A recent experience has made me consider carefully and at great length why resistance is encountered in business intelligence projects. The benefits of doing a business intelligence project (let's say implementing an online analytical processing environment, for example) far outweigh the risks. I think that you and I would agree on that point. Then why can't everyone else agree? We outline the benefits, including more timely access to information for decision making and the ability for business people to get answers to their questions without programmer intervention, among others. The worst-case scenario, if the BI project fails, is usually that the business has to continue to access information to manage activities the same old way they have always gotten it (a downside that is no worse than today's process). We explain "what's in it" for all involved until we're blue in the face. The "right-ness" of BI is so obvious to us, why is it not as obvious to others?

The answer: resistance. Based on personal knowledge gained over the years, I have come up with the top ten kinds of resistance encountered in business intelligence projects. Maybe you'll see something that looks familiar. Here they are, in reverse order:

10. Fear of the unknown (If it's different, I don't want it.) ­ I just don't want to do something different from what I am doing now, even if it has the potential to make my job easier. (Note: business intelligence involves change and some people resist any change, no matter what it is.)

9. Lack of vision (How will things change?) ­ I can't envision how this BI project helps increase profits (or decrease costs). If I can't see the connection, I can't believe in it.

8. Resistance from technical people (I'm too busy doing real work.) ­ Forget this fluffy project! I'm too busy coding reports to even pay attention to you (even though some of those requests for reports could be eliminated, freeing up some time to attack that system backlog).

7. Lack of credibility of the BI team (I don't believe you can do what you say you can do.) ­ How do I know you can succeed at solving my information problems? I still have problems on my legacy systems of record you people in information technology have yet to fix (see also number 1).

6. Political struggles (I can't see where I'll gain power.) ­ I'm busy building my empire. How will this BI project get me the recognition I need, or get me more people or budget than the next functional area?

5. Death of the information broker (What will I do now?) ­ I gather information and present it to others. What will I do now that they can get the information themselves?

4. Dirty data as scapegoat (The data's too dirty.) ­ The data's so dirty, this project is like putting an easy access tool on a garbage can! (Note: data is always dirty; if you wait until the data gets cleaned up to do a BI project, you will be waiting forever.)

3. An organization in flux (Who's reporting to whom?) ­ We can't possibly start this project until the organization is stable. (Note: most organizations change reporting structures frequently. BI needs buy-in from the people who have real power, regardless of who reports to whom. If you wait for the org structure to settle down, you may be waiting a long time.)

2. Lack of management understanding (Tell me again why this is important enough to do?) ­ There are numerous projects competing for scarce resources. I just don't understand the benefits this BI project will achieve (see also number 1).

And the number one type of resistance: Lack of strategic thinking (I have so many tactical issues, I can't possibly think about this right now!) ­ Yes, there are always more tactical issues than resources to deal with them. However, adding more tactical resources does not guarantee solutions that are any closer to a longer-term direction you wish to pursue. The only way to achieve a longer-term direction is to put at least a little time/effort into more strategic projects.

There are probably more than these 10 types of resistance to business intelligence projects. Resistors can come up with many reasons NOT to do business intelligence. But if I had to sum up the best reason TO do it, it would be to use information for competitive advantage. In fact, to all resistors I would pose the following question: Are you comfortable that your company or organization has all the competitive advantage it needs? If your answer is yes, don't embark on a BI project (but I would follow with: Is that your final answer?).

If your answer is no, then a well- placed, well-thought-out project might be just what you need to lay the foundation for achieving greater competitive advantage than you now have. There are two things that are unique to your organization ­ your people and the data you have accumulated about your customers, products and transactions. If you can counter people's inevitable resistance, a business intelligence project can enable your organization to use them both wisely.

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