When BI came into existence, it was regarded as IT projects and technology enhancement. The approach that organizations take to develop BI initiatives has been to establish the technology infrastructure and environment, implementing one project after another and adding more and more reports and dashboards. In the meantime, organizations gradually start to realize the increasing importance of business involvement and active participation in the BI initiatives, and thus the business intelligence competency center has been brought to the top priority in the agenda to ensure a BI program is being more strategically driven with a long-term vision.

An Indispensable Component

BI has been growing a lot during the past decade – the technology has become more user-friendly, the tools have become more integrated with a variety of platforms and projects have become more complex – gaining more attention from senior management and contributing more to the company’s bottom line. Yet, BI is benefiting more at the departmental level rather than the entire organization, and the projects are still considered to be more tactical and operational in many business areas. 
From my experience, it is clear that without a centralized group to lead and guide the BI program, there are several challenges to the long-term success of BI, which is to achieve integrated enterprise goals and make strategic contributions to the company. Challenges include:

  • It’s hard to gain a visionary view of BI direction and set strategy for the BI development path. The past BI activities tend to focus more on improving operational efficiency, and many BI reports provide more of operational information rather than strategy decision-support information. 
  • It’s difficult to get an integrated view of all the BI projects and initiatives across all the departments. With the pressured demand from business areas, many BI projects are going on at the same time at a department level without centralized planning involving business and IT. 
  • It’s challenging to coordinate and adjust the inter-departmental BI activities to achieve a holistic view. Sometimes inter-departmental cooperation is viewed as having a negative impact on team morale within a department; therefore, inter-departmental activities are not so much encouraged. However, for BI to be truly enterprise-wide, a central group is necessary to coordinate between departments. 

With these challenges, the BICC is the right group to perform a guiding role for the enterprise BI. The establishment of the BICC can help to change people’s attitudes toward BI because in this platform, IT and business will meet in the middle, and it will provide helpful guidance in the following ways:

  • Create a strategy-driven initiative. When experts from both business and IT sit together, more focus can be put on the long-term strategic BI initiatives such as profit and loss reporting, performance management dashboard. 
  • Make it an enterprise initiative. Usually, BI initiatives are sponsored by one or several unit heads, and the objectives tend to steer toward the specific departments. However, true BI benefits lie in the provision and promotion of enterprise-wide long-term business profitability and sustainability. A BICC is a good mechanism to help a BI program be accepted across the entire organization, utilize the integrated BI tools across the board and attain the enterprise goal. 
  • Help it to be a value-added initiative. It is somewhat more difficult to calculate how much revenue a BI project generates, because unlike a customer-facing system that can easily tell how many more accounts have been opened since the implementation of the system, a BI project tends to uncover some problem areas, which then trigger some actions to remedy the areas. The business gains are often indirectly obtained from the rollout of a BI system, which tends to be neglected. Thus, it is even more important to perform ROI for BI projects, and BICC is a good place to enforce the analysis of ROI and review the ROI. 
  • Make sure it is a cost effective initiative. BI projects usually are medium to large-sized and require quite some funding. However, with the implementation of the automated and self-service reporting and dashboard, a lot of manual work of gathering the data, producing, scheduling and delivering the reports can be eliminated and the time can be spent in a more profitable way. Besides the development cost, there are also operational and maintenance cost. Taking advantage of all possible automation functionalities provided by the tool will help make the operation of BI more cost-effective. BICC can be the place to perform and review the cost-benefit analysis for the BI systems in use. 

The Wide Spectrum of Agendas

BICC is a team of business and IT personnel that meet on a regular basis to discuss direction, strategy, budgets, issues, policies, procedures and standards of BI initiatives, and it also provides a platform for both sides to exchange information and share cross-discipline expertise. The BICC plays an advisory and guiding role for the policymaker around BI initiatives, and the BICC should set the agenda to:

  • Provide strategic planning of BI delivery roadmaps,
  • Review and approve the budget requested for BI projects,
  • Review and enable the BI delivery best practice,
  • Decide on the BI technology and tools,
  • Review software vendors and BI software licenses,
  • Prioritize of the BI projects in the pipeline,
  • Resolve escalated issues,
  • Implement standards around business metadata,
  • Implement policy on change controls,
  • Implement the policy on information security on BI deliverables,
  • Ensure the attainability of the proper support from various areas,
  • Promote user acceptance and usage of BI systems and
  • Evaluate the results of the completed projects and perform the cost/benefit analysis.

Best Execution Plan of BICC

From my working practice, there are some conclusions derived. In order to make the BICC successful and a good decision-making organization - which establishes and enforces the policies, procedures and standards for the enterprise BI - several considerations need to be paid attention to:

  1. It is essential that the BICC driver possess strong persuasion and eloquence. BICC sometimes fails or doesn’t achieve its targeted objective because it doesn’t have an effective driver. The role of the driver is to drive BICC to its planned and targeted state with his or her persuasion and eloquence. Beforehand, the driver should have a clear picture of what needs to be achieved and then drive BICC to that direction with perseverance. 
  2. Enterprise data stewardship is very critical component of BICC. There is data stewardship for every business areas. But usually lacking is enterprise data stewardship that understands the entire organization’s data structure and knows how each business process coordinates and interacts with each other. Only with such knowledge on board, can the BICC really become an enterprise function. 
  3. Strategic thinking should drive BICC. It is understandable that people tend to be drowning into the daily operations and focus on their everyday operational concerns and issues. But the priority of BICC should be strategy of the BI program and making sure that strategy drives and leads the BICC. Operational execution is important in that it supports the attainment of the BI strategy. 
  4. Gradual development of BICC structure helps its success. To make big changes in a short period of time in an established environment is a difficult challenge, if not impossible. The best practice to introduce changes is through gradual development of changes. This principal applies to BICC evolvement as well. So, the appropriate solution to develop a mature and well-shaped BICC is via gradual development. 
  5. Meeting once a month sets the right frequency. Usually within a month timeframe, there is some development progress and business may have made some changes or maybe planned. Once-a-month meetings will provide an opportunity to keep the information and updates flowing between IT and business on the BI agenda and also make sure that the strategic direction of BI has stayed on track. 
  6. Coordination is an unavoidable role for the BICC to ensure the agenda is focused. Attendees from different areas always bring in different perspectives, concerns and opinions. In order for BICC to focus and get moving coordination needs to play a centralized role to bring all parties on board. 

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