A Roadmap for Business Intelligence Success – The Value of a BI Assessment

Most people take time to plan for retirement, put their kids through college or organize a yearly vacation.

So why do so many people responsible for their company’s business intelligence (BI) initiative fail to adequately plan for this large, complex, and costly effort?

With nearly 50 percent of all BI projects ending in some degree of failure, it is hard to understand why companies continue to neglect to allocate even a modest amount of resources to this critical exercise.

An exercise, when done right, that can literally mean the difference between a functioning business intelligence capability and a lot of wasted money.

A comprehensive BI Assessment is a low-cost, actionable examination of three areas critical to any BI initiative – business needs analysis, organizational analysis, and technical/methodology analysis.

An assessment forces a company to take the time to examine its BI strengths and weaknesses across these three areas so that it has time to take pro-active steps to eliminate potential problems before a project begins or weaknesses spiral out of control.

Potential problems uncovered by an assessment might include: unclear or missing goals and requirements, not enough staff (IT or business) to build and support business intelligence or a weak technology infrastructure.

The ultimate goal of a good assessment process is to give a “state of the union” when it comes to BI before a company rushes headlong into a costly and complex project. In addition, a well-done assessment will also provide an estimated project timeline and budget, a recommended BI organization, suggested technology solutions and a risk/benefit analysis. In short: A Road Map for BI Success.

The best time to conduct an assessment is before project launch; however, it is never too late to do a BI assessment. If a company already has some level of BI implemented, an assessment is a great way to help them determine whether they are getting value from their BI investment.

It can also show them how people are currently using this capability or whether additional opportunities exist for BI enhancement. Of course, if their BI capability falls into that 50 percent failure bucket, an assessment is pretty much of a must do so the project can get back on the rails.

Naturally, a BI assessment takes time and money to do. So, how can we justify the cost? There are both long- and short-term benefits to an assessment. In the short-term category, conducting a BI assessment is a great way to validate a company’s BI assumptions and proposed BI direction.

In many cases, some of the results of the assessment can be acted upon immediately even before the full BI capability is built out, thus providing an immediate ROI. Long-term benefits include helping to establish a cohesive, evolutionary vision for BI that changes and grows as the company does.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of an assessment comes from the discoveries that a company makes about itself.

For example, one company I recently worked with discovered that their marketing, sales and finance people all used the same basic metrics to run their portion of the business – basically, the same data but with different names.

The assessment helped them realize that efficiencies could be gained by developing a closer collaboration between these separate teams.

A typical assessment takes from four to six weeks to complete. However, when done right, it is an investment in time and money well spent.
After all, you wouldn’t take a cross country trip without a map would you?