Jan 30, 2012

Build a Stellar BI Career with BVA

For the last 4 years I have been seemingly hanging around in the wrong places. I’ve had questionable privilidge of overhearing more than my share of very serious technocratic conversations – that basically want to keep business out of anything to do with business intelligence.

Reminds me of Alex Paleologoes in DSAP ‘Most BI Initiative have two critical components missing, the first is business and the second intelligence’. That is a pure ‘Been there, Dumb that’ statement if there is one.  It also resonates with the earlier Gartner statement that ‘more than 50% of BI Projects will fail’ and ‘BI Strategy, No Thanks we will follow our noses’

So we need to review our executive motivators and shakers of the business world. An boy, have they been consistent for almost the last decade following the Einstein guideline on ‘“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

So here’s my tiny hypothesis that has been slowly but steadily formulating in my head. Maybe the great financial crashes we have been having is not totally due to mega morons in the financial segment but due to how we handle data quality and information generation. On one side we have no way of verifying whether the statement’ iraq has weapons of mass destruction’ other than by subjective interpretations. Secondly if the government is as successful as the free corporate market, which they rarely are then less than 50% of their information is owrth reacting to. This has also been rocking the business ownership and accountability quotient with some of the Fortune 1000 companies.

So in comes this BVA thingie, or business value attainment concept. It suddenly took BI projects from languishing in the low to mid 40% success to zooming parst the 90 percentile.

A few of the fortune 1000 corporations, over 1 at current count, have now made BI Valuenomics as a standard business handout. Most of these companies have witnessed a quiet revolution and higher success rates in their BI deployments. This worked for Oracle DW’s, Teradata, and ofcourse for BusinessObjects and SAP BW projects.

CIO’s do not have to make supermodel statements like ‘there’s got to be more than this’ when implementing their BI projects. Its now time to get surgically serious and blast the hell out of failure with sceintific and surgical precision – based on empirical scientific principles.

Lets start with 3 questions you need to ask yourself, and possibly have an answer for all three

How succssful is my BI right now? Ponder this for a moment: This should be a simple enough answer but it is mired in the lack of any scientific BI Body Scans. If execituives look around we find business users hyperventaliting in frustation on one side and IN living their lives sweating, suffering, and slogging mightily over stuff that's forgotten by next quarter, let alone next year or next five years. Call me crazy, but I'd suggest: BVA means building stuff that's awesome enough to last. Information does not last forever like the pyramids of Egypt – but surely they must last 10 weeks after go-live.   It seems that ‘98% of BI Projects are declared successful in Week 1, and less than 50% remain so by week 10’

Does it stand the test of business expectations ? In most project rooms the stakes are all about time, budget, resources and scope. When do you last remember seeing a graph on the wall for ‘Meet business expectations – I can assure never unless you were in one of my handful projects. Standard PMP, PMI, PMS methodologies are the perfect recepie for mediocrity, to have met the Gartner average score, to become McMiinimum, to having once again shattered the glass floor. Technocratic BI is something of the last century. Today it is all about the scientific principles of BVA.

Does it actual meet your personal requirement? On one side executives are willing to take protocol decisions, sign off BI contracts, issue protocol orders – all of it very exciting stuff happening in the ivory towers of most corporate offices. But when the tide runs out and the BI projects become an embarrassment commence on a path of taking protocl decisions indicating its someone else’s’ fault, ask someone else to sign unplanned projects to meet the pending business expectations, and issue protocol orders to replace all the folks and evidence- all exciting stuff again. The question is  whther all these flashy values’ and protocol decision truly have the executive ethics and personal support. In most cases the answer is no. Like in 2007 I witnessed a truly great sales prson, and a partner to the CFO sell 4,500 reports and 4000 objects in a $13 million project to a VP with a real bad attitude and equally bad manners at a monolithic US corporation. The VP lived, The Sales person vacationed in his Golf Chalet and the project manager and teams were terminated under disgraceful conditions. Its like blaming the elephant for coming in front of the hunters gun and freeing the hunter altogether. There is a seductive enchantment to being the untouchables, to taking decisions in isolation of personal knowledge, to giving orders and not taking any, and to be perfectly clean like mercury even as someone tries to press their thumb down to hold it is place. But corporate success does not come from cool-misuse-of-power. It comes from consistent success and repeated standards and processes.

