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Successful BI deployments have these elements

Forrester reports that more than half of BI attempts fail or bog down to a crawl. Successful deployment and usability depends on several critical components.

My previous post, "Business Intelligence: A Strategy-Based Initiative," highlighted some of the more obvious components for successfully implementing strategic BI.

My purpose in this post is to further define and elaborate on these necessary tactical and fundamental components.

Business intelligence (BI) deployment has emerged as a hot topic in the past few years. In a Forrester Research survey completed in Spring 2011, half of the companies responding stated that they have concrete plans to implement or expand their use of BI during the next 24 months. But, given all the anticipated benefits from deploying BI, Forrester reports that, historically, more than half of the BI attempts fail or bog down to a crawl. Successful deployment and usability depends on several critical components.

To date, all our successful BI deployments have included the following:

Shareholder sponsorship

The BI initiative must be sponsored by a shareholder with bottom-line responsibility. This individual must have a broad picture of objectives, strategy, and targets and know how to translate these elements into functional and measurable components that will support organizational targets. Without the participation of this individual, the BI initiative will not have the overarching vision, staying power, or the necessary authority to succeed.

Functional groups

Successful BI deployment depends directly on the recognition of the functional groups within the organization. Additionally, each of these functional groups must be clear as to their role in the implementation as well as demonstrate a complete buy in to the plan and process. Without this coordinated cooperative buy in, the implementation is doomed to fail. Conversely, buy in among all groups of the organization is most easily achieved by demonstrating the benefits to each group independently, thus propagating a favorable climate for success.

Common ground

Before the BI implementation can occur, an organization must establish common ground. In other words, there must be a consensus among the organization's functional groups as to the meaning of key ideas and terms. Commonality surrounding such concepts as gross profit, net profit, profit margin, etc. is necessary and critical to successful implementation. The task of creating effective BI tools is rendered impossible if, for example, the accounting office group and operations group interpret these concepts differently.

Conceptual mapping

Successful BI implementation includes both a detailed analysis of the current business environment as well as a comprehensive map of the finished deployment. Simply stated, it is imperative to know the starting point in addition to recognizing the finish line. Any preliminary stumbling blocks or areas of confusion must be completely eliminated prior to commencing the journey.

Organically related data

The relationship between the BI architecture and the primary method for data storage must be organic. The relationship between BI and data is not just necessary, but it needs to be synergistic. Experience demonstrates that as the symmetry between data storage and interpretation evolves, so too will the effectiveness and efficacy of the BI deployment. In functional terms, there is a direct and dynamic proportionality between the methodology of the data storage and the usefulness and applicability of the BI.

Objectified BI objectives

Functional groups within any organization use information differently. The accounting office group and the sales group not only view company information differently, they utilize that information in different ways to accomplish different objectives.

Mapping how these groups will use BI and for what purposes will dictate the types of information needed and its frequency of use as well as provide for cogent BI deployment decision making.

Tools selection

As is true in identifying the functional groups of an organization and the ways in which they will utilize BI information, successful BI deployment depends on a comprehensive cataloging of BI components. These components include data integration, data quality, data modeling, analytics, centralized metrics management, presentations (reports and dashboards), portals, collaboration, knowledge management, and master data management. It is imperative to define the architecture for all layers of the business intelligence environment as each will affect the success of implementation.

Technology partner

A critical concern in BI implementation is identifying a technology vendor that is both knowledgeable in the advancement of both relevant software and hardware components and equally well versed in end user requirements and objectives.

Best-case scenario is to choose a vendor that is capable of properly balancing the desired outcomes of each functional group and its desired BI tools with the available system/data infrastructure and financial resources.

Evolving deliverables

Once the BI implementation is under way, clear-cut deliverables are the order of the day. What works best is to provide a schedule of deliverables starting with the "easiest" and proceeding to the most difficult. Also, it is imperative to deliver a meaningful BI tool to every functional group as early in the deployment as possible. Above all, keep to the preselected milestones. If a deliverable is due at a designated point in time, do everything possible to get it finished at that time. If there is to be any delay in delivering, notify the affected group as early as possible. If it turns out that there is going to be more than one delayed deliverable, call a meeting for all parties and redo the milestone chart in its entirety.

When deployed properly, BI becomes a powerful change agent for defining strategy, driving profitability, and developing a performance-oriented culture throughout an organization. The informed vendor soon realizes that BI is much more than a system for reporting, it is a way of doing business. Armed with this knowledge, the smart vendor can continue delivering leading-edge technology and value-added service to ensure a competitive and profitable customer base.


Robert Eugene Miller is an information technology consultant and President of Horizon Technologys (www.HorizonTks.com). Horizon provides Business Intelligence Deployment, Systems Security Assessments, and Website Development consulting services to a ...