Examine the DNA in Your Business Intelligence Implementation
The media and news outlets over the past few years have highlighted powerful results from DNA research and studying the genetic features, components and characteristics of human cells, viruses, etc. Have you ever thought about the DNA of a business intelligence implementation? It’s not a far-fetched idea. Medical practitioners’ ability to diagnose diseases early on or diagnose a person’s genetic susceptibility to certain diseases has greatly improved thanks to DNA research. Why not apply the thinking to BI “DNAcomponents” that result in a success or failure?
I define a failed BI initiative as one that doesn’t reach its full potential. The implementation phase is fertile ground for a potential BI failure. In fact, a poor approach to BI implementation is one of the most-often cited factors by respondents in our annual Wisdom of Crowds business intelligence market studies.
So it was no surprise to me when a participant in one of my recent Friday #BIWisdom tweetchats asked this question: “Has anyone here had a BI implementation success from a bottom-up approach rather than a top-down approach?” He added that he had only see top-down approaches as successful.
Another participant tweeted that he had seen successful implementations from both bottom-up and top-down approaches, but he also tweeted that “obviously the top-down approach is a smoother slope.”
Someone else tweeted that a bottom-up approach works well in line-of-business areas like finance. But another participant questioned that assessment and asked, “That makes sense, but does it hold when investment is required?” Then came the comment that “in those cases, investment is already made. They’re just taking advantage of what they already have.”
There was no shortage of opinions that day on the initial question about the best implementation approach, with opinions coming from BI users, vendors, and consultants. Here are a few more of their tweeted comments; which ones do you agree with?
- “In my experience, a bottom-up approach comes about when the top executives want to do something but can make a decision.”
- “I would expect there would be more success with data discovery and exploration in a bottom-up approach.”
- “A bottom-up approach usually requires a strong partnership with the vendor – investment in prototypes, etc. to prove value.”
- “Is a bottom-up approach often due to groundswell for a single product or a general culture change?”
- “Some bottom-up approaches are due to a data-driven product innovation that was not necessarily looked at as a BI evaluation. And the success of that data product opened the door to become a BI standard.”
- “A bottom-up approach usually results in fragmented solutions across the enterprise.”
- “Organization size makes a difference. In smaller orgs, staff may cover multiple roles which simplifies things for a bottom-up approach.”
- “Does it matter whose need the BI initiative is satisfying? What if it needs a more robust solution but the CXO can’t provide that? Lower levels will find a ‘good enough’ solution.”
The tweetchat session closed with two people summarizing their real-world views:
- “It always boils down to the best available option to meet a need. If people need it, they’ll find a way.”
- “The window for bottom-up approaches may be closing as established/incumbent platforms beef up their discovery offering.”
Bottom line: Despite the many successful BI programs and initiatives that companies are experiencing – and those successes just keep building even greater value over time for those companies – there are still some BI failures. Here are three tips for an effective top-down approach for a more effective BI implementation.
1. Senior management must first decide if the BI initiative is strategic or tactical and whether it involves a course correction or is it a new course of action.
2. Change management is essential because BI initiatives involve a significant shift in power over information. Conduct change management at both the strategic and tactical levels. And don’t forget to eliminate political noise, an often-present challenge because some executives fear the shift in information power.
3. Think of the BI initiative as though it’s a complete business. For business success, marketing is key. It’s important to include “internal marketing” to communicate the results of the initiative. Thus, always make sure to structure your initiative so you can track the connection between the initiative approach and/or goals and the end results.
Howard Dresner is president, founder and chief research officer at Dresner Advisory Services, LLC, an independent advisory firm. He is one of the foremost thought leaders in Business Intelligence and Performance Management, having coined the term “Business Intelligence” in 1989. He has published two books on the subject, The Performance Management Revolution — Business Results through Insight and Action, and Profiles in Performance — Business Intelligence Journeys and the Roadmap for Change. He hosts a weekly tweet chat (#BIWisdom) on Twitter each Friday. Prior to Dresner Advisory Services, Howard served as chief strategy officer at Hyperion Solutions and was a research fellow at Gartner, where he led its Business Intelligence research practice for 13 years.