Forrester Releases Comprehensive, Yet Overwhelming Overview of the World of BI

Business Intelligence (BI) is a no brainer, right? Every organization needs it. Yet there are so few organizations that get it right.

A diagram from Forrester Research (via The Dashboard Spy) serves up a clue as to why.

While, it’s purpose is to provide an overview of the BI landscape, it certainly highlights the complexities in the field. Not only that, but it doesn’t even get into the non-technical side of BI – changes in business process, organizational politics, and transparency – which, are the real challenges of BI.

Still, one should not be daunted by the BI challenges ahead. Sure, that’s easy for us to say, we’ve been doing this for years, but I’ll let you in on a few of the secrets to our success:

  1. Start small, do not try to do it all – It is better to find one or two key subject areas from which to build, then to develop an enterprise data warehouse from the ground up right from the start.
  2. Use the technology that you already own first – So many organizations already own incredibly useful BI tools. There is no need to make a major technology investment in tools and technologies as a way to kick start your BI initiative. Start with the tools that came with your enterprise software. Your ERP or CRM system may have provided a means for you to extract data. Your database probably has reporting tools built into it. Use these tools first, and grow into others as your use and knowledge grows.
  3. Focus on outcomes – If you have not been able to gain traction on your BI initiative, it is almost never the fault of your tools. Usually the fault lies in the lack of alignment between the organization’s strategies and the people and processes in place to execute on those strategies. The tone of your BI endeavor should be outcome based, stress transparency, and serve to align the organization tightly around its mission and values.

In fairness, the Forrester document does not purport to highlight all that is involved in BI. It is clearly intended to be more of a technical overview. Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel that there are a whole segment of leaders that might view a document of this nature and do one of two things:

  1. Go out and spend several hundred thousands (or even millions) of dollars on a new BI toolset.
  2. Nothing.

Let neither of these options be acceptable and if you follow these three simple principles, you will be better off in the long run.