This is a closer look at the tips suggested in “How to Build a Successful BI Strategy

As-Is State Analysis

Complete assessment of processes, technology and people in the current state has to be done as these will be critical to the success of any changes made to the current environment. You should discuss and document the current information systems, technology, processes and governance procedures being used. You should detail how your organization is currently utilizing BI, which should include a complete inventory of all platforms, technologies and tools being used to develop and deliver BI content. Current-state analysis should include current users, user profiles and how those people have been using information. It should document current processes and structures for managing information. All of this put together will help you determine the viability of the options based on overall enterprise objectives.
As part of current-state analysis, gauge your current state of BI capabilities and should determine how various technologies and governance procedures are being implemented.
You can focus on how people are using the BI solutions after analyzing how BI capabilities are being leveraged. You can visualize if users are currently receiving information in a format that allows them to make the best use of BI resources. It also helps to determine how the users are consuming information. Another important aspect to look at is the existing governance procedures and processes for data management to ensure proper definition and quality of the data. These are all important factors to keep in mind when you are gathering and documenting your current state information.

Current-state analysis helps you in highlighting the pain points, which makes it easier to address them. You should plan to do an analysis of the current BI maturity state. By documenting the current BI maturity model, you enhance your ability to identify the problem areas, which helps you in coming up with solution definitions. It is also useful to determine the BI readiness of the enterprise. It is easy to fill in the gaps once you define the issues that need to be addressed and you have a clear vision of the overall objectives and the direction to get to the future state.

To-Be State Analysis

After current-state analysis, you understand the BI environment that you have. Now, you must decide what you want your future environment to be in order to achieve the BI vision. In the current-state analysis you identified how stakeholders are currently accessing and using information. Now you have to determine the best approach for users to access and consume information. 
You should define how users will share information and knowledge in the target state and the kind of collaborative environment that will be made available to them for the best utilization of BI solutions. Use of multiple technologies and techniques could be needed to come up with the desired method of delivery and the best fit. Identifying business processes and key stakeholders is a must for this effort, as these will be critical to obtain funding and to progress the project forward.
As part of the analysis, review BI plans to confirm whether you are moving in the right direction. You should also assess the organizational readiness to fully leverage BI. Following the evaluation, you can begin to create a long-term program through recommended next steps for detailed planning and design. The target state should reflect the vision to combine BI with the areas of business process management, performance improvement, customer service, knowledge management, cross-functional information exchange, etc. Building on the BI-driven initiatives provides opportunities for performance improvement and better business process management.
Assessment of imminent requirements and long-term business needs enable you to break down BI strategy work into multiple projects classified into phases. You must prioritize the objectives for efficient use of available BI resources. Prioritization of BI objectives also provides you and business with a better understanding of how the BI environment will take shape as you progress. Projects should be evaluated for their overall contribution to the BI strategy by determining how a particular project helps you get a step closer to the BI strategic vision. For example, a project to build a performance measurement system for financials would align with the business strategy of effective utilization of funds. As you progress through the phases, you can see the focus of projects transitioning from addressing the current requirements to the imminent and future needs.

Transformation Roadmap

According to Ventana Research, the biggest development challenges to BI are data-related issues such as assuring data quality, supporting highly complex conceptual data models and supporting access to intraday real-time data. Current and future-state analysis should help you with building a transformation plan to bridge the gap between the current and future state. 

Building a Transformation Plan

  • A transformation plan establishes the guidelines necessary for building the proposed BI structures and related technologies. 
  • The sequence of implementation of core processes and data structures are laid out in this section. The transformation plan can start with a high-level perspective, with detail being added to the plan as you progress. 
  • The plan should include actionable steps i.e., it should define a set of projects to be undertaken, establish governance and processes, set the conceptual, logical and physical architecture, establish the infrastructure outline, develop information delivery projects and incorporate information needs. When designing the transformation roadmap, you should take into account information needs of users, including how users want to receive and consume the information. 
  • In the transformation plan, you can formalize how you plan to identify and prioritize BI iterations.
  • The plan should account for capacity, performance, data quality, data security, metadata control and data retention policies. You should also consider the BI implementation time frame, prioritization of individual BI projects and resource availability for BI-centric projects. Broad policy outlines in a transformation roadmap will help you when you get to the details. As an example, high-level decisions made on data retention will impact data architecture such as partitioning of the data as well as technical architecture such as disk storage.

In the transformation plan you must outline high-level process issues such as refresh rates, capacity plan, backup, recovery, archive, workflow and security. Again, you should address as many of these topics as possible, even though no particular iteration of BI initiatives is being discussed. A component of the overall roadmap that is often overlooked is how iterations will be tested before rollout. Topics should include criteria for enterprise adherence and approval, criteria and plan for test data selection, capacity planning, scalability of the BI solutions, high-level testing plans and overview of unit, integration, performance and user testing.

BI Framework

A BI framework provides a broad overview of how different components of your BI strategy fit together to serve your entire BI vision. It brings together the forces that drive business operations: people, processes and technology in a collaborative environment. It highlights high-level business drivers for the BI initiative, business needs for BI and its link to a broader enterprise strategy.

