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Empowering the Information Enterprise:
Changing Behaviors to Create Value

  Column published in DM Review Magazine
December 2005 Issue
  By Jonathan Wu

The quest to realize the greatest value from their investment in business intelligence (BI) and data warehousing (DW) technologies and solutions often leaves individuals and organizations wondering why they are realizing only some of the expected benefits. After investing resources, money and time into their BI and DW initiatives and creating technically elegant solutions, individuals who have access to these solutions often choose to obtain the essential information that they need through previous channels and means.

This was the situation at an organization that had just deployed its BI and DW solution. Even though adequate training had been provided and the BI and DW solution had been demonstrated to them as a more efficient mechanism for obtaining information, fewer individuals were embracing the solution than expected. From my experience, organizations that encounter this scenario are typically new to BI and DW technologies, and their employees are accustomed to manual processes and procedures. Noted novelist Arnold Bennett once said, "Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts." While most people don't like change, BI and DW solutions require change in order to work as intended. If individuals are not using a solution, no benefit can be derived by the organization and the investment in the BI and DW solution has been a waste of resources and capital.

If this scenario sounds familiar because individuals within your organization are not using the BI and DW solutions they should in order to enhance their performance, you will need to create or enhance your change management program to reward usage and deter individuals from relying on past information-access methods. All successful BI and DW solutions incorporate training as part of the deployment phase. Software training teaches individuals about the features and functionality of the BI and DW solution while education provides them with the understanding and knowledge of the business definitions and rules that are incorporated into the solution. However, one crucial point must be remembered: training by itself is not change management. Training is a very important component to effecting change, but it is just one component of a change management program. There are several components to a BI and DW change management program that must be assembled in order to create an effective program. These components are summarized as follows:

Communications Plan

A communications plan needs to be developed with a dual purpose: to raise awareness of the BI and DW solution and to inform individuals about its benefits (and in some cases, its limitations). The plan should address communications content, its means of delivery and timing. Communications content is your message - what, specifically, do you need to convey to your audience? The delivery is the vehicle you intend to use to reach them - e-mail, office signage, verbal announcements or Web site postings. Timing communication activities helps to coordinate message flow to individuals and needs to be conducted in parallel with the deployment of the BI and DW solution. Unfortunately, these elements of communication are often overlooked or approached in a haphazard manner because not much thought has been given to the importance of clear and concise communication and how it establishes and manages expectations. For BI and DW initiatives with large user communities, a communications plan is critical to the success of the solution because messaging can be easily lost or misunderstood and morph into uncontrollable expectations.

Training Plan

A training plan addresses the knowledge and understanding that is required by individuals who will be using the BI and DW solution. By classifying roles and responsibilities against the features and functionalities that these individuals need to know, a matrix can be developed that identifies training needs. From this information, an overall training curriculum can then be assembled. This would include the timing of the training, the manner in which the training will be delivered, assessment of the learning objectives and course progression for developing advanced skills and knowledge of the information solution by roles and responsibilities. For further information about effective approaches to the delivery of training, course content and structure and development of curricula that will elevate the knowledge of individuals, please see the three-part series titled "Training of Information Consumers" online at www.dmreview.com/article_sub.cfm?articleID=7587.

Usage Plan

Individuals who recognize the value of the BI and DW solution and how it positively impacts their daily activities will embrace it with minimal additional incentives. Usage plans target those who are resistant to change. "Resistors" can initially be difficult to identify, but monitoring usage helps to spot them more easily. For these individuals, changing their daily routine requires focused dedication that involves gathering and analyzing information differently than they are used to. Therefore, this plan must address rewards and incentives that will entice individuals to use the BI and DW solution. Some examples of positive reinforcement include internally recognizing and thanking individuals using the solution, showcasing examples of usage and asking advanced users to lead group discussions. At the same time, penalties and deterrents can be used to mandate change for those who require a more forceful influence due to their noncompliance, for example, terminating access and privileges to previous information sources, having supervisors speak individually with "resistors" about noncompliance and incorporating usage into individual performance evaluations and bonus programs.

Monitoring Capabilities and Assessment

Tracking the BI and DW solution's usage is important to assessing the effectiveness of the change management program. Such monitoring capabilities should track each individual's usage of the BI and DW solution by frequency and by access date and time. This information can be used to identify individual usage patterns, and based on these patterns, individuals can then be grouped by usage and role. Those who are outliers from their expected groupings can be easily identified and contacted about their usage. From this information, an assessment can be made as to the effectiveness of the change management program as well as consideration of any modifications to it.

To ensure adoption and usage of the information solution, a comprehensive change management program should be tailored to nuances of the organization and designed before the deployment of the BI and DW solution. The success of any BI and DW solution is directly dependent upon effective usage of it. Greater usage often translates into greater potential value that will be received by the organization. As Darwin said, "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change." Are individuals who have access to your BI and DW solution creating value for your organization?


For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Business Intelligence (BI) and Enterprise Information Management.

Jonathan Wu is a senior principal with Knightsbridge Solutions. He has extensive experience designing, developing and implementing information solutions for reporting, analysis and decision-making purposes. Serving Fortune 500 organizations, Knightsbridge delivers actionable and measurable business results that inform decision making, optimize IT efficiency and improve business performance. Focusing exclusively on the information management disciplines of data warehousing, data integration, information quality and business intelligence, Knightsbridge delivers practical solutions that reduce time, reduce cost and reduce risk. Wu may be reached at jwu@knightsbridge.com.

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