Seeing Is Believing: Show Business Users BI Benefits


The headline on one of my recent articles asked: Big vs. Small BI: Which Set of Returns Is Right for Your Company? It was a trick question, of course, since the answer is "both."


Many companies start small with their business intelligence initiatives before expanding BI more broadly across their business. Doing so not only helps illustrate BI's value, it tends to get users excited about the possibilities. While important with any software initiative, getting users on board is essential with BI, as I wrote recently.


If IT can find a business pain point and build a BI tool to solve it, chances are business users will bring more good suggestions to the table. That was the experience of The Allstate Corp., which created a wildly popular dashboard that made it easy to track customer complaints. (And tracking them should be the first step in actually addressing them.) Tim Acre, the company's senior manager of BI tells SearchCIO.com:

High-visibility, high-impact projects are important. You can tell when the [BI] vision is becoming clearer the ideas really begin to flow.

So, not surpriisingly, completing a proof-of-concept with a business group that helps illustrate the potential of what a broader BI implementation can do is the first of SearchCIO.com's Five Steps to Unfreeze a Business Intelligence Strategy. The other four pieces of advice:


  • CIOs should spend up to 30 percent of their time talking up the capabilities of BI tools. As part of this effort, Burton Group analyst Marcus Collins suggests creating a "learning library" to document all BI successes and failures. We've all heard the cliche about "learning from our mistakes," and like many cliches, it's right on target. So I think this is a terrific idea.
  • Business-minded IT folks should be enlisted to help business users determine their requirements. When I interviewed BI analyst Nigel Pendse in April. he told me a whopping 70 percent of companies he surveyed do not involve business users in BI initiatives. Animosity between the business and IT is often the culprit. Yet both sides should have skin in the BI game. Said Pendse: If it's 80 percent good enough and you were involved in development, you'd live
    with that. If you weren't involved, it's a good excuse to say, "This isn't what I wanted."
  • Establish a BI competency center. Such a center is one of Gartner's BI best practices, which I wrote about in October.
  • Keep BI projects as transparent as possible.