The framework should begin by setting the business context and high-level scope, overall objectives, what is to be achieved, the intended enterprise-wide coverage of the BI strategy and criteria of success.
A smart BI framework involves connecting BI, business processes, collaborative applications and their underlying data stores. The framework further enhances integration with business planning systems, supports knowledge management, business process, performance management technologies and users. A BI strategy should have a comprehensive approach in describing the current and future behavior of the processes, technology, people and other components to ensure that they align with the goals and strategic direction of the enterprise. 
The BI framework brings together data governance, data architecture, technical architecture, data integration, data quality, end-user information delivery and data security. to empower the BI initiatives. A framework should set standards that BI participants must adhere to. Establishing a BI competency center or center of excellence as part of the framework will help you integrate BI best practices with ongoing the BI work and BI environment of the organization.

Vision to Empower All

We’ve already discussed the need to outline how a BI initiative will help the enterprise achieve strategic, tactical and operational goals. The BI vision should be to help drive better business performance by enabling all decision-makers, essentially empowering all employees, customers and external parties to be able to play their roles effectively as a result of the BI adoption. When laying out the BI strategy, you should have the vision to provide everyone with the ability to gain insight into business information to work on the strategic, tactical and operational levels.

A BI strategy should aim to support the complete breadth of decision-making abilities in the enterprise. Strategic decisions deal with long-term planning, are performed by top management, and focus mostly on demographic industry trends. These address broad issues to achieve general objectives. Strategic decisions are where BI traditionally has been implemented. Businesses today want more than just strategic insight from their BI implementations.
There is an expectation from BI to enable better execution of the tactical and operational decisions that the enterprise makes numerous times per day through more effective use of information. An example of such a decision would be a product manager deciding about the discount schedule or making a pricing decision for a product. Tactical and operational decisions are the drivers for day-to-day management of the business at different levels. These decisions have smaller business impact when measured in silos as compared to strategic decisions.
However, when put together, multiple tactical and operational decisions add up to account for a lot of value and can help significantly in driving better business. 

Implementation Approach - Think Big, Start Small, Deliver Value

It has been proven that an iterative approach to implement a BI vision works better than the approach of a big-bang BI deployment. Iterations must be focused and well-defined to address specific business requirements. At the same time, iterations should be assimilated into the long-term implementation of the BI enterprise. Iterations are driven by specific requirements but guided by the broader, enterprise-wide roadmap. You should try to develop an implementation vision for the project that could be built out in steps. It should be phased through multiple subprojects, each going through iterations.
The BI implementation approach should be agile and adaptive so that the project implementations can be organized and managed effectively. Prioritization is the key in implementation. Work with business to prioritize the iterations according to business needs leading to the value-based implementation plan. The BI strategy should encourage parallel development tracks where multiple steps and activities can be performed simultaneously. You should make an effort to follow parallel development approach on various tracks of BI work, such as for data integration (back-end processing), reporting (front-end information delivery), data governance (establishment of governance body, policy and processes) and metadata repository tracks (data navigations tool for information lineage, impact analysis and business definitions), keeping in mind the interdependency of tracks.

BI Solution Adoption by Stakeholders

True returns can only be achieved when the BI is adopted by the enterprise and it penetrates into the business processes. Too often what’s missing from BI is moving from insight to action and therefore failing to exploit the potential of BI. The overall aim of a successful BI strategy is to help business with improved information management and better decision-making. A BI strategy should address the steps required for successful adoption of BI solution by stakeholders. Education and communication regarding BI initiatives is necessary to help your end users derive value from the BI environment. As the data is introduced in the BI environment, training sessions, data forums and metadata need to be made available to the BI community. Be sure to offer good metadata (a data dictionary including definitions and data sources), business logic (tie the data to the business goal), key dimensions and metrics (including how to use them for best results), and data availability (when and where data can be found) to enable BI adoption.
A successful BI strategy aims to help the enterprise leverage its information assets effectively to gain a competitive edge in the market. BI strategy document should highlight high-level training programs, support organization, a collaborative BI environment and socialization of the BI solution. The objective is to provide an enterprise with the improved analysis, planning, forecasting and decision-making by all users. As part of a BI strategy, you should address cross-functional business analysis and the decision support environment. Creation of a BI strategy provides an opportunity and a method to document and align BI investments to business objectives. This will also help you in determining the functional areas of your business that are being served well and the ones that need improvement. Always remember, the goal is to bring value to the business by empowering all stakeholders.
A plan to enable successful adoption of the BI solution is the key component of the BI strategy. Create enterprise-wide processes for collection of data and transformation of data into information and knowledge. Plan to support end users with education and communication. Establish cross-functional support for the BI solutions at different levels in various functions of the enterprise. You should also plan for usage analysis to support and enhance the use of BI platform. Determine usage patterns is critical to the success of your overall BI strategy as this will help you achieve ROI to make and maintain the environment. The creation of a successful BI strategy widely accepted by users in the enterprise delivers true value.
Part 3 will continue and conclude the discussion.

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