 With BVA we tread a scientific roadmap that has constant checks and balances and takes us away from being humans in powerful positions to being a scientifically engineered cog in a complex machine called a corporation

Jan 22, 2012

When should we cut BI implementation and Support Costs – NOW

A practical guide to reducing BI costs anywhere from 10%, 20% to 200% ovr strategic periods
You have been a good IT manager for a large company for some time now. You’ve always run a tight ship. Three years ago you were asked to lead a $4 million business intelligence initiative. You followed instructions, you did everything the partners asked you to and you went live in October 2011. In October there was a large Go-live party with wine and champagne and within 3 weeks of post go-live Hypercare most of the vendor consultants left.  In four weeks, by November 2011, by the time business was fully trained you started to hear some business rumblings. In 8 weeks,  by December the dissatisfaction had gone through the roof.  By January you were instructed by your management to fire the old team and find a replacement partner and ‘KEEP COST LOW’ as we do not have the budget to deliver this. You clearly understand if there is another failure then you job itself is on the line.
Further complicating your choices are limitation on choices due to budget cuts, because you don’t report to the CEO you cannot propose slowing down and planning prior to working, business is up in arms and no one wants to hear planning and strategy they want actions right now,
You are not alone. According to the Gartner report more than 50% of BI projects face this dilemma, so close to that percentage of client BI managers face this dilemma too.  Over the Past 14 years I personally have provided consulting assistance to many BI projects starting with Oracle, proceeding to Informix, then to SAP BW, BW Accelerator, Teradata, BusinessObjects and now HANA. Our experience shows that cost reduction is a global phenomenon. The lessons weve learned may not solve all your problems , but they should hopefully provide you with various leapfrog options to enhance quality and keep costs under control.
Two critical things before we start in order to level the playing field>
First, forget about finding one single global cost cutting solution that will radically change your life, your BI environment and the cost distribution of your implementation or support. Tis includes hiring the lowest cost offshore partner or sending the full BI into offshore mode. Instead you should plan to work your own solution from around 8-10 things we have seen work.
Second the depth of initial cutting must be deep and conducted only once. This must be done with a professional Role vs. skill mapping to identify individual weaknesses and strengths (actually that is how you should have hired you team in the first place- visually). By Cutting deep you keep the best, by cutting frequently you are left with the worst who possibly have no other place to go.
Aiming for 10 %
·         Wean the inefficient
·         Build a formal process flow
·         Conduct weekly audits and keep on track
·         Get business participation

Aiming for 20%
·         Wean the inefficient
·         Fill Gaps
·         Get a BI Business Value Architects Audit (5-10 days)
·         Get active business participation (1-2 days)
·         Build formal standards and processes
·         Conduct weekly audits and report findings with mitigation suggestions

Aiming for 200%
·         Let the stakeholder understand the actual costs of failure ( 4 hrs)
·         Get a BI Business Value Architects Audit (50-100 days)
·         Reward achievers
·         Appoint your Business Value Owner (part-time internal resource)
·         Slow down to optimize efficiency
·         Build formal standards and processes
·         Understand and deploy the BVA principles of Scientific BI Management
·         Wean the inefficient
·         Fill Gaps
·         Get a BI Business Value Architects Audit (5-10 days)
·         Get active business participation (1-2 days)
·         Conduct weekly audits and report findings with mitigation suggestions

Leadership of the New Tech Generation

In 2001 I had written a paper where I believed that around 2014 we would witness a radical shift in management styles. Up until then most of our powerful managers and influencers would come from the traditional hard-copy background. These managers and leaders did not grow up with a computer, resisted it for as long as they could and still prefer a book or a hard copy against an ebook or a efile. Conversely, the new generation that began around the late 80’s and early 90’s feel the computer is an extension of their soul. The merge and mingle in the digital world more effortlessly that they do in the physical world. They understand the capabilities of the computer and embrace it as a catalyst to the potential. By 2014 a lot of them will come into power positions and become critical decision makers.

