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BI Analyst Take:
Five Common Pitfalls to Avoid in BI Projects, Part 2

online columnist Lyndsay Wise     Column published in DMReview.com
February 15, 2007
  By Lyndsay Wise

The true determinants of business intelligence (BI) project success go well beyond the mechanics of finishing on time and on budget. Data quality, user buy-in and training, and consideration of future needs are among the factors that separate simple BI implementations from those that drive increases in organizational performance.

Data Delivery

Without proper data, BI is meaningless. The identification of required source system data and how that data interrelates are the essential pieces in the delivery of an organization's BI. Data delivery encompasses two aspects:

  1. Use of the right data, and
  2. Timely delivery of the required data.

Data cleansing tools are a critical component to ensure that dirty data is not brought into the organization's data warehouse. Non-cleansed data may lead to capturing duplicate, nonvalid records, building reports based on wrong data and decision-making based on inaccurate data. Data quality requires the ongoing management of data cleansing activities to meet and exceed defined data quality standards. Practical applications might include the data being used to run month-end reports or a sales manager using data to monitor the ongoing performance of her sales staff. Lastly, data delivery completes the cycle, distributing the right data at the right time.

Many BI solutions do not provide organizations with a one-stop solution to data problems because they do not have the built-in tools to provide the required data integration. Some best-of-breed data integration and data quality vendors provide enhanced data management solutions to create a full solution that solves data delivery issues during implementation. Without data management processes, organizations may lack assurances that the appropriate data integration activities will occur. Therefore, organizations should implement a data management structure to minimize frustrations that result from data issues such as capturing invalid or dirty data.

End-User Training

Proper scheduling of training is critical to the use of BI within the organization. Training planned too far in advance of actual implementation often leads to newly acquired skills going stale before the system goes live because of the long lag time between skill acquisition and usage. Additionally, user buy-in may subside as they lose the initial excitement that was generated during training. Moreover, substantial lag times between training and implementation may waste time and money, and delay adoption as training initiatives are repeated. Worse , end users may revert to the old way of doing things when faced with relearning the system. Consequently, the benefits of BI become obvious when training initiatives are successful, including how to leverage BI and to create additional reports and analyses.

Vertical versus Horizontal-Based Solutions

The decision to implement a vertical versus horizontal-based solution involves a trade-off between a quick implementation and long-term expansion within the organization. Vertical solutions provide organizations with domain functionality out of the box that likely meets most of their industry specific needs - manufacturing, financial services, government, etc. Although this translates into faster implementation times because the specified modules are developed to the vertical industry requirements, organizations should identify whether vertical solutions meet their future needs as well. Because BI expansion is a natural factor within any organization as the benefits of its utilization become obvious to other departments, vertical solutions may not be transferable to other areas within the organizations such as sales, marketing or finance unless large amounts of customization occur.

Horizontal solutions may require additional customization initially, but are easily expandable to meet the future requirements of each business unit within the organization because they are built flatly to provide general BI functionality. Organizations should identify their future needs and determine how BI will be utilized long term to decide which type of solution is most beneficial. If organizations anticipate growth across the organization, choosing a horizontal solution that is more time-consuming to implement initially, may pay dividends in the long run. Vertical solutions, by comparison, may provide a quicker path to a demonstrated success and thus organizational buy-in for BI, but may not translate into future benefit for the organization.

Issues related to project success are based on more than finishing a project on time and within budget. Making sure the proper data is delivered at the right time, achieving end user buy-in and fitting the solution to current and future needs are essential elements to ensure success in BI. Without these factors, BI might be implemented but its current and future use likely will be underwhelming. Additionally, identifying the business problem causing the need for BI and its actual usage within the organization are additional factors that should be considered to ensure project success. These factors identified do not reflect all of the pitfalls faced by organizations but provide a general guideline to help organizations plan and manage their BI projects from problem identification through implementation.


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

Lyndsay Wise is a research analyst covering business intelligence and business performance management. For more than seven years, she has assisted clients in business systems analysis, software selection and implementation of enterprise applications. Wise writes reviews of leading technologies, products and vendors in business intelligence, data integration, enterprise performance management and customer data integration. Formerly, she served as business analyst at Toyota and the Ontario government, implementing business intelligence and data warehousing solutions. You may reach her at lwise@tec-centers.com.

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