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Is the Economy Going to Take a Bite Out of Your Business Intelligence Program?

Nancy Williams explains why it is of paramount importance to be sure that your business intelligence plan includes delivering tangible business benefits that can hold up during budget scrutiny.


This article originally appeared on the BeyeNETWORK

It depends. These days more than ever, the costs/benefit analysis of big-ticket initiatives is being scrutinized. When times were good and funding was ample, business intelligence (BI) value propositions such as “better access to information” or “improved data quality” were enough to get a BI program funded. Now that funding is tight, programs that cannot demonstrate real bottom-line business benefits may not survive the next round of budget cuts.

So, is your BI program at risk? It depends on how it has been positioned in your organization and how tightly coupled your BI projects are with real bottom-line business benefits. While BI best practice winners have always demonstrated how BI can support business performance improvement, many organizations have not. Many BI programs have been funded with vague value propositions such as “better reporting.” If your BI program is going to survive funding cuts, now is the time to take stock and determine what your plan is for delivering tangible business “benefits” that can hold up during budget scrutiny.

Here are a few suggestions for places to look. Many businesses are not delusional enough to expect sizable top-line revenue growth during this economic downturn. They are, however, very interested in keeping the business that they have and reducing the costs associated with doing business.

When it comes to keeping business, there may be interesting BI opportunities that present themselves. During tough economic times, it may not take much for customers to decide that they really don’t need your company’s products or services, or that there is a better deal elsewhere. There may be a BI opportunity to gain better insight into how well your organization is delivering customer service and where it can improve to head off potential customer attrition. There may also be opportunities to get better insights into which customers are contributing the most margin so that your business can take extra good care of these customers to avoid potential revenue losses if they leave.

Other business intelligence opportunities may be available in the area of cost-cutting. One area of potential BI opportunity is getting better insight into inefficient business processes, resulting in the ability to identify opportunities for streamlining that take cost out of the system. Additionally, there may be BI opportunities for surfacing ineffective processes, uncovering expensive defects and rework that can be avoided to reduce costs.

Business intelligence opportunities such as these can be fleshed out with a compelling business case that will withstand budget scrutiny. While this process may be forced by budget necessity, it also has inherent value. It will result in improving your organization’s BI maturity through explicit alignment of your BI initiative with the goals and strategies of your business. Not only will it help you survive upcoming budget cuts, but it will have the lasting effect of elevating the strategic importance of your business intelligence program with your key business stakeholders.

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