Oct 2, 2012

Seven Critical tips to ‘Meet Business Expectations in BI’

Just as LinkedIn, Google and Facebook are businesses started with a vision, so do Global BI Projects. The background of this paper is  Gartner's 2012 BI Report that empirically states --> less than 30% of BI projects will meet business expectations in 2012-14 period. Please send an email for your free copy of the ‘Gartner 2012 BI report Deconstructed’

Here are seven tips about how to simply start and deploy a successful Business Intelligence Program/Project. Here are the top seven tips I’ve picked up over the years.

1. Listen More to Business and Align Deliverables Accordingly

It has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that involving actual business owners and stakeholders in BI projects is the only way to assured BI success. IT is critical but so is business. To be a good BI leader one has to listen to business and then use the IT alternatives to meet, and sometimes exceed business expectations. First and foremost an IT leader has to be a good listener and less of a talker of technocratic solutions. The collective knowledge of the Deployment team must be leveraged as great ideas can spring from the most unlikely sources. Keep your ears open to even the shrewdest advice. Get into the midst of business users, identify leaders and analytics owners, listen to them, draw business into the BI development process and cooperate to build the ultimate BI solution as a team.

As Gartner stated in 2010 ‘Without business in business intelligence, BI is dead’

2. Eliminate Surprises

Define your BI success criterias very early and very clearly, then track and report it on a weekly basis. I call it BVA or Business Value Attainment.

Most BI Projects do not track ‘Meet Business Expectations’ scores through the lifecycle of the project, yet are surprised when it does not meet their requirements towards the end of the project. The key to a successful BI project is to eliminate any scope of surprise after ‘Go-Live’
BI Valuenomics reported in 2010: ‘98% of BI Projects are declared successful in week 1 after go-live, yet less than 50%* remain successful by week 10’. So planning must ensure that the BI project success does not fall off the cliff as it nears or passes the ‘Go-Live’ date.

*Note: this was published in 2010 when, according to Gartner, failure rate of BI projects was reported at over 50%. In 2012 the failure rate is now estimated at over 70%. So today you must read this as less than 30%..

3. Think BVA**

The scientific principles of BI mandate that BI projects plan for ‘**Business Value Attainment’, versus simply deploying a BI technology. The decision is [1] Meet Business Expectations in BI; or [2] Deploy a technocratic BI application. Some key considerations

• Your charter must conform to BVA definitions

• At each stage key stakeholders must review a BVA Checklist and prioritize what needs to be accomplished when
• Your PM should conform to BVA project reporting components

• Your project must be mentored by a ‘BI Business Value Architect’ whose focus is aligning all technology decisions with a ‘Business First’ process of filtration

• Your project must include a ‘BI Business value Owner’ that has to be an internal resource

• Your Project RACI must be clearly communicated prior to commencement of the project with clear business ownership and accountabilities

Current projects are run on a technocratic assumption that 'technology alone can provide all the answers' to business needs. However, the past decade and a half has clearly proven this assumption to be erroneous.

4. Based on Proven Scientific Principles

Large and small customers, alike, need to analyze their business with competitive positioning as a fundamental background. What makes your business unique, and successful, is the way you do business and your business stakeholders.

In BI your analytical skills have to be radically different from your competition in order for your business to stand out in the competitive landscape. But this does not have to be technocratically complex. Each business stakeholder and each enterprise has critical business analysis needs just waiting to be solved in a more efficient manner. For example running a national CO-PA report once a month in a 20 hour run vs. having it run in real-time in under a few minutes. Maintain a focus on ‘True Business Needs’ and innovation. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel and never believe that quantity of reports is better than quality of business focused analytics. Remember that a simple change for the better is far more effective than five complicated changes for the worse.

5. Take pride in your work

Last two years I enjoyed my favorites of all BI projects. In one we scored 96% business satisfaction, based on user feedback, in week 1, 10 and 20 and did not have any emergency transport, i.e. defect mitigation, in the first two weeks. In the other we scored 102% project success, based on user feedback on, week 1, 22 and 30. In both projects we deployed the BVA process and it was a team effort of each individual going an extra mile to make the project a success. In a Gartner reported background of fewer than 30% success this is exemplarily solid outliers from the average. With so many different business units, business needs, divisions, nationalities under one project it was interesting that the only bonding link to all developments was our scientifically documented ‘Global Enterprise BI Cookbook’. Remember that your business users are your final judge, jury and executioners and your biggest advocates. Focusing on them, helping them take ownership with pride will always shine through how they treat and use your delivered BI content.

6. Keep it Simple & Have Fun
Dont get dazzeled by flashing lights and technocratic promizes. focus first on business needs, develop a business vision then proceed with an alternatives analysis. After that document. By documenting clear directives for standards, processes, Architecture, automated modeling, etc guidelines in your ‘Global Enterprise BI Cookbook’ we eliminate the element of subjective assumptions and replace them with a solid global methodology. This simplifies not only the deployment but also the job of auditors and stewards. By keeping it simple team members tend to have fun.

If your team is not having fun, then we are all doing it wrong. In such cases it is critical to stop, pause and review. If your resources get up in the morning thinking their work is a chore, then the methodology is wrong, and they should be trying something else. When employees are having fun and there is a work-life balance in the project then the project is indeed on the right path.

Great project are nourishment, give a chance to be positive and are good for all parties and individuals concerned.

7. When you fail – Sit Back and Analyze Next Steps

This one is far, far easier said than done. When BI projects fail it seems far easier to immediately start unplanned projects to meet business expectations. This is not only costly but also counterproductive.

When, and if, your BI Projects is going, or has already gone, south:

• Welcome to the club: more than 70% of BI projects actually do not meet business expectations. You are certainly not alone. Every BI PM and resource has experienced some flavor of this, some will accept it others not. The ones that accept actually learn, the ones that done continue on their same technocratic path to the next failure. Don’t panic, don’t get disheartened, instead dust off the errors and get yourself a trusted ‘BI Business value Architect’. Someone with a solid business background and an equally solid technology understanding. Find out what and why things went wrong. This can be accomplished in a matter of weeks. Identify the negatives, or defects, and avoid them. Identify the positives and work on them. This is then your starting point.

• Sometimes it is shorter to ‘Rip it Up and Start Again: Once again a difficult decision if the company has spent a few million dollars and the end result is dissatisfaction with business users. But it is important to remember the Einstein quote

Albert Einstein stated that insanity is ‘.. doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’: All too often failed BI projects are the result of failed business participation, processes and methodologies. When BI projects fail it is not uncommon to find companies have one or more of the following patterns:-
   o Doing the same thing that got you in trouble at the start. Low/ No business ownership
      and accountability. Lack of Methodology, standards or processes.
   o Terminate the BI Team, i.e. replace the BI SI with a new one
   o Offshore the BI development

   o Hire lower cost contractors and make them work from 8am till 11pm every night and
      through weekends
   o Loose all the good resources in the process

   o See an escalation in cost, business dissatisfaction and budgets

   o See a decrease in business sponsors, true solutions and strategic BI developments

Pause, rewind and plan before you take the next leap of faith into another round of lunacy. Conduct a short ‘Strategic BI Health-check’ and then prioritize the next steps in a professional and planned manner.

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