There is no Roomba for BI

Welcome to the second month of 2014! It's been a little while since the last post, but that has more more to do with how busy we've been recently than any lack of ideas or things to write about. We've been involved in many BI implementation projects and talking with prospective clients about new ones. In fact, I have noticed a misconception about BI emerging as a theme – and it is a dangerous one which I feel must be addressed.

As I talk to organizational leaders and users about their BI projects and the promise of what BI can bring, there seems to be an expectation that it will be a much simpler endeavor than it really is. No one wants to hear that something is likely to take more time or money than they first thought. But there is no Roomba for BI. Unlike the famed robotic vacuum cleaner, there's no software you can buy, install, and set loose to go about magically solving the problem without intervention. I have even had people suggest "it should be intuitive enough to figure out for me the reporting questions I don't know to ask." That level of artificial intelligence does not yet exist, at least that I am aware of.

In our BI Readiness Assessments we cover the three legs of the stool – People, Process, and Technology. All three of these must be considered comprehensively to ensure a successful BI deployment. BI is not something that you "set it and forget it" (to steal the tag line from another well-known consumer product). Yet, the marketing of the BI tool vendors would like you to believe otherwise. It's always disconcerting to have to come in and set the record straight that there is more to it than that. Yes you can install software. That is the easy part. However, BI takes involvement from all stakeholders in planning, investment, care, feeding, learning, and evolution. It is an ongoing process.

You wouldn't expect to install QuickBooks or Sage accounting software and say: "OK, run my business!" Neither can you do that with BI.