Monday, August 09, 2010

The Road to Pervasive Business Intelligence

Cindi Hawson in her article on Intelligent Enterprise titled The Road to Pervasive BI writes that organizations which can better understand and reap value from data to deliver best-in-class service, boost revenue, and increase operating efficiencies have implemented Business Intelligence (BI) that is pervasive in nature i.e BI tools used not only by business analysts, but also by front-line employees and even customers and suppliers. If organizations clearly understand value BI tools, then is BI ready to go mainstream?
Cindy Hawson tries to ask an important question “With BI becoming more affordable and in flavors to suit every budget, it would seem BI is poised to go mainstream. But are companies ready?” She further expands on that problem and states that “The final road to pervasive BI has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with the way companies must rethink who benefits from BI. The challenge here is that users rarely know what they want until they see it and may not realize the problems BI can solve. Those users who know what they want are typically power users, already well versed in BI.”
Almost 3 years back, The Data Warehousing Institute in an article titled “A New Power in Business Intelligence, found the same problem with pervasive BI “for all the benefits these BI systems provide, they also share common limitations that make them less than optimal at meeting their primary goal: enabling users to make decisions that enhance the company’s competitiveness. One problem is that their use is generally confined to a small audience. At most businesses, the users most able to take the actions suggested by the data in a BI solution do not have access to the data.”
To paraphrase both the articles, the technological solutions with respect to pervasive BI exists, every business executive clearly understands the benefits of pervasive BI. But, the technical BI experts are not trained or educated to understand the real ‘business need’ and hence not able to provide a pervasive BI solution. It’s not just enough for every BI professional to become an expert in only the technical aspect of a BI solution. Here lies a fantastic opportunity for every technical BI professional to provide pervasive BI by truly learning the business they are trying to solve. Only when the BI experts can easily bridge the technical and business gap that exists in organizations, BI will go mainstream. Also read my blog article A New Breed of IT workers to understand all the skills needed by the techie.
Cindy Hawson says that BI experts need to flip the requirements definition process from “What do you want?” to “Here’s information relevant to your job”. Here are 5 Steps every organizations need to taketo make BI pervasive
Think Big: Don’t think of BI as synonymous with query tools; instead, think about how information can be used to improve everything about your business.
Start Small: A focused project will yield a fast win, garner executive enthusiasm, and provide greater insight into BI’s complexities.
Foster Business-IT Partnership: Learn what drives the business. Staff BI teams jointly with business and tech experts.
Clean Up: If your source systems are a mess, your BI platform will be, too. Use a data governance program to improve data integrity.
Provide A Portfolio Of Tools: BI interfaces are optimized for different users and applications. Don’t underestimate the importance of interface appeal

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