Published: 25 June 2015
Today let us talk about the elephant in the room, and no not the cute little yellow Hadoop elephant if that is what you were thinking. We are talking about one of the reasons why 80% of corporate BI projects fail. “We will have the reports ready in three to six months, we just need to load the data warehouse and then we can report on what happened yesterday.”
Have you heard that before?
The slow unresponsive BI we speak of refers to the inability and inflexibility of people and processes to deliver a successful BI project or revise current BI strategies that are no longer relevant in the dynamic fluid data kaleidoscope we exist in. Why is BI user adoption so low? According to Gartner, there are 9 fatal flaws in BI implementation and these problems usually stem from people and processes and not the BI tools. That is no surprise to us as many organisations have become tool centric thinking if we just get the latest tool, all will be well and the sales pitch from the vendor will be the final tipping point.
We love Tableau and we use it in our BI projects, embedded with SAP BI or standalone for industry leading data visualisation that will wow executives and business users alike but how many persons have you heard say that the tool did not deliver what the sales pitch promised? Too often, companies forget to focus on the key questions driving their BI investment which helps to maximise ROI. Tools may come and go, but you should never be blindly executing BI with no clear strategy or business purpose.
What is your data strategy?
What is the business problem you are trying to solve?
What decisions do you want to make with your data?
Where is your BI roadmap? Is it still relevant?
What are your executive and business user requirements and KPIs?
Have you defined these requirements and KPIs?
Right Technology and Right People
The world is changing rapidly and so too is the field of Business Intelligence where hot trendy catch phrases like “IoT”, “Big Data”, and “Data Scientist” are on everyone’s lips, they may not know what it is but they want it and they want it now, not six months from now. BI professionals are an easy convert to Data Scientists but having business domain knowledge, coupled with impressive Math, Statistics, programming, and database skills is not an easy feat. While not every BI person will make the transition to Data Science, some persons may run the risk of becoming extinct in a field of real time visualisations and predictive analysis. You will need the right technology but most important are the right people who have a radical data driven mindset of breaking down silos, fighting off analysis paralysis and approaching BI project deliverables iteratively.
Iterative and Agile approach
Planning is an essential component of any successful project, and this is no different for BI projects. BI professionals must ensure that they balance the amount of time they spend planning, requirements gathering and documenting with actual development and testing. Unfortunately, there is no secret formula, although we recommend the eighty/twenty (80/20) rule to spend the bulk of time planning so that implementation will be easier and require less rework, we know the realities of a dynamic work environment. These realities feed the reasoning behind complimenting the 80/20 rule with the iterative approach to deliver successful BI projects. It forces you to start small with a clearly defined scope and established user requirements to deliver quick-wins which leads to happier users and higher user adoption. Do not make the mistake of biting off more than you can chew by trying to use all available data. This results in analysis paralysis and should be avoided at all costs. There are also BI deliverables requiring even quicker turnarounds and an agile approach can be used for fast prototyping which encourages user feedback and fine tuning of requirements at the end of each sprint. Agile development is great for storyboarding executive dashboards especially where you are faced with limited resources, e.g. small BI team.
Speed isn't everything!
Business Intelligence professionals reading this may be thinking of a famous quote which says the race is not for the swift but who can endure. Their argument will be that it is not about who can provide the information the fastest but who will take their time and in the end may provide more valuable accurate information. While the fundamentals of that may be true, receiving the right information at the right time can make or break a business. Telling the Head of Marketing that we lost five hundred customers to our competitor six months ago is of little value and your options are limited at that time. However, if six months ago you were looking at real time data and noticed a trend of customers churning, you could have taken preventative steps then to retain these customers. Better yet, we could have built predictive models to identify those customers before they even churned. We all know the cost to retain a customer is far cheaper than trying to win them back from the competitor.
We have to grow and evolve as this field continues to change and we know that “when the wind of change blows, some people build walls and others build windmills”. Let us build BI windmills to quickly and effectively harness the power of the big data wind into pure competitive energy.
About the author: Raquel Seville [@quelzseville] is a Business Intelligence Professional, SAP Mentor, BI Evangelist, Founder: exportBI | Co-Founder: eatoutjamaica. To find out more, please visit her about me page.