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Business Intelligence for the Enterprise, Chapter 4

This book offers a true enterprise view of business intelligence (BI). IBM expert Mike Biere shows managers how to create a coherent BI plan that reflects the needs of users throughout the organization -- and then implement that plan successfully. Biere explains how to objectively assess the business case for BI, and identifies proven solutions for the obstacles that lead many BI projects to fail. Chapter 4, "The Impact of Business Intelligence," shows the impact that BI can have on an enterprise and how to understand the key components of a complete BI solution.

Excerpted with permission from "Business Intelligence for the Enterprise," authored by Mike Biere. Published by IBM Press, June 2003, ISBN 0131413031. For more information about this book and similar titles, please visit IBM Press.

The Impact of Business Intelligence

End users simply want a better way to solve data-related business problems. They want to be able to attain some degree of self-sufficiency in many cases. Others just want to have the results dropped in their mailbox or reader and go about doing their regular functions.

The difficulty lies somewhere between the intent and actual skill of each user. Some individuals are simply not technically inclined or simply do not have the time required to learn a tool as well as they need to. Regardless of attributes of any user's profile (technical, non-technical, etc.), one of the first things that you must determine is the level of commitment they have to learning a tool and completing the necessary tasks. I will get into user segmentation later.

The impact of a well-conceived BI solution on end users can be staggering. You can search the web for success stories and discover a myriad of them. Many users learn about these successes and assume that they can produce similar or more spectacular results within their own realm.

The delivery of critical new business information can change the course of an entire corporation. Significant discoveries such as massive fraud are commonplace using data mining components. The brass ring is out there for the users, and it is possible to grab it.

Let's assume that our enterprise (or department, functional area, etc.) has tired of its current analysis capabilities and that we have done due diligence in selecting a vendor's BI offering and can now pummel our data into submission and get the results for which we have been clamoring.

The end users finally have their "intuitive" query tool and access to the newly created data…and they can't produce the result they desperately need. They find it easy to grab a few columns and produce or total this grouped by that, but the more complex requirements appear to be a bit more difficult than they were lead to believe. Most BI solutions go through a series of phases during the cycle from pre-sales to successful implementation.

The user phases traditionally follow this pattern:

  • Security/complacency: "We have always been able to dump data into Excel somehow and get most of the results we require. Analysis could be much better for us given the proper tools."
  • Frustration: "We simply cannot get the results and answers that we need from the data we have been given and the tools we have in-house."
  • Excitement: "We think that we know what we want and have been given a mandate (and hopefully a budget) to go shopping!"
  • Power: "These vendors really grovel, don't they?"
  • Skepticism: "Let's have a 'bake-off' to see which of these vendors is telling the truth."
  • Relief: "We have selected a winner, and the contract is signed."
  • Expectation tinged with some frustration: "The install is/is not going so well. We are getting a little worried, but we know it'll be okay."
  • Euphoria: "The tools are installed, and we have been given access to the data."
  • Sobriety: "End-user training or first experiences with the tool indicate that there is a bit more to learn than we thought."
  • Skepticism: "Maybe the other tool was better than I thought! Simple things are simple, but this IF-THEN-ELSE need we have is a bit hard to figure out."
  • Frustration: "I can't get this ##@!^%%$ tool to do what I want!"
  • Security/complacency: "We have always been able to dump data into Excel somehow, and I'll use the add-in for the new one and go back to what I was doing before."
This is a bit flippant and not exactly what you will see in every scenario. But I guarantee that it will happen more often than not if the end users are not intimately involved in the entire gamut of BI activities. Part of the problem lies in the users' expectations of what a query tool will allow them to do easily, if at all.

Read the rest of this excerpt and download Chapter 4: The Impact of Business Intelligence

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To purchase the book and similar titles, please visit IBM Press.

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