3 Questions: Preparing for Business Intelligence projects
By Loraine Lawson
With Tony DiBenedetto, chairman and CEO of Tribridge, a Florida-based consulting business that specializes in customer solutions, operations, technology and healthcare.
This interview originally appeared in the IT Business Edge weekly report on Aligning IT and Business Goals. To see a complete listing of IT Business Edge weekly reports or sign up for this free technology intelligence agent, visit www.itbusinessedge.com.
Question: Business Intelligence solutions are all the rage, and Tribridge helps companies choose and implement BI solutions. How do these tools help achieve IT/Business alignment?
DiBenedetto: There are two facets to this alignment: 1) Between the business and technology as a tool; and 2) Between the business and the IT department. Both are enhanced with BI because BI is a tool that forces a focus on the vital components for a business—the goals, objectives, KPIs, (key performance indicators), etc. It provides such a direct link between the use of technology and the operations, which changes the mindsets of managers from having to use technology to wanting technology. Very early in the implementation, alignment is strengthened because of the critical, open, honest conversations that are forced among business units, including IT. The participants must translate their critical objectives to absolute measures, which cannot happen without agreement. And with common goals, teams can function much more effectively.
Question: What should companies consider before investing in a BI solution?
DiBenedetto: BI refers to many different functions, so a company first needs to be clear about what BI means to them and what they want to achieve and support via BI. For example, do they want to implement a balanced scorecard and provide targeted dashboards, provide an OLAP tool to line managers, or assist global operations with the dissemination of competitive and market intelligence? With the proper direction, a company needs to consider the success factors and how they will impact the initiative. These success factors, while common to all software implementations, are more critical because of the impact of the solution. Most importantly, will the culture support the sharing of results and information? Instead of burying results in pages of reports, key results will be displayed to the organization. The culture must support learning from mistakes and have managers that will not recoil from public comparisons of their performance.
Question: What should be in place before companies invest in BI technology?
DiBenedetto: A company embarking on a BI initiative must have a plan in place to deploy a pilot solution quickly. It is critical to not include the entire organization in the first rollout. Because of the arduous conversations to reach agreement on what will be deployed and how, the scope must be managed or the process will become too bogged down to proceed. As the solution is completely supported by the underlying data, the data should be manageable, consistent and clean. While not a prerequisite to beginning a BI initiative, the lead-time of cleanup efforts is often lengthy and will be in the critical path.