Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fatal Flaws in Business Intelligence Implementations

Lot of organizations, assumes that business intelligence(BI) projects are like any other project, are often surprised when their BI project spins out of control. The requirements appear to be a “moving target;” the schedule keeps slipping; the source data is much dirtier than expected and is impacting the ETL team; the staff does not have the necessary skills and is not properly trained; communication between staff members takes too long; traditional roles and responsibilities, and how they are assigned, seem to result in too much rework; the traditional methodology does not seem to work; and so on.

BI Projects are often political in nature as lot of people do not like when their performance is being tracked by their management. This requires culture change & creating awareness about benefits of BI within end user community. BI Project should be seen as business enabler rather than a performance tracking tool. They should use BI system to meet or exceed their KPIs.

I have been thinking about writing on this topic for a long time but then I came across a nice research paper on this topic from Gartner. I have shared below the details of Gartner report as is. I have personally experienced and seen some of the flaws mentioned below in lot of BI projects very recently.

Most failed business intelligence (BI) efforts suffer from one or more of nine fatal flaws, generally revolving around people and processes rather than technology, according to Gartner, Inc.

Gartner said the failure to achieve strategic results usually stems from one or more of nine common mistakes:

Flaw No. 1: Believing that “If you build it, they will come”

Often the IT organisation sponsors, funds and leads its BI initiatives from a technical, data-centric perspective. The danger with this approach is that its value is not obvious to the business, and so all the hard work does not result in massive adoption by business users — with the worst case being that more staff are involved in building a data warehouse than use it regularly.

Gartner recommends that the project team include significant representation from the business side. In addition, organisations should establish a BI competency centre (BICC) to drive adoption of BI in the business, as well as to gather the business, technology and communication skills required for successful BI initiatives.

Flaw No. 2: Managers “dancing with the numbers

Many companies are locked into an “Excel culture” in which users extract data from internal systems, load it to spreadsheets and perform their own calculations without sharing them companywide. The result of these multiple, competing frames of reference is confusion and even risk from unmanaged and unsecured data held locally by individuals on their PCs.

BI project instigators should seek business sponsors who believe in a transparent, fact-based approach to management and have the strength to cut through political barriers and change culture.

Flaw No. 3: “Data quality problem? What data quality problem”

Data quality issues are almost ubiquitous and the impact on BI is significant — people won’t use BI applications that are founded on irrelevant, incomplete or questionable data.

To avoid this, firms should establish a process or set of automated controls to identify data quality issues in incoming data and block low-quality data from entering the data warehouse or BI platform.

Flaw No. 4: “Evaluate other BI platforms? Why bother”

“One-stop shopping” or buying a BI platform from the standard corporate resource application vendor doesn’t necessarily lower the total cost of ownership or deliver the best fit for an organisation’s needs.

BI platforms are not commodities and all do not yet deliver all functions to the same level, so organisations should evaluate competitive offerings, rather than blindly taking the path of least resistance.

Integration between the application vendor’s ERP/data warehouse and BI offerings is not a compelling reason for ignoring alternatives, especially as many third-party BI platforms are as well integrated.

Flaw No. 5: “It’s perfect as it is. Don’t ever change “

Many organisations treat BI as a series of discrete (often departmental) projects, focused on delivering a fixed set of requirements. However, BI is a moving target — during the first year of any BI implementation, users typically request changes to suit their needs better or to improve underlying business processes. These changes can affect 35 per cent to 50 per cent of the application’s functions.

Organisations should therefore define a review process that manages obsolescence and replacement within the BI portfolio.

Flaw No. 6: “Let’s just outsource the whole darn BI thing”

Managers often try to fix struggling BI efforts by hiring an outsourcer that they expect will do a better job at a lower cost. Focusing too much on costs and development time often results in inflexible, poorly architected systems.

Organisations should outsource only what is not a core competency or business and rely on outsourcing only temporarily while they build skills within their own IT organisation.

Flaw No. 7: “Just give me a dashboard. Now”

Many companies press their IT organisations to buy or build dashboards quickly and with a small budget. Managers don’t want to fund expensive BI tools or information management initiatives that they perceive as lengthy and risky. Many of the dashboards delivered are of very little value because they are silo-specific and not founded on a connection to corporate objectives.

Gartner recommends that IT organisations make reports as pictorial as possible — for example, by including charting and visualisation — to forestall demands for dashboards, while including dashboarding and more-complex visualisation tools in the BI adoption strategy.

Flaw No. 8: “X + Y = Z, doesn’t it”

A BI initiative aims to create a “single version of the truth” but many organisations haven’t even agreed on the definition of fundamentals, such as “revenue” Achieving one version of the truth requires cross-departmental agreement on how business entities (customers, products, key performance indicators, metrics and so on) are defined.

Many organisations end up creating siloed BI implementations that perpetuate the disparate definitions of their current systems. IT organisations should start with their current master data definitions and performance metrics to ensure that BI initiatives have some consistency with existing vocabulary, and publicise these “standards”.

Flaw No. 9: “BI strategy? No thanks, we’ll just follow our noses”

The final and biggest flaw is the lack of a documented BI strategy, or the use of a poorly developed or implemented one. Gartner recommends creating a team tasked with writing or revising a BI strategy document, with members drawn from the IT organisation and the business, under the auspices of a BICC or similar entity.

“Simple departmental BI projects that pay an immediate return on investment can mean narrow projects that don’t adapt to changing requirements and that hinder the creation of companywide BI strategies,” said James Richardson, research director at Gartner.

Link to Gartner report:
http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=774912

No comments:

Post a Comment