BI can have a direct positive impact on the business performance of an enterprise, dramatically improving the ability to accomplish the mission by making smarter decisions at every level of the business from corporate strategy to operational processes.
If you are starting to build BI capabilities in your enterprise and are not sure how to proceed, you aren’t alone. It is a challenge to select the right combination of people, processes and technology to design a successful BI enterprise. To overcome this challenge you need to build an effective BI strategy, which is driven by business objectives, enables stakeholders with better decision-making capabilities and helps the enterprise achieve desired goals. It is common for an enterprise to develop a BI strategy only to find it on the shelf later because it is not acceptable across the enterprise. An effective BI strategy should ensure that enterprise objectives, business strategy, investments and BI are aligned. Enterprises that are able to connect BI to overall enterprise objectives become intelligent enterprises. It requires a conscious approach and a blending of enterprise resources to deliver a complete, consistent and reliable source of information to fulfill the promise of BI. A BI initiative is of no use if it is not driven by the objectives of the enterprise. Implementing a BI solution should help an enterprise achieve the objective of advancing business by making the best use of information. It sounds easy but in very few places is this goal attained. Business requirements and enterprise objectives must drive the iterations. You need to establish a strategy before bringing technology or techniques in the conversation.

Prior to starting work on a BI strategy, you must learn and document your overall business objectives to help formulate a BI vision for the growth of business.

After documenting the initial list of key objectives, work with the primary stakeholders to confirm the validity of items on the list and their prioritization. This will ensure that you start building your BI strategy with a proper foundation that is aligned with your business and with the buy-in from stakeholders.

Scope of the BI Strategy - Driven by Business Objectives

The scope of BI should include making the best use of information to help business with long-term planning, help middle management with tactical reporting and help operations with day-to-day decision-making to run the business efficiently. BI is all about providing people with the information they need to do their jobs more effectively. A wide range of BI services needs to be provided to meet a variety of requirements. The scope of a BI strategy should be determined by the business drivers and business goals. Scope should always account for changing business requirements to keep the BI strategy aligned with business.
You should not limit your ability to apply the principles with a restrictive BI strategy. Rather, the strategy should include a broad set of processes, technologies and stakeholders for collecting, integrating, accessing and analyzing information for the purpose of helping the enterprise make better business decisions. BI solutions should enable users to quickly adapt to new business requirements and evolving sources of information. It is vital to establish a BI vision in advance, to ensure that implementation of specific components fits in the overall BI strategy. The BI strategy should state and document the needs as identified by the stakeholders, highlighting how BI fits into the broader enterprise vision. BI strategy should take into consideration appropriate frameworks, methodology, processes, governance, systems and technology to deliver value that aligns with the business objectives and priorities.

Dos and Don’ts - Proven Practices

Certain proven practices have been widely accepted in the BI arena and can serve as broad guidelines in terms of things to do and things to avoid for ensuring success of the BI initiative.
Steps to Ensure Success of the BI Strategy

  • Create a business case and outline the expected benefits.
  • Obtain buy-in from stakeholders, especially the senior executives.
  • Have an enterprise-wide perspective.
  • Establish criteria for success.
  • Treat information as an asset.
  • Adopt best practices and standards.
  • Set up change management procedures.
  • The BI strategy should align with the overall IT strategy and enterprise goals.
  • Do a current state, future state and gap analysis.
  • Think actionable and baby steps.
  • Establish a governance body.
  • Use an iterative implementation approach with parallel tracks.
  • Work with frameworks and adopt proven methodologies.
  • Assess BI readiness of the organization and identify related gaps and issues.
  • Document and analyze the constraints and assumptions.
  • Consider all BI components.

Potential Pitfalls to Avoid When Designing the BI Strategy

  • Don’t fall into the trap of starting with a narrow vision. BI strategy needs to be holistic and prepared in the context of the wider BI definition.
  • Don’t plan to use a big-bang implementation approach. It has been proven that iterative implementation works better for BI initiatives.
  • Always remember that the scope of BI is not limited to just selection and implementation of technology. Often the mistake is made by BI architects to associate the BI initiatives to specific technology components such as implementing parallel processing database technology or building OLAP cubes or dimensional modeling.
  • BI iterations should not be done in a haphazard manner. A BI strategy document is the necessary roadmap that you should follow as you design the BI environment.
  • Don’t just focus on data integration and state-of-the-art BI tools. BI strategy should be comprehensive and it should incorporate much more than a data warehouse or BI tools.
  • During warehouse-centric planning, don’t lose sight of the broad vision to ensure the design of a successful enterprise-wide informational asset.
  • Don’t adopt an inflexible approach. A BI strategy should be treated as a living artifact. It should be constantly tuned and adjusted to reflect the needs of your business.

Parts two and three of this series will elaborate on some of these proven practices.

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