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Is Your Business Intelligence Competency Center Competent?

Is the business intelligence competency center just another means for someone to sell his or her wares, or will it truly solve a business problem?

This article originally appeared on the BeyeNETWORK

As I read more about information technology moving toward a new concept known as thebusiness intelligence competency center (BICC), I often ask myself, “Is this another buzzword for someone to sell their wares, or is this something sweet that will solve a business problem?” So far for me, the jury is still out.

What is a Business Intelligence Competency Center? 
I believe that the BICC is an organization within the corporate structure whose role is to:

  • Be the business intelligence (BI) champion

  • Define how BI aligns with the business, including prioritization of projects,

  • Define the standards for BI projects, and

  • Manage and provide the technical skills for business intelligence projects.

I realize that those are some lofty goals and there will be political maneuvering that will take place, but that just brings out the stronger case for a BICC. Remember that intelligence and knowledge (which comes from data) is power in an organization. If I have to “share” mine with others in the organization, then my power is being diminished. I know very few people within organizations that would like to see that happen because that makes them feel that their job could be in jeopardy.

Why Do I Need a Competency Center? 
This can be summed up in a single word – opportunity. Look at the way we do business intelligence projects. We determine a need and assign folks to execute a set of tasks. When they have successfully completed those tasks, they move to another project, most likely having nothing to do with BI. They take that knowledge and move on. This is no better than creating stovepipe applications for business intelligence.

Opportunity for business intelligence is based on how well the following three items work together:

  • People
  • Process
  • Technology

When people, process and technology work together, the result is a highly opportunistic organization. Opportunistic is not just about the bottom line. Opportunistic is about making your organization a learning organization – one that learns from its mistakes and puts into place a uniform way of remembering what was done and why it was either successful or unsuccessful.

The goal of the BICC should be to work toward what Howard Dresner, Chief Strategy Officer at Hyperion Solutions, calls “information democracy.” Information democracy is making sure that all folks have access to the insight they require. It does not mean that they have access to everything (that would be anarchy), but that they have access to the information that will empower them to do a better job.

The BICC should put into place the people, process and technology that takes data (structured, unstructured and externally sourced) and transforms it into information so that our business folks glean knowledge from it. In the information democracy, that information and knowledge should be shared with as many folks as possible. The more that you can share information and knowledge among the people in your organization, the more value your BICC adds. Some of my compatriots and I claim that: the value of BICC = quality of information and knowledge x the organizational reach.

Think about it. If someone gains a great piece of knowledge but holds it to themselves, what is the value? Not much. But if you take that knowledge and share it with everyone, the value is a multiplier of the quality. That adds real value to any organization.

What Makes Up a Competent Competency Center?

  • People – People are the biggest enablers (and disablers) for the competency center. Your competency center needs to be made up of people from both the business and technology. It needs to be funded and have a corporate charter. This will require some fundamental changes, so I believe that some organization development processes should be put into place to help different parts of the organization understand and deal with the issues of those fundamental changes.

  • Process – Process is the way we go about doing something. It is about defining the strategic goals of your organization, setting initiatives (with incentives), developing a long-term plan and short-term objectives, and developing the tollgates along the way as checkpoints to see how the objectives are being fulfilled.

  • Technology – Technology can be broken down into separate components such as data, applications and organizational measures. The data that generally encompasses the structures includes the staging area, enterprise data warehouse and data marts (normalized, stars, snowflakes, cubes, etc.). The applications include dashboards, scorecards, analytical, query and reporting, etc.

The intersection of the three should (will) create an environment of sharing data, information and knowledge. Two major outcomes of the BICC should be high quality data and information (well, at least an understanding of your confidence level in its quality) and amaster data management (MDM) environment.

Is Your BICC Competent? 
Here are 25 questions from a checklist that I use to lead me through a discussion of BICC competency.

  1. Do you have a strategic plan?

  2. What are the objectives for each organization (and each person in the organization!)?

  3. How do you measure it?

  4. How does each objective relate to the strategic plan?

  5. Are the measures synchronized with the strategic plan?

  6. Do you have the budget to support the strategic plan?

  7. Do you have the fortitude to live with a multiyear plan?

  8. Do you have a methodology in place?

  9. Are your processes aligned with these objectives?

  10. Do you have a data governance process in place?

  11. Do they have management’s backing to be productive?

  12. Do they ensure consistency and enforcement of the standards?

  13. Is the data available for capture and transformation?

  14. Are you willing to spend the time to “clean” the data?

  15. Is high data quality important to your organization?

  16. Is proper security set up to guard the quality and contents of the data?

  17. Are the measures being calculated correctly?

  18. Do you employ best practices?

  19. Have you documented data and defined measures?

  20. Do you have specific tollgates or checkpoints in place in your methodology?

  21. Are you overemphasizing technology?

  22. Do you have integrated drilling patterns to the data?

  23. Does your business intelligence tool address executives as well as the front-line folks?

  24. Is your architecture flexible and scalable?

  25. Have you done capacity planning?

Of course, each question creates another set of questions depending on the answers, but you can use this as a guide to help you determine your competency.

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