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Devising a better business intelligence strategy

Having seen real value in technology, companies recognize that they need enterprise-wide business intelligence – and they're ready to get it right.

This article originally appeared on the BeyeNETWORK.

Over the past year or so, a remarkable thing has happened. More than in quite a while, companies have focused on how to getbusiness intelligence (BI) “right.” More often than not, these companies have used business intelligence tools and technologies to varying degrees of success. While it is not unusual to find successful reporting and departmental analytics, these companies still struggle with disparate data (in marts as well as data stores), inconsistent reports, and lack of reliable enterprise-ready data and analytics.

In other words, significant investments have been made at these companies and they have yet to realize the full promise of BI. I find it is important to realize that they have reached this point for the best of reasons. In many cases, they have used OLAP technologies to deliver a better user experience with analytics, reports, and queries. They may even have used an extract, transform and load (ETL) technology. And they have seen that there is real value in these technologies. But in every case, the decisions that brought them to this point were made under the everyday pressure of a need to act with limited resources and time.

So with the success they have had, these companies also realize that inconsistent, incomplete, and incorrect data is still a problem for the business. Armed with the recognition that the business needs enterprise-wide BI, these organizations are ready to get BI “right.” To do this, they need a BI strategy and roadmap.

The Business Component of the BI Strategy

Addressing the BI and data delivery needs of the enterprise is the critical first step. Strategy is where business intelligence meets the needs of the business. Some important questions to address are:

  • What information is required to support critical business capabilities?

  • What problems exist with getting or using this information?

  • What actions and business processes will be enabled by delivering this information?

  • What are the benefits that the business will realize by delivering this information?

  • Which information problems, from an overall business perspective, are most urgent to address?

  • How ready is each organization for incorporating analytic and reporting tools into their work?

  • How ready is the enterprise for managing and governing enterprise-wide data and its usage?

Addressing the business through interviews and workshops provides a foundation for understanding the business issues around data and for the qualitative assessment for a BI and data delivery solution that will resolve them.

The IT Component of the BI Strategy

Along with enterprise BI and data delivery needs, it is necessary to assess the ability of IT applications and data management technologies to satisfy them. Some important questions to address are:

  • For required business information, which applications are the source systems of record?

  • For each source system of record, what are its known and suspected data qualityissues?

  • What issues exist around source system of record platforms, data latency and history, and processing windows?

  • If ETL is being done, is an ETL/data integration architecture in place that controls data movement and transformation to support compliance reviews and audits?

  • What BI and data delivery policies, practices, and skills are in place?

Addressing the ability of IT applications, data management, and BI and data delivery capabilities to meet the information needs of the business is essential to determine the framework for a successful BI and data delivery solution.

The Road Map Component of the BI Strategy

With business information needs identified and IT capabilities assessed, a road map to providing enterprise-wide BI and data delivery can be created. This road map must address:

  • The business priorities that need to be satisfied.

  • The incremental phases in which a complete enterprise data warehouse with business intelligence and data delivery OLAP, reports and queries will be developed; each phase should be measured in months and deliver value to a wide range of the business.

  • A high-level estimate of the cost and time required to deliver each increment.

  • The capabilities required for enterprise-wide solutions, such as master data, ETL architecture, data architecture, and so forth, and the skills required for delivering them.

  • Risk factors and their mitigation strategies.

  • Business intelligence and data delivery competency center development.

The road map provides the overall picture of how enterprise-wide BI and data delivery will be developed. Successfully developing one requires analysis of enterprise data subject areas, critical data dimensions, data usage by organization, and several other factors.

This analysis, sequence of incremental phases, and the business components that drive the strategy must be reviewed and confirmed by business executives. It is necessary that the business agrees with the strategy’s findings, priorities, road map, and recommendations.

What is the cost of getting BI “right?” RCG IT has done BI strategies for large companies in many diverse industries including aerospace manufacturing, healthcare, insurance, pharmaceutical, retail, and services. In every case, the strategy was developed in weeks at a low cost.

But perhaps the more important question is, “What is the cost of not getting BI right?”

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