How will that change our world?
These new executives will bring a distinctive hybrid style of modern management. They will be less autocratic and more socially networked. They will view technology as a enabler and not a threat. They will understand that computers are as critical as being able to speak and write the English language. Most of them will have some degree of programing knowledge.
This group will be bringing a whole new digital mind-set, something that was either missing with the last generation of management, or that was hesitatingly thrust upon them with subliminal resistance to the change from the way things were done before.
From a technology point of view some of the powerful executives find it more difficult to grasp the importance of business intelligence and the laying of a solid foundation to really make it work, while at the same time when I talk to students in a MBA program they seem to find it sheer common sense.  The legacy leadership resisted technology and BI solutions for as long as they could then when the tsunami got too strong they simply caved in by handing their protocol reigns to their closest advisors. If it was a CFO, which is is mostly in IT projects, and then they went to their auditing partners, who co-incidentally also happened to be Implementation partners. Most of these partners today have their implementing arm far larger than their auditing business in terms of revenue and margins generation capabilities. The only reason for this was that the CFO did not fully understand IT or BI, and more than fully trusted their auditors.  The new generation of executives and power brokers live inside the digital world, they undertand technology and its rules and regulations. Whether they are the CFO or the VP of sales they fully understand IT and BI. This new generation can be re-tooled to understand the Key Decision factors in a brief executive presentation to forever be able to differentiate between perceived ‘Value’ and true BVA, or Business Value Attainment.
On my side I am anxiously waiting for the 2014 executives and have had the fortune of meeting quite a few since almost 2008 onwards. We are stepping into a global change and each of us will need to become participants in optimizing the global digital information factory.

Powerful People are Simply Better Liars

HBR’s recent report on this subject May 2010, page 32, deems a little introspection from a BI perspective.
Powerful people it seems make better liars, both to themselves and to others. They are often trained to lie and thus do not show the typical liars body language indications that people with lesser power do. Bosses normally get bigger offices, get listened to more often, take more decisions, earn more money and have more power. Bosses also suffer from the’ intelligence trap’ in which because a professional person is mostly right in their areas of operation they start to believe they are mostly right in all areas of operations. An example can be a top-notch CFO who becomes a Project owner. The CFO knows all there is about finance and accounting, profits and losses, general ledgers, about taxes and treasury, and other tings CFO’s need to know. Hover, they probably do not know a whole lot about the innards of business intelligence.  More often than not these CFO’s, under the value definition of their auditing partners, who also happen to be their BI implementation partner’s, simply regurgitate the partner instructions as if they are their own. If the project succeeds then the success is theirs of course, but if it fails the mistake can never be theirs and it rarely ever is.
In an independent research ‘The Readers digest’ conducted a national honesty experiment. In this they dropped a wallet with $100 on the road, with a visiting card to a telephone of a auditing bystander close by. Globally the highest number of thefts was conducted by rich and powerful people who had little use for a $100 bill. Some of them simply looked at the money and the card, picked out the money and threw the wallet in the nearest garbage bin. Surprisingly some of the people who possibly needed the money the most were the ones who returned it consistently. Their reason ‘.. the person who lost it probably really needs this money..”
The HBR study by Dana Carney ended with similar results when their asked different subject to actually steal $100 and lie to the interviewer. If they passed the lie test of the interviewer then they could keep the $100 bill. The more powerful the person the more efficiently they got away with the lie. The reading from people with power was consistent with as if they were telling the truth.  The data also works on a Pavlovian principle that believes ‘Only when a kid burns their hands on fire, do they understand it is hot”, with this principles the less powerful people do not touch hot stoves because it hurts them. The research suggests that powerful people don’t get burned when they touch these figurative stoves.
This evokes a lot of questions like does power beget proportional lying and does the lying of powerful improve over time?  Don’t have an answer to that right now..
What other information is there that powerful people can be scoundrels? HBR reports that they are conducting another study about the effect of power on risk. They started with animal like where peacocks, birds, cobras spread out as a show of power. Humans do this too. Powerful people tend to put their feet on the table, stretch out, lean back on the chair with their legs spread wide and hands clasped behind their head. Subordinate people keep their feet together, arms at their side and occupying the least space possible. In the study when the same people were reversed with these power body language they actually were able to generate higher testosterones (more power)and lower cortisol (Less Stress) levels and took more decisions that people in the less power positions.
In the BI side how many times have you been given strict guidelines by a powerful project owner, and how many times have they been fired when the project went wrong?  So it is clearly established that the lead at the head of the table, arms behind their head is going to take all the risks and give you all the instructions. The glory will be theirs. The blood and sweat will always be your to own and be accountable for.

