with LOBs the lead decision makers in half or more of those investments.

The paper goes on to state that the most dramatic changes will happen within customer-facing front-office functions.  And the focus of the recommendation appears to be that IT vendors will now have to think about the LOB as their customer.   

For me, I am less interested in the impact on vendors since they will follow the money fast enough.   However, I am very interested in the impact that this type of trend might have on traditional IT.  Let’s take a look.

A part of this trend is simply a sign of the digitization of business.  (E.g. moving from print ads to online impressions) But, it likely also includes SaaS (E.g. Sales Force) or even more “threatening” projects such as big data infrastructures to analyze click-stream data. 

But is this type of project even a threat to IT?  Although it might sound so at first, when you think about it, the money has never belonged to IT anyway.  In healthy organization, IT has always worked with the business to help set priorities and manage spend.

In fact, to be successful in technology, you have always had to be a jack of all trades. You have to know the technology, of course, but you also have to know the business and the operations just as well as anyone else at the table.   Without it, you wouldn’t be able to speak their language, ask relevant questions and proactively think about solutions that might bring the business value.


As we move into the Information Economy (from left to right), the role of IT professionals can expand, not shrink, for the rights kinds of roles.

As we move into the information economy all that is really happening is that this really cool space where the great IT people have always resided is becoming even bigger providing us with even more opportunity to add value to the business.

Being welcomed into that space, as it always has, is a matter of building trust.   And to do this, IT needs to proactively deliver solutions that meet the needs of the business.  In today’s information economy, a great place to start is to find a way to deliver on the long awaited promise of BI to assist the business in making data driven decisions.

Learn more about how to navigate the changing role of IT and generate stronger business partnership here.

My youngest son recently turned 10 years old.  And, the sad reality is that in many ways, he doesn’t need me that much anymore.  


In fact, if I wasn’t so unwilling to give up in my role as his mother, I am quite sure that he could manage to get through an entire day without my help.  Thankfully there is a lot more to life than just pouring yourself a bowl of Cheerios. Somebody actually has to make sure that there are Cheerios in the house… and for that matter, milk.


What does this have to do with the business of IT? 


My role as mother is to empower my boys with the tools and resources that they need to be increasingly self-sufficient and to drive toward their own personal goals. As an IT leader, my role has always been to empower the business users and to give them the tools and resources that they need to propel the business forward. 


I had to stand on the step in order to appear taller than my oldest!


Just as my relationship with my boys has evolved as they have grown, business users are much more tech savvy today than ever and it is important that we adapt our methods of delivering IT solutions accordingly. One example of this is happening is Bring Your Own Device or BYOD where business users take on at least some responsibility for self-support of their own technology devices. Another great example is the move toward self-service Business Intelligence where IT departments maintain discipline around their core mission (security, data integrity, scalability, etc.) while business users are provided with tools enabling them to answer their own BI questions allowing them to move at the speed of business.


Gartner’s research note: “How to Deliver Self-Service Business Intelligence” outlines a model for the critical issues that surround delivering a self-service BI capability and includes three key recommendations for IT leaders, all of which we see in organizations using QlikView:


  • Reevaluate long standing organizational models with the objective of creating a stronger partnership between IT and the business. 

    There are several recommendations in the paper including physical co-location of IT professionals with the business as well as changes in organizational structure.  The form that these changes take will vary from firm to firm but the objective should be the same which is to create an environment that fosters stronger partnership between traditional IT roles and business roles. 
  • Establish governance models for certifying business user driven development.

    The reality is that business users already have a long history of developing BI solutions for themselves.  (I myself am a recovering Excel addict.)  However, it is becoming apparent there have been serious business problems caused by the unfettered use of Excel to support critical business processes. Therefore as we empower our users with new self-service BI tools, it is critical that we also put in place the data controls and governance policies necessary to ensure consistency and the integrity of the resulting business decisions.
  • Increase the reach of BI throughout the organization through the adoption of consumerization technologies

    Here the recommendation is to widen the use of business intelligence by supporting all of the ways through which business users may want to interact with the data.  Specifically highlighted here is the idea of moving beyond static reports and enabling interactive dashboards, visualizations and search. 


A point highlighted in the paper which resonated especially well with me as a mother was the idea of giving the right amount of capability to each business user. My two boys are 5 years apart in age and sometimes it is easy to forget that they need different levels of support. The same is true for our business users. Although any business user can gain valuable insight from an interactive QlikView application with only minutes of training, not all users will be able or even want to be able to develop applications of their own. It is important to provide a platform which can deliver capability to both types of users as well as those in between and to help all users grow in how they use BI for themselves.


Learn more about the Gartner research and QlikView’s self-service BI platform here.


I am personally passionate about improving the partnership between business users and IT and would love to hear from you!

  • Are you in IT? How has your relationship changed with your business users over time?  Do you think it is for the better?
  • Are you a business user?  How can IT do more to empower you to meet your goals?

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