Business Intelligence Initiatives Get an "A" for Effort and a "C" for Results

There is almost universal agreement that the lack of appropriate, accurate and timely information is part of the reason why organizations and even entire nations got themselves into the recent economic mess. Many analysts also agree that business intelligence (BI), the process that transforms data into intelligence, now has the opportunity to help accelerate the economic recovery and aid these organizations and nations in dealing with the new global business complexities. According to a recent Ness BI Market Pulse Survey, BI initiatives continue to be front and center on most organizational business and IT agendas. The problem they found is that BI achievements are falling short of expected outcomes. For instance, according to the report, BI solutions have done a pretty good job of providing a view into the past (hindsight) such as access to planning and financial data. But they have been less successful in providing current performance information (insight) to improve decision-making or information on future conditions (foresight) such as future customer demand.

So what are organizations really doing with business intelligence and are they being successful?

According to the "The Ness Technologies Market Pulse Study on Business Intelligence" (BI), conducted in the fourth quarter of 2009 and published May 2010, BI initiatives just aren't delivering the results that executives were expecting. The study indicates that results are lagging expected outcomes in 14 of 16 categories as depicted below.

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©2010 Ness Global Industries

The largest and most frightening gap is in business agility and planning. Respondents indicate the reason for this discrepancy is that they have run into a number of key challenges. Not surprising, is that the most significant challenges are not technical ones. The top 5 challenges, in order of importance are: (1) lack of alignment with organizational strategy (over 50%); (2) lack of working partnership between business and IT (40%); (3) resistance to change (38%) ; (4) lack of executive sponsorship; and (5) lack of communication by the BI leadership team. This is supported by the fact that less than one-half of the survey respondents believe that those responsible for BI initiatives are in regular contact and coordinate plans (49%).

The two top technical issues include problems with the integration of data and persistence of data silos. Specifically, many organizations do not have a plan and have not resolved issues to integrate their isolated vertical data structures that are the cornerstone for establishing a centralized repository for the "Single Version of the Truth." Respondents also listed the lack of a strong data governance initiative as contributing to this last issue.

But despite these results, it looks like organizations are committed to the potential payoff of BI. Major North American organizations report an increase in there BI fiscal year 2010 budgets and they anticipate that this allocation will increase in fiscal year 2011 as well.

The planned actions that organizations plan to take or investigate include the following:

Organizational Initiatives

  1. Ensure that BI is aligned with the organization's strategy
  2. Appoint an executive to "own" the BI program, communicate regularly with stakeholders, and assemble a seasoned team, from both Business and IT groups, with the skills to get the job done.
  3. Set clear objectives and develop an overall BI roadmap that concisely defines what data is needed and how it should be delivered.
  4. Implement the program in short, phased initiatives that quickly deliver ROI to stakeholders

Technical Initiatives

  1. Data Silos and integration
  2. Data Governance

Next-Generation BI Toolset

  1. Predictive analytics
  2. In-memory processing
  3. Software as a service (SaaS)

The technical and next-Generation Initiatives are also consistent with the findings published in Information Week (August 29, 2009) and CIO Magazine (February 2010).

BI Pulse Survey

Would you like to learn how members of the academy are doing with their BI initiative?

Next week, ASR will be sending out a survey to take the BI pulse of the higher education community. By completing the survey (5 minutes) you will be providing your colleagues with the latest information on how members of the academy are cultivating their BI initiatives. We look forward to your cooperation.