Mar 24, 2012

Who wears the pants in your BI Project- IT or business?

Just a year ago I was in a Global Fortune 1000 company planning to start a new BusinessObjects 4.0 Ramp-Up project finalizing the weekly project activities. I requested that each report be assigned a report owner, and the report owner and the project team communicate on a weekly basis. After the meeting the IT manager went politely ballistic and asked me not to do that again as IT knew what business needed, revalidating his belief with a  “.. we have been delivering them reports for the last 10 plus years so actually we know more about what they need than most of them know by themselves..”.
My experience had consistently demonstrated that this attitude was the prime reason that BI projects unswervingly failed to meet business expectations.
Fast forward two months later and I had managed to convince the business stakeholders that they needed to help not only define but also design the layouts of the Web Intelligence reports, using their existing specifications designed by their internal SAP BW resources that looked like an apologetic Bex+ Excel Report. I proceeded to demonstrate how creative designs could be undertaken with WebI Analytics and why a report user was mandatory for the process, all the while faced with a stern look from my IT manager who continued to give me dirty smiles with cold eyes.
Fast forward 1 week after go live, the project scored 106% in user satisfaction and my IT manager gave me genuine smiles with a ‘..I thought you were mad.. now I see your point of view..”. Fast forward 20 weeks and the business stakeholders want to dive into their next project, and the IT manager wants to speak at ASUG and share his conversion with the rest of the world.

So the question we all need to review is that if IT folks are consistently smarter than Business folks, why is their success disproportionately lower in Business Intelligence projects? By the way this paper is very BI relevant and does not apply to any other IT work at all.

I still remember learning in grad school to leave special things to specialists, and that CFO’s were better at finance, and MBA’s were better at managing, engineers made better IT employees and that women were better at marketing and men in Supply Chain. These things were presented as general facts and none of us questioned it one bit, not until working for many years and viewing the same statements through the lens of experience. Suddenly all these statements turned out to be preposterous in most situations.

But the damage of these statements has already been done before most of us even start working and for most of us it continues way beyond our retirement days.

Here are some reported stats:

1.    Business knows more about business that does IT
a.    Yes     78%
b.    No      15%

2.    Business participates in all BI Decisions
a.    Yes     21%
b.    No      79%

3.    When asked if they understood how BI technology works
a.    Business        9%
b.    IT                 91%

4.    IT Folks- When asked if business had the ability to decide on BI decision         
a.    Yes     11%
b.    No      89%

5.    Business Folks: When asked in business had the ability to decide on BI decisions
a.    Yes     72%
b.    No      28%

6.    Key Decision Executives: Belief that business participation  is a hindrance in BI projects
a.    Yes     68%
b.    No      32%

7.    Who takes the final  decisions of reports to be delivered/
a.    Business        21%
b.    IT                 79%

8.    BI Participation facts
a.    Funding participation            Business 90%          IT 10%
b.    Contract finalization            Business   2%          IT  98%
c.    Vendor Selection                Business   6%          IT  94%
d.    Reports for delivery            Business  10%         IT  90%
e.    Resource Selection             Business   2%          IT  98%
f.     Architecture                      Business   5%          IT  95%
g.    Modeling                           Business   2%          IT  98%
h.    UAT reports decision           Business  15%          IT  85%

In every 25 decisions undertaken in BI projects that do not deal with coding only 3 are taken by business.
A lot of these facts are likely things you have heard before, like business need to be kept out of BI Project rooms as they can only add confusion to  BI projects. However, seeing each of these facts in this pseudo-chronological order, from high school to being a BI strategy architect professional, it seems inevitable that business don’t stake their place in BI projects that are already dominated by technocrats.

This picture is incomplete, of course. We rarely scientifically plan on how to enable a CFO, who knows everything there is in finance, into a key-decision enabler. We don’t have a handbook that business can use to take ownership and accountabilities in their BI initiatives, neither do we have a steering committee checklist that guides them on the impact of decisions on their strategic goals. But it’s still safe to say that around 16% of BI projects are staffed and owned by business stakeholders, this does not include a contract resource hired to represent business interests under any flavor.   

 Twenty years or so after that day in learning school, I’m today a writer and a solution architect for BI projects with a lot of Fortune 1000 companies across north America. So I guess that, given these territorial and technocratic professional norms have been erroneously placing key stakeholders into the wrong silos. The question that Gartner started and I am passionately researching is who wears the pants in a BI project. I came from business, went to IT and now exist somewhere in between today. No matter what stakeholders do in BI projects, business will always be smarter about business facts and expectations that any one else ever can plan to be.

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