Sunday, November 13, 2011

Implementing a Business Intelligence [BI] Vision

In my last article I shared why having a Business Intelligence Vision was important, and how to go about creating a vision to describe how business intelligence will improve performance in your organization. We now need to look at how to implement that vision. The true test of a well written vision is that it can be readily translated, or broken down into specific strategic goals. So naturally, the first step in implementing a BI vision is to create and document a BI strategy.

The implementation of a BI vision must ensure that any technology or methods employed by business intelligence projects throughout the organization fit the overall BI environment. The BI Strategy acts as a guiding roadmap for Business Intelligence project rollouts.

As with any specific strategy within an organization one must start with the overall corporate strategy. Again, this is a solid test of how well the corporate strategy is documented. If it is not explicitly clear as to what the business wants to achieve in the short and longer term, then the strategy descriptive fails. The corporate strategy must be able to be broken down into lower level business requirements, that in turn can be scrutinized by the BI Program Team to determine what BI methodology and what supporting BI technology will help deliver to that requirement.

By addressing business requirements one at a time, project iterations can tightly focus on specific business requirements of each functional area. In turn, each iteration must align with the long-term BI vision. One of the best ways of achieving this is by using a high-level, enterprise-wide BI Road Map. So let's take a quick look at each of the BI components.

The BI Strategy Plan

The BI strategy document offers insight into the BI environment, with the focus on communicating:

1. What is to be built
2. How it will be built
3. When it will be ready to meet user requirements

The BI strategy also directs BI best practices that must be adopted.

The development of the BI Strategy Plan typically takes several workshops, each session breaking the strategy down into finer detail. For instance, the first BI Strategy Plan workshop my focus at the high level, with high-level diagrams that depict the various logical parts of the organization to be assessed in terms of BI readiness and BI opportunities. It will also cover general business intelligence definitions to ensure that all communications impart the same meaning, both within the group and between the group and the business. Finally, it will cover off broad policy statements and how compliance to BI policies will be communicated and enforced.

Subsequent sessions may include representatives from key parts of the business, in particular IT and HR.

* IT - provide invaluable support in terms of how the BI goals can be integrated into the future architectural vision for the enterprise. Without a broad architectural vision, BI iterations are at risk of resulting in discrete warehouse-centric implementations rather than an enterprise-wide, informational asset.
* HR - must be consulted in terms of change management and how BI will impact personal performance and measurement. BI used at a personal level will challenge the traditional HR performance models, and as such, the BI strategy team must make themselves available early in the program to help HR understand the full power and benefits of BI and how some traditional HR performance models work against BI being accepted, and more importantly, restrict the deliverables possible from BI

The BI strategy document becomes the road map to follow as you begin implementing the BI environment, and in turn, achieve the BI vision. I will share more about the contents of a BI Strategy document in a later article.

The BI Roadmap

The BI Roadmap is a powerful tool for communicating the implementation of the BI vision, and the subsequent BI strategy. It is best kept at a high level, as with each BI project iteration, both the business and the BI project teams learn more about the power of BI, and as such the order or level of execution of following iterations is very likely to change. Further, as the business environment changes so rapidly, the needs of the business change accordingly. Hence, the relative importance of various BI projects will be in constant flux. Budgets to meet offensive opportunities can often be garnished to apply to small BI iterations. This is why implementation of BI must always be in a highly agile framework.

BI Roadmaps are best developed firstly from a business perspective, to ensure that the most important business needs are addressed first. This is then overlaid onto a BI technology roadmap, which will add an implementation difficulty element to help define the final BI implementation path. A conceptual BI Technical diagram is useful for illustrating how all the BI technology fits together, and assists with both the strategy definition and subsequent implementation planning. I will cover more about how to identify BI opportunities in a later article.