Let's face it. It used to be easier to implement a business intelligence solution (or at least it looks that way now!). There was a well-established process that could be universally applied, with some modifications, to select and implement a new technology. But now with the business trying to move at Internet speed, it seems we just can't "get our act together" fast enough on the technology side to keep up with the demand. There is this feeling of general discomfort surrounding moving fast. What forces are at play here?
Ahhhh ... the "old way!" What fond memories! After a business need was determined and articulated, we would develop formal evaluation criteria for the technology at hand. We would scour the market looking for all available alternatives, which would be weighed against the evaluation criteria and ranked or scored. This may have included a benchmarking process or technology "bake- off" to determine which product was superior. We would carefully weigh pros and cons, and obtain buy-in from all parties within the organization that needed to be involved. Once a decision was made, we would plan the implementation project, usually using internal organization resources.
As participants in this process, how did we feel? We felt comfortable, certain that we made a good decision that would last a relatively long period of time (18 months to five years). We knew with this decision we had just "put that business problem to rest," and we wouldn't have to revisit our decision anytime soon. Boy, did that feel good! We had control over the resources involved and the outcome of the implementation project; and our critical success factors were whether the project was on time, within budget and followed the process.
Now, however, business folks tell us that time to market is absolutely critical that if we can't get this system up within three to six months they will lose significant revenue opportunities. In fact, they say that our competition will simply "eat our lunch" if the system isn't up and operational soon.
The new way to implement BI technology may involve looking at a few viable alternatives in the market, but by no means all the players. We simply don't have time to look at them all! We measure these products/vendors against more informal criteria, utilizing a more subjective evaluation process. A key criterion is how well they fit within our strategic direction for the organization. While we still obtain buy-in from involved parties, there are fewer of them; and there has to be more trust among the project's participants that a good decision is being made. We may do a prototype to prove the concept, but we no longer do extensive benchmarking. We may even use external rather than internal resources to do the prototype, to the point of exploiting several companies who must collaborate and cooperate in developing or implementing the solution for us. The proof of concept often evolves into implementation of a "final" solution; and our critical success factors are time to market, scalability and extensibility, or openness.
How do we feel about this new process? It feels "squishy" and more ambiguous. We are less certain about the correctness of our decision and have to admit that we may have to revisit the decision sooner than we would have previously anticipated. We have control over the general direction of the project, but less control over how it is accomplished. It feels uncomfortable to have to deal more with influence than control. It just doesn't feel right.
Don't like that feeling? My advice: get over it. Our businesses need first-mover advantage. Speed to market is critical. We no longer have the luxury of time. If we don't hit a speedy time window with implementation, the competition simply passes us by. Those of us who can deal with, and even thrive on, ambiguity, uncertainty and less control will succeed. Those who subvert the new process or stew about it will not.
It's not easy to get comfortable with discomfort. Although we may not think things are complete or may worry that our decision is not good for an extended period of time, to our organizations, it's okay. If we can get a good system out there early (and it's componentized and open) and if we can capture the market or business opportunity, we then have the opportunity to either extend the system or replace it later.
It's a new process. It's different. You may not like it, but deal with it. Your organization's success (and even your own!) may depend on it.
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