This issue of DM Review focuses on BI trends. I decided to go straight to the source. I distributed a survey to clients and conference session attendees asking them what the future held for BI. One hundred and forty-six individuals took the survey. Most classified themselves as data warehousing or data management professionals and came from a cross-section of industries. The survey asked several questions about perceptions of BI's maturity and value. When asked, "How would you rate your company's BI maturity?" only two percent claimed that their BI environments were "mature." The majority - 52 percent - answered that they were "getting there" and another 26 percent classified themselves as "immature."
To the question, "Is your BI program branded internally so that everyone in the organization recognizes it?" 74 percent gave a "no" answer, suggesting that most BI efforts remain marginalized as run-of-the-mill IT projects and aren't distinguished by their business value. Across the board in both formal answers and informal conversations, companies say that there's more work to do to make BI robust and broaden its usage. In general, a bona fide BI best practice is: deploy either new data or new application functionality every 90 days. This recognizes the value of consistent delivery means keeping BI top of mind with knowledge workers.
Certainly the survey respondents had various plans for extending BI capabilities. To the question, "How would you characterize your company's BI planning?" most claimed to be working on their next project, but the rest seemed more reactive in their approach to BI governance, as illustrated in Figure 1.
Figure 1: BI Planning Responses
This brings us to the reputation of the data warehouse: is it considered a platform that houses a bunch of heterogeneous data or the fulcrum for the company's strategic and operational analytics? One of the dirty little secrets of many an enterprise data warehouse is that it's more of a data provisioning solution than a true analytical and reporting solution. And the extent to which businesspeople see the data warehouse as a business solution - only nine percent of survey respondents claimed their executives valued the BI capabilities from a business perspective - the more likely sponsorship and funding will be. Judging from the 63 percent of respondents admitting that executives considered BI "as a tool or set of tools," proving the business value of BI is as much art as it is science.
Most respondents had plans to enhance BI - and to transform its reputation in the process. Eighty-six percent of respondents claimed to be working toward proselytizing BI's business benefits, with most claiming that their BI planning cycles extended into 2008 and beyond.
And that brings us to what's on management's radar from a trend perspective, as shown in Figure 2. Clearly, accelerating the pace and quality of data deployment and shoring up the infrastructure around BI are important factors in its future. But business capabilities matter, too. Thirty-seven percent answered that "scorecard or dashboard solutions" were on the list of new capabilities, with another 26 percent saying that financial analysis capabilities were key.
Figure 2: Trends Management is Watching
As far as some of the survey respondents have yet to go on their BI journeys, half the battle is recognizing the gaps in existing practices and knowing how to fill them in - or at least begin educating constituents about the possibilities. Indeed, as someone once said, "Room for improvement is the biggest room in the house."
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