Gartner: Enterprise BI strategy rarely a one-size-fits-all approach

For large enterprises with multiple business divisions, a one-size-fits-all approach to business intelligence rarely fits the bill, according to Gartner.

For large enterprises with multiple business divisions, a one-size-fits-all approach to business intelligence and

BI software rarely fits the bill, according to Gartner. In this section of the BI Buyer's Guide, read about three approaches to enterprise BI and get tips on how CIOs and IT or BI managers can pick the right approach for their business units.


Business Intelligence Buyer's Guide Table of Contents

Selecting the best business intelligence tools for your business
Buying business intelligence software: Top 11 considerations
Gartner: Enterprise BI strategy rarely a one-size-fits-all approach
Setting key performance indicators can boost BI software user adoption
Business intelligence tools: Don't be 'tool myopic'


When it comes to business intelligence (BI) strategy in the enterprise, one size rarely fits all.

In large organizations, different divisions and business units play very different roles and have very different objectives. As a result, their approaches to BI should also be different, according to Patrick Meehan, an analyst with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc.

Meehan identified three approaches to BI that business unit CIOs should consider, noting that a combination of approaches will most often be necessary in large, multi-unit enterprises.

“All three approaches could exist in different places in the enterprise depending on what the persistent or burning business questions were,” Meehan said.

Three approaches to and strategies for business intelligence
The first approach to BI is the “past-tense approach.” Here, business units focus on making better business decisions by analyzing historical data. This approach is best suited for business units “that seek to recast their business plans on a quarterly or annual basis,” Meehan wrote in a recent report.

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The second approach is the “present-tense approach,” in which business units harness BI tools and technology to push real-time data to workers to make better business decisions in the moment. This method often requires integrating data from key business applications like CRM and ERP applications.

The third, “future-tense approach,” involves using advanced analytics and data modeling to predict likely future events so business units can plan their behavior accordingly.

“I went into this thinking [the approaches] would be additive,” Meehan said, meaning he thought it likely that organizations would adopt the first approach, then move on to the second and third approaches as their BI capabilities and culture matured. “But the cases didn’t prove that,” he said.

In some business units, Meehan’s research found, the past-tense approach proved to be the best approach. Finance divisions, Meehan found, are often best served by the past-tense approach to BI -- relying, for example, on historical data to determine if the company met its earnings per share goals.

Supply chain organizations, on the other hand, are better suited to the present-tense BI approach in order to keep order fulfillment and inventory levels in line.

Marketing organizations, meanwhile, likely benefit most from the future-tense approach, using BI to predict future consumer behavior.

Eric Williams, CIO at Catalina Marketing Corp., said he agreed with Gartner’s advice. Catalina, based in St. Petersburg, Fla., helps its consumer products and pharmaceutical customers collect and analyze point-of-sale (POS) data.

“I agree with the assessment and, in fact, that is why I set up a center of excellence within my BI team … to help pick the right product for each BI need in the business,” Williams said. “We found that each group has different needs and desires, and the key is to help uncover the specific need or unmet desire.”

The company’s operational departments, for example, use predictive analytics to help Catalina customers forecast consumer behavior based on POS data. Other divisions within Catalina, like its finance and HR departments, use more traditional BI tools, Williams said.

Successful BI projects require different enterprise BI strategies
Just like Catalina, in most large enterprises -- which have multiple divisions including finance, supply chain and marketing -- successful BI projects require the various business units to employ different approaches to BI.

That doesn’t mean that companies should invest in multiple BI tools from multiple vendors. In fact, BI platform consolidation can lead to significant cost savings. But megavendors like Oracle, SAP, IBM and Microsoft offer a wide range of tools, and companies can in some cases find the various BI tools needed to meet their departments’ diverse analytic needs at one or two of those vendors.

The key for business unit CIOs trying to decide which BI approach is right for their unit is not to identify a technology, but to identify the hottest of the burning questions that need answers to run the department effectively, Meehan said.

“The BU CIO needs to determine the top three or so pieces of information that could revolutionize the method of doing business or that could at least contribute to [its] success,” Meehan wrote in a recent report.

For a finance unit, the burning questions might revolve around determining if certain quarterly targets were met. For a marketing department, detecting shifts in consumer demographics might prove to be the hottest questions.

“The idea here is to make practical use of the Pareto principle -- identifying the 20% of burning questions that drive 80% of the value (the critical few), as opposed to being distracted by the 80% of burning questions that drive 20% of the value (the less impactful many),” Meehan concluded.

Once the hottest of the burning questions are identified, business unit CIOs should use them as conversation starters with the CEO and other business-side executives. From there, the objectives of any BI deployment can be better specified – thereby improving the chances of success – and the right approach to BI identified.

“If you don’t sit down and formulate the questions, how could you possibly come up with the answers, let alone make impactful business decisions?” Meehan said.

Ultimately, he said, BI is as much a cultural, business issue as a technical one and business unit CIOs should view it as such. They need to see themselves as “educators,” not just technology implementers


Business Intelligence Buyer's Guide Table of Contents

Selecting the best business intelligence tools for your business
Buying business intelligence software: Top 11 considerations
Gartner: Enterprise BI strategy rarely a one-size-fits-all approach
Setting key performance indicators can boost BI software user adoption
Business intelligence tools: Don't be 'tool myopic'


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