Many organisations do not have an enviable track record when it comes to delivering on business intelligence (BI) initiatives. Despite choosing the right technology and engaging a team with the right skill set and a high level of commitment, a BI project can still easily stall in the pilot stage.
This is obviously a significant problem. So why does it happen? There are two primary reasons: lack of an enterprise-wide BI implementation roadmap and no executive buy-in.
Fortunately these causes do not represent insurmountable obstacles. Firstly let’s look at the BI roadmap. Here the best strategy is to carry out the BI project in stages, as opposed to a ‘big bang’ approach. Staged implementation offers a number of benefits and will typically result in a more successful deployment. By developing BI capabilities over time you will be able to address immediate business requirements and deliver tangible benefits including a significant (and measurable) return on investment. A staged approach also allows for a gradual transfer of skills while enabling your organisation to own its solution in the medium and long term.
While this is the optimum approach to BI deployment, many such projects never progress further than the first stage. What organisations frequently end up with is a silo implementation or worse, a silo deployment in each of several departments. Here the problem is a lack of an enterprise-wide roadmap (in other words, a ‘big picture’ vision for the project). To avoid falling into this all too common trap I suggest that you think big but start small when planning your BI implementation. You would do well to develop a vision for the enterprise-wide BI deployment that is closely aligned with your organisation’s broad business goals. Once that is done, split the planned implementation into logical phases and agree on a set of priorities and objectives for those early stages. Ideally you will identify and work towards early ‘wins’ that will demonstrate that the project is on track, is worthwhile and will meet its goals.
It should be anticipated that your priorities and the planned stages of your project will change over time. Even the most well thought out business plans undergo ongoing refinement and the same can be expected of your BI roadmap. As you progress from one stage to the next you will find yourself fine-tuning your implementation plan based on what you’ve learned from the previous stage. The objective here is to assimilate each stage of the delivery into a long term implementation plan that aligns with your organisational objectives.
Here at Professional Advantage the majority of our clients use QlikView to implement their BI solution. Easily scalable and well suited to a fast and iterative BI implementation approach, QlikView is an excellent platform if your intention is to build your BI solution over time.
When using such a flexible system as QlikView it is even more important that you develop a sharply-defined BI strategy and have an organisation-wide roadmap for the project. As it is very easy to quickly build QlikView applications that address specific business needs, without a big picture strategy you risk ending up with a number of superb applications that have no connection to your organisation’s strategic business goals. QlikView’s flexible platform makes it easy to extend and fine tune each application so that they link together and produce a comprehensive enterprise-wide BI solution.
When developing a QlikView-based BI solution it is important to ensure that every QlikView application and its supporting data architecture form part of the BI implementation plan. These applications should be developed while bearing in mind that all the pieces of the solution need to fit in the end. At the same time each phase should deliver production-ready output, build on the architecture that has already been developed and align with both the enterprise-wide roadmap and the identified business objectives.
Now to the other common cause of BI implementation failure, the lack of executive buy-in. In addition to aligning your BI strategy to organisational goals and objectives it is crucial that your BI project gain the endorsement of your organisation’s senior executives. Without that, you run the risk that the project will stall. Importantly, executive buy-in involves more than simply acquiring funding approval for the project. The real task is to secure and maintain executive commitment for the implementation across all phases. This is key because a successfully implemented BI solution will change the organisation’s structure and greatly impact on the decision-making processes of its managers. The BI solution will expose the organisation to far larger and more relevant data sets than it has ever had before and this in turn will lead to the identification of various business inefficiencies, innovations and opportunities with the potential to transform the organisation.
That is why executive support is critical. There must be a commitment at the executive level to guide and support the project through all stages, fight the political battles that will inevitably arise and make the tough decisions. As the project makes its journey from inception to completion, the culture and structure of the organisation (along with various business processes) will undergo change. As such, strong leadership for the project is a must have.
So how do you go about securing executive buy-in? The best approach is to present your case for how the BI solution will contribute to the achievement of the organisation’s broad business goals and ongoing strategic objectives. Look closely at the business questions that matter to your industry, examine your own strategies and priorities and quantify the value your organisation will gain from answering those questions. If your executives can see how the BI solution will help them ask and answer the questions that are most important to them, they will be more likely to become champions for the project and make the appropriate funding and resources available.
Once secured, executive buy-in needs to be maintained for the duration of the project. You should be able to achieve this by demonstrating measurable success at every stage. Both executives and BI system end users need to be able to see the value, not just imagine it.
This is where a platform like QlikView can help. QlikView’s data visualisation and business-centric interactivity will enable users to find answers to their questions, act on the results and follow up their action items. Using QlikView, executives and system users will be able to recognise how the BI solution aligns with the organisation’s business objectives, thereby enabling momentum to be maintained from one phase of the project to the next. With quicker and better decisions (and real solutions to real problems) results can be delivered more rapidly and more effectively.
The top-down push to change your organisation’s culture from a gut-feel to a fact-based decision-making business environment will largely depend on the buy-in of key executives. Without it, the BI initiative will most likely be short lived and never move past the initial stage.
You can read more about Professional Advantage and QlikView here.
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