I am among the growing number of IT professionals who worry that business intelligence (BI) is in danger of becoming a dirty word. Why? Because BI initiatives often veer off course and become giant, money-sucking, bottomless abysses more commonly known as "long-term IT projects." These projects often rapidly burn through resources with huge technology investments. In these situations, folks in the C-suite can quickly become disillusioned with the project's progress. As a result, funding often evaporates, killing the projects.

It doesn't have to be this way. A BI initiative can be indispensable. Effective BI capabilities are essential to monitoring and managing business performance, understanding business events in context and developing strategies to help grow the business. The problem is that many companies lose the business part of the BI project. They generally focus too much on how BI tools can help them to slice and dice data and not enough on how BI as a concept can help them understand their business and meet strategic objectives.

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