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Top 10 Business Intelligence risks (and their solutions) (Part One)
22 Sep, 2011 - Lachlan James

Risk. Which perilous feats do you envisage undertaking when the word is uttered? Skydiving? Base-jumping? Whitewater rafting?

Whatever springs to mind, Business Intelligence (BI) probably doesn’t rate very highly on your personal jeopardy scale. But, implementing and managing an effective BI solution and program really can be risky business.

Here are ten of the most common BI risks and how you can (hopefully) avoid them:

  1. Your selected BI tool doesn’t live up to the hype: Many project managers have been duped by the silky smooth promises of BI sales teams. Sure, the BI solution might be slick, but is it the best fit for your specific data types, customers (users – internal or external) and reporting needs?
    • Solution:
      • Conduct a thorough vendor evaluation process. Make a list of vendors and seek referrals.
      • Request a thorough product demonstration and be demanding – a good demonstration is a fluid two-way dialogue, not a vendor monologue.
      • Undertake a detailed product evaluation and Proof of Concept (POC) process.
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  2. Resistance to change: Most BI implementations will encounter some form of resistance from people within designated user groups. This often occurs when the value and usefulness of the project has not be clearly communicated. If your intended user-base views the introduction of, or modification to, a BI environment as an added hassle and imposition on their time, user adoption will falter.
    • Solution:
      • Develop and adhere to a comprehensive change management plan. Effectively and continually communicating the reasons underpinning change and the benefits is vital. The value of a BI tool is not self-evident to non-technical people. Explain how it assists them to complete their job more efficiently and to a higher standard.
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  3. Failing to account for change: The culture, environment and focus of any business will change. Therefore, BI requirements, project scope/parameters, reporting needs, data models and data sources will always be in a state of relative flux. Failing to account for these likely (or practically inevitable) changes between the requirements gathering and implementation phase of a BI project can lead to the introduction of a BI solution that fails to reflect true business needs and is poorly aligned with organizational goals.
    • Solution:
      • Change is a constant factor, so plan for it. Develop each project phase in an iterative manner, continually ensuring that development is catering for actual business needs.
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  4. Poor data quality: Neglecting to adequately clean your data and implement stringent data change management policies, before going live, will culminate in disaster. Delivering meaningless and inaccurate reports will damage the perception of the BI project (perhaps irreversibly). First impressions really do count. Winning back the trust of users and executive sponsors will prove an unenviable, perhaps insurmountable, task.
    • Solution:
      • Only fools rush in. Get the back-end right first. “Remember, you only get out what you put in.” (Who feels like they’re in a Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain commercial?)
      • Put strict data change management processes in place to ensure that alterations to source systems do not accidently, or unknowingly, affect the output of your BI tool.
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  5. User adoption is poor: A project manager’s and BI team’s worst nightmare: The ‘go’ button is firmly pressed, but the only activity on the BI platform is the slow, depressing roll of cyber tumbleweed. If no one uses your BI tool, no matter how good it is, the potential benefits and ROI will never be realized.
    • Solution:Include end-users in the purchase decision to ensure that your customers (business users) find the software intuitive.
      • Include representatives from each defined user group in the project delivery team to allow input from end-users throughout the development cycle.
      • Deliver iterative results that cater to business needs. Business needs must drive the technology, not the other way around.
      • Support your BI user community after launch. Provide accessible training and support services.
      • Monitor usage closely to ensure that user adoption is, and remains, strong.
      • And above all, if people aren’t using the tool, ask them why. Addressing and rectifying any problems (perceived or actual) before a culture of negativity develops is critical.

Where to next?

Look out for part two of our top ten BI risks – Top 10 Business Intelligence risks (and their solutions) (Part Two).
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