The Six Challenges of Business Intelligence

Looking at Mountian


Business Intelligence (BI) is:

The processes, technologies, and tools needed to turn data into information, information into knowledge, and knowledge into plans that drive profitable business action. Business intelligence encompasses data warehousing, business analytic tools, and content/knowledge management. —The Data Warehouse Institute Faculty Newsletter, Fall 2002

BI should deliver:

  1. Accurate answers to questions about the enterprise
    • Supplied in a timely manner
  2. Support for intelligent decision making
  3. Identification of actionable outcomes

To make BI effective means fully understanding what metrics are important to you and your business. Deployment problems occur when the wrong data is collected, when the wrong questions are asked, and when staff are unsure of what they want from the system, or are wary of using it. Getting the cultural issues right are just as important as choosing the right technology.”  —Stefan Foster, Managing Director, NCC Ltd.

Business Intelligence (also known as dashboarding, reporting, Enterprise Performance Management, and other names) solutions have been around for a couple of decades now, and have reached a level of established maturity. These solutions strive to provide visibility into high volumes of data generated by large, complex organizations. This is accomplished by aggregating and summarizing these data, and focus on presenting information in chart and report format.

BI Graph300x169

1. Stakeholders
• BI enhances decision making for the whole organization
    – By understanding the needs of a wide range of stakeholders
• Addressing stakeholder needs, skills, and goals is key to implementing BI successfully
2. Organizational Culture
• Your culture must support fact-based decision making
    – Not “seat of the pants” decision making
• Otherwise BI adoption will be difficult
• All organizations are unique
   – You need to leverage your culture to support BI
3. Technologies
• Individual departments should not be run like separate businesses
   – Otherwise each will pursue its own technology policy
   – Leading to a mixture of standards in the organization
• Mixed tools and poorly integrated technology infrastructure leads to a high                                  Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
4. Strategy
• BI initiatives should support business strategy
    – But different stakeholders with different BI needs sometimes start independent,                                               tactical BI projects
• You must align all stakeholders under one strategy
    – Then execute it!
5.  Data
• The difficulty of accurate data collection is frequently underestimated
• You need time, resources, and effort to identify and map data
    – More effort is needed to ensure data is used consistently across the organization
6. Processes
• Clear and agreed-upon rules and processes ensure effective adoption of BI
    – Processes should be changeable and measurable
    – To be repeatable and adaptable
• The only business not changing is one that has closed
• The key to successful processes is managing people


In summary, there is great value in well-deployed BI solutions, and they require significant effort to realize this value. Deriving information that can drive action to affect change on organizational performance is an ongoing challenge, as well as enabling that action. That, on top of the fact that 70%-80% of BI projects fail (according to Gartner), is encouraging organizations to look for a better way.


For more on BI have a look at Learning Tree, Intl. course # 4581: Key Things to Know About Business Intelligence. You can choose from Over 175 1-DAY Boot Camp Courses.

James L. Haner

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