Co-dependency May Help, Not Hurt, Business Intelligence Projects

Ann All

Co-dependence is usually seen as a bad thing, with a plethora of self-help books and support groups devoted to stamping it out. But I've been wondering: Is it possible a bit of co-dependency might actually help improve the odds that business intelligence projects will be successful?


Folks seem to agree it's a given that business objectives should drive BI projects, yet BI is still an IT-driven initiative at many, if not most companies. But even when the business does lead, it'll need lots of support from IT for full-fledged BI projects that include an enterprise data warehouse and thus involve data cleansing, data integration and other pretty complicated issues. And IT organizations often have project-management chops that can help keep BI projects rolling when they hit bumps in the road, as they almost inevitably will.


Writing on the Lancet Software Blog, Laura Madsen has a great post on the five disciplines of business intelligence. Three of the five -- Project Execution, Operations and Service Level Management, and Architecture and Technology -- primarily involve IT. Program Management, which involves encouraging development and use of assets that can be shared, also falls largely under IT's purview, though business input would seem helpful here.


The fifth discipline, Business Integration, requires close cooperation (dare I say co-dependency?) with the business. This discipline requires more maturity than the others and is the most difficult for many IT organizations to master, writes Madsen. I like the way she explains its importance:

The primary goal of this discipline is to foster collaboration between end user organizations and IS [Information Services] to build an invincible bond of trust between information consumers and the capabilities offered by the BI program. When the business truly owns BI, the problems become everyone's problem, not just another IT failure.

I think this discipline is probably more important now than ever, with the rise of BI solutions that require little, if any, technical lifting from IT organizations. In those cases, I think IT should be kept well in the BI loop, if for no other reason so they better understand the needs of their business users. We need more "bonds of trust" between IT and the business.

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