The news and social media are filled with stories about dramatic new technologies like Augmented Reality (AR), and Artificial Intelligence (AI), and how these technologies are going to revolutionize every day life. Business Intelligence (BI) is part of those story lines, and the term suffers the same misconceptions and misunderstandings as AR or AI. These terms are broad categories of software, services, skills, and systems, but are not specific products or solutions. These terms are useful for discussing concepts and potential uses, but are not very useful to companies trying to apply them.
What is Business Intelligence
The term Business Intelligence has been around for more than a decade and has been used to describe a huge swarth of ideas and designs. Today, many consider it a vague generalization of capabilities, both human and computer-based. Companies who have recently made, or are about to make, a decision to invest in business intelligence should first understand that the success of that investment is not only determined by the technology used, but also by the people who drafted the vision of what the company wants to achieve, the team whose job is to implement that vision, and the people who will use and administer the BI system(s) for years to come.
Committing your company to a BI initiative is committing your team to becoming a Learning Organization. Your motivation for having a BI solution, at least in part, is to be able to perform at a much higher level than you have been able to. You will achieve that if you make data available to more people who are trained to think in a world of BI. Everyone has a role and they need to understand their part in the overall success.
Improving Success with BI
A few observations about improving your chances of success with your BI investments:
- BI is not a project
- Projects are defined by a start date and end date. There is no end date for BI.
- The investment in BI is made in pieces every year going forward. Costs are required to maintain the value delivered by the BI; if you stop investing, the value generated will diminish. Those costs include maintaining the data, the software, the security, and the technical skills of your staff to keep the BI solution(s) healthy and responsive.
- Without the right people with the right skills, you are probably going to fail.
- Technical skills are not the only concern, but they are required at the outset. Without a high quality design, the BI solution will fail to meet the expectations of executives.
- But, the issue of skills affects everyone in your organization that will have contact with the BI solution. Everyone will receive information differently than they have historically. They need to know what to do with the new information they receive to improve their performance.
- The commitment to people and skills are long term, not just a one-time training. A large part of the value of a top-class BI solution is the ability to gain new insights that were impossible with the previous method. But, insights are conceptual and people need to be taught how to examine the data to find them, and how to confirm that a new discovery is real and not just a data error or anomaly.
- Your investment in technology (machines, software, etc.) will be dwarfed by the annual operating costs.
- Every company has a build-or-buy decision to make for their BI solution. Regardless of which direction is right for your company.
- The long-term operational costs are 5-10 times the cost of the initial technology and solution build-out.
Business intelligence is not a one time project but rather an on-going investment to help your organization succeed at a higher level. Setting proper expectations around BI and getting your team on board will move you toward a deeper level of understanding and higher success rates.
Thinking about building your own BI solution? Download our Real Cost of DIY BI pdf to help you weigh your decision.