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Business Intelligence:
Failure to Plan is a Plan for Failure

online columnist Jonathan Wu     Column published in DMReview.com
April 27, 2001
 
  By Jonathan Wu

There are two adages I think of regarding planning and launching a business intelligence project. They are: "Failure to plan is a plan for failure" and "Each hour spent planning is worth two hours saved during implementation."

Implementing business intelligence applications can be straightforward--but projects can also fail. If senior management isn't fully briefed and backing the information technology department's plan, the project may never see the light of day. In addition, IT managers, MIS directors and chief information officers must take great care in assembling the right implementation team and selecting the right business intelligence product. So, what's a blueprint for success? What steps can your company and department take to ensure that your business intelligence project planning and implementation come off without a hitch? Here's a checklist for doing the job right:

  • Define the project.
  • Identify the users.
  • Develop a formal project plan.
  • Assemble the project team.
  • Assess all information and technical needs.
  • Select the software.
  • Configure the business intelligence application.
  • Deploy a support strategy.
  • Train all users.

There must be a compelling need for developing a business intelligence application within your organization. In addition, management and the business community must have a general understanding and an appreciation of the value that BI applications can provide. Without these essential ingredients, there is no project. Individuals use BI applications to access data because they have a compelling need to obtain specific information and use it to solve serious business problems. That's why thorough planning is extremely important for getting your project off the ground and completed by the established deadline.

In fact, developing a formal project plan is critical to managing expectations and fostering understanding both within your development team and by senior management. The plan should contain the following items: business requirements, scope, deliverables, critical success factors, user acceptance criteria, tasks, timeline, roles and responsibilities. Your plan is a living document that must be updated throughout the life of the project. Your plan is a reference document which individuals can read in order to learn about the details of the project and to help manage expectations as to what will be delivered.

Goals and aspirations are rarely achieved without a plan.

Without a plan, you and your project team may wander aimlessly--hoping to complete the project in a successful manner, but not having the resources and the timeline to really do the job right. A successful BI project is one in which all of the organization's expectations are met or exceeded. User expectations can not be managed without following a course of action and formally documenting and communicating the scope and deliverables of the project. Remember that failure to plan is a plan for failure. So, I hope these steps will aid you in planning your next business intelligence initiative. The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step--and in this case your first step begins with proper project planning. Good luck!

The Top Questions To Keep in Mind When Planning a BI Project
  • Why does the organization need a BI application?
  • What does the organization hope to accomplish by using a BI application?
  • Are the project sponsors and key users accepting the plan?
  • Do members of the project team have the skills to make themselves--and the project--successful?
  • Does each member of the project team understand his/her role and responsibilities?
  • Has each member of the project team read the project plan?
  • Do they understand the scope of the project, user expectations and the deliverables?
  • What information will the users need?
  • Which BI applications contain the features and functionality required by the user community?
  • Does the BI application work as intended or as demonstrated by the vendor?
  • Have representatives from the user community reviewed the configured BI application?
  • Have they provided their comments?
  • Who will they contact when they have questions, comments or issues?
  • Do they know how to use the BI application to address their business questions?

Source: Jonathan Wu and Base Consulting

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For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Business Performance 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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