Why your Business Intelligence Implementation shouldn’t be a tug of war between Business and IT

  • Richard Thelwell
  • August 5, 2014

When it comes to a Business Intelligence implementation, everyone thinks THEY know the best course of action and this often causes conflict between business and IT departments. However, this process need not become a tug of war, and effective collaboration could dramatically improve the outcome of a BI project.

One of the most common mistakes made by companies engaging in a new Business Intelligence implementation is failing to achieve clarity over who is heading up the project. Internal conflict can often arise between business and IT leaders, as they frequently have differing views as to the best course of action. This internal conflict may contribute towards the persistently high failure rates associated with traditional Business Intelligence solutions.

So who should lead your Business Intelligence implementation? Business or IT? Does it really need to be an either/or decision? Or can the answer, in fact, be both?

Finding a middle ground

Business and IT departments often have very different priorities when it comes to a Business Intelligence implementation – and this can cause great dispute. Business users are typically concerned with factors such as speed, clarity of information, ease of use and sustainability over time. IT users on the other hand are more concerned with factors such as stability, scalability, security and vendor reputation to minimise risk.

Phil Rubens argues giving too much control to IT departments could be a mistake as this focus on risk minimisation may cloud their judgement of what is best for the business.

However, according to Gartner analyst Boris Evelson, going in the opposite direction and giving too much influence to business users could be just as detrimental in the decision making process. He argues that they will favour solutions that will ‘’let business users do what they want, without having to depend on IT report developers, but these solutions may not be secure or robust, so the trick is to find a middle ground’’.

Collaborative decision making

Throughout a typical Business Intelligence implementation process, it is likely that a number of challenges will need to be overcome. By involving end users in this process, it allows new perspectives to be sought on these challenges – and this may improve the speed and ease with which they are met.

Having users from a range of different departments will provide a greater wealth of knowledge to be exploited and this type of collaborative decision making could allow faster, better informed decisions to be made. This is a view shared by Jeff Roberts (@jeffjohnroberts) who argues that “The better approach is to treat data in a more agile manner, and create teams that consist of both an IT person and a business executive. Together they can scan the data for opportunities that will yield a quick and concrete success.”

There is, of course, a point where the law of diminishing returns begins to set in and additional involvement proves to become more of a hindrance than a help. With too many opposing viewpoints, it becomes increasingly difficult to reach a decision so this process has to be well controlled, promoting collaboration of knowledge rather than a frenzy of ideas.

Circumventing IT departments

In order to avoid confrontation between IT and business users, many organisations are choosing to bypass IT altogether when carrying out a Business Intelligence implementation. This is because business users often see IT as an obstacle to getting the technology they really want, rather than as a partner.

Don Tennant comments that ‘The consumerization of IT has resulted in line-of-business users frequently acquiring and using technology without interacting with the IT department’.

Indeed, the rise in popularity of Self-Service Business Intelligence tools means that IT departments are no longer an essential component in these types of projects. These tools are designed to be extremely user-friendly and do not require the strong level of IT competency necessary for traditional BI solutions.

With IT staff playing a diminished role, if any at all, in the implementation process, business users are free to implement the solution they want without objection. However this may lead to them neglecting some of the aforementioned security factors which may cause problems in the future.

Build or buy?

So what can IT departments do to remain involved in the Business Intelligence implementation process?

Don Tennant believes that they should be more open to buying off-the-shelf solutions rather than focusing on trying to build their own systems internally. Many Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business intelligence vendors, such as Matillion, offer their BI solutions as a managed service. This significantly reduces the workload for IT departments and can help to alleviate any tension that may arise with business users.

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