In the previous articles in this series we looked at technology fit, information centricity, demand management and delivery. In each of the installments, we touched upon the interplay of demand for information, organizational cultures and learning, information-driven decision-making, assessment of existing investments and the right technology focus. We will wrap up our series by looking at the role of strategy in guiding business intelligence.

All organizational decisions should be a result of how the company wants to position itself and what it wants to accomplish. Every company does this by developing a strategic vision first. Right or wrong, activities and people organize themselves around it and commit themselves to it. There’s a time to strategize and a time to execute. Companies typically assess their strategic plan once every couple of years, and then focus on the execution. These days, when companies are thinking of performance management, they tend to look at the enabling technologies too soon. But it’s important to first look at the organization’s culture and ask some fundamental questions. How metrics-driven is the company to begin with? How much does this permeate the organization? Are there any challenges with the data capture and reporting of the metrics? Is the organizational strategy clear and consistent? There’s no point in measuring performance if the activities are not the right ones to begin with. These questions are more important to answer than which dashboards, scorecards and reporting to use.

Maintaining flexibility is an essential requirement for strategic fit, especially when new objectives and business opportunities have to be pursued. Sometimes when executing, companies and people focus more on the commitment part and forget the key tenets of the strategy. For example, In the last few years virtualization technologies have become popular. The reason for virtualization is not just cost savings but better management of the underlying infrastructure. Company leadership’s commitment to virtualization may result in IT teams trying to virtualize everything. However, we have also found - sometimes the hard way - that some platforms don’t work well when virtualized. The key to remember here is that application stability should not be compromised, even with a mandate for virtualization.

If we are looking at a B2C business model, then customer-centricity should be reflected in the technology choices, the personnel development and staffing and the platform designs. Too many companies focus too much internally while forgetting the fact that they are in business because of customers. In the B2B business models, operational integration is critical, and the technology focus is usually on building interfaces. It’s more important to take an information-centric approach driven by use cases and expectations and not focus as much on developing point-to-point interfaces.

Being strategic doesn’t necessarily mean always looking long-term or abandoning the short-term. In order to maintain alignment with strategic objectives, first and foremost everyone in the company must know what the strategy is. People across business units and functions must be able to translate the strategy to their daily activities. If this is the case, then platform designs, technology choices and deployments must all factor in strategic implications. If the strategy of the organization requires that information sharing and viewing be from a single version of the truth, then introducing multiple BI technologies in such an environment, regardless of specific functionality or use cases multiple tools may address, doesn’t gel with organizational imperatives. Such companies eventually spend an inordinate amount of time building interfaces or migrating reports across platforms – neither option being a very productive use of resources. It’s in these cases that IT leadership needs to articulate the dangers of strategic misalignment.

In most organizations, business intelligence strategies are usually crafted around a central event. Organizational commitment is then garnered (or attempted) around the new strategy. Sometimes as the business environment changes, the actions are consistent with the outlined strategy but not in keeping with changes in the business environment. So it’s more important to work toward core tenets of the strategy rather than a very prescriptive playbook. This brings us back to what’s really important – having the staff to manage and execute on the strategy, being an information-driven company and focusing on the right technologies that provide strategic alignment.