All organizations make decisions based on the business intelligence they have available to them. Much of this intelligence comes from the experience and intuition of management group. The other intelligence comes from the information presented to them in the form of reports and presentations. The basis of many of the presentations is information presented from spreadsheets using data extracted from various sources and combined using a business model. These processes are the first step in developing a business intelligence capability in an organization.
Many organization find this process quite cumbersome and very unreliable. I expect we all have heard or experienced decisions being made based on bad business intelligence. I think at this stage an organization should undertake a business intelligence readiness assessment. The process of the readiness assessment depends on the organization and its particular situations. However the result of the assessment is a plan for the organization to improve their business intelligence capability. The type of plan developed is very unique to each organization but a key ingredient is that the plan be practical and achievable for the organization. So many organization develop such ambitious plans that they have a low probability of success. Another key ingredient of the plan is that produce some bottom line benefit rapidly, we call this "Rapid BI."
This readiness assessment process consist of a series of steps that lead to a plan. The first step usually involves an assessment of the existing business intelligence process currently used in the organization. Then an assessment is made on how this process is serving the organization and managements decision making process. In addition we assess the capability of the organization to deliver improved business intelligence and how important an improved process is to the management of the organization. Technical capability is not sufficient to a successful business intelligence project, the business must be wanting better information and analysis.
The plan which is developed in concert with the business and IT organization will map out clear and practical steps the organization could take to improve the business intelligence capability. Often an organization has a preconceived notion that business intelligence and data warehousing is a very expensive proposition. Our opinion is that the business intelligence initiative must demonstrate value and results at every step in its development. Another factor in developing a business intelligence capability is that the process must be nimble and able to respond to the volatility of the business environment. This factor is a great challenge for the system developers but a very important ingredient of the plan. Often the initial steps in the plan are simple modifications of the existing systems to deliver better intelligence. The initial projects do not necessarily involve a major systems project. Improving infrastructure will come when the organization is ready and the potential return on investment can justify the expenditure.
Another important factor in the success of the plan will be the degree of ownership the management group take in the plan and how important the results are to the business. An organization can get help from experienced people to develop the plan but in the end the organization must make it happen. My experience tells me that the people who helped develop the plan must be ready to help implement the plan. A consultant who knows that he is expected to participate in the implementation will help create a more practical plan. Too often have I seen plans developed for organziation that are far beyond their capablility and readiness. These plans have a low probabiity of success. Outsiders can help but the organization must make it happen.