In the presentation, Cindi Howson told about the top seven secrets to successful BI deployments:
- Measure success - For a project to be successful, it's important to first define what success would mean for the project, she said. Will it provide a business contribution (increased revenue, better processing efficiency, improved customer satisfaction, etc.), faster access to data, a quantifiable return on investment (ROI), a higher number of active users, or something else?
Then you should track how well your goals for BI success are met. "Don't think of BI as an ad hoc tool, but as a way to help people do their jobs better in the context they need it," Howson said.
- Consider the "LOFT effect" - BI initiatives can be boiled down to four different motivational factors, collectively referred to as LOFT, she said. That stands for luck (i.e., a change of leadership), opportunity (such as new business opportunities), frustration (for example, a company "flying blind" or dealing with data chaos), and threat (competition, the threat of bankruptcy, etc.).
- Get executive support - BI has become more important than ever because of the economic recession that has financially crippled many organizations around the globe. "The downturn has forced people to work smarter," she said. But which executives should IT concentrate on for getting support? According to Howson's research, CEOs have the biggest impact on getting new BI projects up and running, while CIOs and other IT managers have the least impact on that.
- Ensure a solid data foundation - To achieve BI success, companies need to recognize that problems typically start at the source because of factors such as disparate systems or a lack of data ownership. Howson said that master data management (MDM) software and other technologies can help alleviate data problems, as can the concept of "right-time data", which involves balancing the cost of timely updates against an assessment of where the delivery of real-time data can make the biggest impact in your organization.
- Foster an IT-business partnership - IT professionals tend to be more introverted and risk-assessing, and they like to document everything, she said, whereas business users often are more outgoing and more carefree with regard to risk and don't understand why new tools and software need to be tested for several months before being rolled out.
Communication is key to bridging this gap between IT and the business, Howson said, adding that IT should stay away from "techno-babble" and emphasize that life would be better with the new BI application than without it.
- Promote relevance - "Instead of waiting for the business to come to you, you need to be out there and studying what drives the business and deliver ways [that] BI and data can help them".
- Choose appropriate tools - A BI tool that might be perfect for a business employee in the trenches might not be the right one for a high-ranking executive, Howson cautioned. The key, she said, is "matching the right BI tool capabilities to the right user segment."