Slow Down for Performance Optimization

In BI if you need speed, you mostly need to slow down. 
In BI there is an inverse relationship to design and deployment and BI performance. The difference is a stakeholder decision of deploying BI projects in the shortest time versus doing it the right way but slower. At the end of the day query speeds are directly proportional to Decision speeds and inversely proportional to data volume, to a very large degree.  The information gap is constant and significant regardless of region, industry, company size or strategic goals. It is ironical that organizations fearful of losing their competitive edge spend more time figuring how they could deploy their BI in the shortest time and in the lowest cost. Only to end up with a bigger mess than when they started. Most of these leaders are powerful people who end up lying to themselves so they once again lower their costs and timelines and find another sucker to find the diamonds in the rough. The path is an endless downward spiral into a dark well.

Paradoxically, all they have to do is try slowing down instead. In our study of 64 companies the companies that undertook executive protocol and a go, go, go attitude to BI initiatives ended with lower success and fell flat into the Gartner prediction of 50% success or lower. Interestingly the companies that ‘slowed down to speed up’ maintained their BI project scores in the upper 80’s and in one case even scored 102%. This is almost 80% to 100% higher than average.
How did they defy the laws of Gartner predictions, by installing scientific principles of BI Standards and processes and doing things slower by planning their alternatives better.  Most BI Stakeholders confuse BI design and development speed with strategic speed,  by viewing BI under the traditional ‘reduce time to deliver value by producing more units’ approach. Unfortunately the two areas are quite different and their process divergent.
In our research highest performing companies aligned their BI strategy to their business goals and commenced with a document ‘rules and regulations’ as their global BI methodology. These companies were more open to co-innovation between business and IT, the exchange of ideas and the creation of Gartner defined COE’s. These companies met and exceeded business expectations constantly.  At all major decision they allowed time to reflect and learn as they viewed alternatives with their strengths and weaknesses.
By contrast performance and financial investments suffered on companies that moved fast on into build phase without reviewing standards, processes and guidelines focused more on time, scope and finances and mostly met all these goals – but failed miserably in performance and meeting business expectations.
Ultimately strategic speed is a function of leadership. Leaders that take protocol decision in areas of low familiarity, i.e. a CFO taking a BI deployment process decision, are followed by PMO’s that are forced to toe the line and a resulting waterfall effect of failure options. Teams that become comfortable with IT and business co-innovation, take time to establish a global methodology and conduct frequent reviews and recommendations, rather than simply plowing ahead full force, are consistently more successful in meeting their business objectives.
This kind of support and assurance must start from the top.

The Retention effect of Data Visualization

We just conducted a visualization research and identified what we can term as the ‘Retention Effect’ of data visualization. Our target audience consisted of 64 persons of varying races and in the age range of 18 to 55. We presented data and diagrammatic descriptions of faces to Team A participants, and photographs to the members of team B.  At the final audit a group of persons were brought into a room and respondents asked to identify the person under review. 98% of the team B respondents accurately identified the right person, while only 23% of the tam B respondents identified the right person. 40% of the team B respondents identified other persons who closely resembeled the textual descriptions the rest were unsure.

In another research we presented we presented sales data by state to an audience. Our target audience was 21 people of varying races and in the age range of 25 to 40. Team A was presented with pure data and advanced slice and dice capabilities for a full 24 hours of review to understand the information. Team B was presented with pure graphical visualizations with slice and dice capabilities but with no data backup for a 1 hour period for review to understand the information. Team A respondents provided five very high impact decisions from their visual reviews of business. Team B rspondents provide only one high impact decision from their review of the data. Team B was fresh to take the next challenge whereas participants of team B participants were close to burnt out from their deep research from volumes of data.