Any time IT organizations are confronted with a new challenge, the conditioned response is to throw software and hardware at the problem. In most cases that usually helps, but when it comes to business intelligence it more often than not only serves to exacerbate fundamental management problems.
That's why Ambuj Goyal, IBM's General Manager for Business Analytics and Optimization, is pushing customers to engage with IBM's 4,000 BI consultants on how to create an effective methodology for managing information before they deploy BI software. All too often, we see BI projects fail because the data being analyzed isn't complete enough to be relevant. The end result is that users lose confidence in the data and fall back on intuition and the information that is readily accessible to them in a spreadsheet.
Speaking at an event in New York City, Goyal says that at this stage business intelligence should be less about IT and more about creating an intelligent business. That means first documenting and understanding all the factors that make up a business process before deploying any BI software. Once a company figures out how to overcome its internal divisions in a way that brings all known relevant information together, then the organization can start to derive some real value from BI software.
IBM has released a "Breaking Away with Business Analytics and Optimization" survey of 400 business executives that finds that top-performing companies are 15 times more likely to apply analytics to strategic decisions than their under-performing peers. You can debate the definition of top and under-performing all day long, but clearly applying BI software randomly to flawed business processes isn't going to help anybody.
IBM is also trying to create greater appreciation for the value of BI software by partnering with academic institutions such as Fordham University in New York City to create a business analytic curriculum. That's a much-needed step because not only do we need more IT people trained in BI, we need more business analysts trained in how to use the software. In fact, a separate CIO study conducted by IBM found that 83 percent of the CIOs surveyed identified business analytics as their current top priority. Right now, however, there is a shortage of both business professionals schooled in analytics and IT people skilled enough to deploy it in a meaningful way.
Of course, analytics are never going to replace the human factor when it comes to making business decisions. But most of our intuitive guesswork about business decisions today is based on incomplete data. With advances in using software to create a more intelligent business, we should be able to considerably narrow the gap between what is known versus unknown about the business in order to make more informed decisions.