Companies Struggle to Harness Business Intelligence

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Michael Causey, Editor-in-Chief, Association of Clinical Research Professionals

Business Intelligence (BI), the process of transforming the raw data companies collect from various operations and sources into usable and actionable information, is an often under-utilized and misunderstood tool in the strategic arsenal.

A new white paper from Information Builders by Kevin R. Quinn notes that companies are increasingly leveraging BI software to help them aggregate, manipulate, and display data to further inform their decision-making. Harnessed properly, this can improve the way companies do business if they utilize the proper business intelligence improvement cycle (BIIC).

But many companies fall short of their BI potential for several reasons, including:

  • Users’ skills and desires are misinterpreted.
  • An emphasis is put on the wrong stage of the cycle (plan, improve, measure, and analyze).
  • No information self-sufficiency.
  • No culture of established measurement.
  • Disparate tactical BI solutions gain footholds.

Let’s look a little more in-depth at how these common pitfalls trip up companies.
SKILLS MISINTERPRETED: There are four categories of information workers. Nontechnical business users, who tend to make up 80 to 90 percent of the workforce, business analysts, power users, and IT developers. Quinn says that too many organizations focus all of their BI resources and tactics on the business analysts and power users, this prevents “the majority of users from using the tools and becoming part of the information culture.”

WRONG EMPHASIS: Quinn argues that companies often neglect the first stage, planning or gathering information, in their haste to get to the good stuff. As the old computer adage goes, “garbage in, garbage out.” Planning and collecting information may not be as fun as working with the data, but it’s the foundation for the success of any big BI project.

LACK OF SELF-SUFFICIENCY: A common pitfall when setting the BIIC in motion is that the IT department is relied on as the sole information-producers in the company, while of course they aren’t the only group that generates data. “This causes an imbalance that leads to a heavier burden on IT because as more and more information consumers need information, more and more requests are made of IT.” Making matters worse, IT personnel frequently don’t understand the underlying nature of the business questions that data users are looking to answer, so their responses are often incorrect or incomplete in practical terms.

NO MEASUREMENT CULTURE: We’ve emphasized this before. If there is not buy-in at the top, any initiative is most likely going to fail. No exception here, Quinn says. “If executives are the only people who are about measurement and the improvement of those measurements’ outcomes, the motivation to improve will not be established among the ranks of workers who have the capability to make the necessary changes.”

DISPARATE SOLUTIONS: Quinn writes that many organizations purchase BI tools without a clear strategic plan for using them to truly make changes within the organization. When reports are generated at the behest of a Big Cheese, for example, rather than being part of a bigger BI plan, key reports and key information is often locked in figurative silos without contributing to a smooth-flowing BIIC.

Quinn advocates a simple method of information access and distribution along with open communication within an organization to ensure that everyone understands the value of BI and why an intelligent BIIC is a critical component of success in today’s marketplace.

Editor’s Note: To read the full white paper, click here. Note: Registration is required.


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