Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Gartner BI Summit Message: Users and IT must align?

In the lead keynote presentation at the recent Gartner Business Intelligence Summit, a point was made to underscore the fundamental (and troublesome) differences between the IT function and end users - e.g., culture, language, perspective. This was done through a series of video vignettes with two analysts role-playing IT and Finance.

To some long-time Gartner followers, it was reminiscent of a presentation/skit that Frank Buytendijk and I delivered while at Gartner (circa 2002) called the "BI Paradox". In it Frank played the business user and I played the "IT guy" (that's me with the propeller hat on the left!) Eight years ago we confronted those same issues - with Frank requesting the latest user tool (a "magic 8 ball") and me offering a more "robust" solution
(a Radio Shack electronics kit - remember the ones with the web of color coded wires?)

The point being, IT (~90% of conference attendees) and end users still have very different perspectives when it comes to Business Intelligence. While some conference presentations surfaced this issue and offered some potential solutions - elsewhere the term "rogue user" was heard as a way to describe unruly business users who attempt to forge their own BI destiny. Granted, some users aren't cooperative, but most just want BI their way and they want it quickly. So while the "rogue" rhetoric may offer some comfort to beleaguered IT people, it doesn't help to solve the problem. Instead it encourages an unproductive divisiveness.

This issue is underscored by the chart (below), which comes from my recent Wisdom of Crowds Business Intelligence Market Study (TM), indicating that user-driven BI initiatives are on the rise - indicating an ongoing struggle between IT and the business for ownership of BI.

(click on image to enlarge)

In my keynote at Gartner's event, I presented content from my latest book, Profiles in Performance - Business Intelligence Journeys and the Roadmap for Change, where I attempted to tackle these same issues - using my Performance Culture Maturity Model (TM). I discussed what I call the "four essential forces", which must be present to create a performance-directed culture - an important precursor to real BI success. Two of these forces include "organizational activism" and "business advocacy". Sadly, users representing these forces are often misunderstood by IT and labeled as "rogues".

I am reminded of Cleveland Clinic, one of the case studies in my latest book. Their BI initiative (and early performance-directed culture) was driven by Medical Operations and Finance - great examples of both business advocacy and organizational activism. Branded an "alien application" (aka "rogues") and isolated by the IT Department, they had to "go it alone". This persisted until new leadership emerged with a new vision and renewed common purpose - which included performance-directed culture and BI as centerpieces. Now their very successful enterprise BI program is jointly owned by the business and IT .

In my opinion these user "rogues" should not be feared, rejected, isolated or controlled. They should be celebrated, embraced and partnered with. This is not to say that the path forward is an easy one. It is not. The average time it took the case study organizations in my book to approach a performance-directed culture was 8 years!

My recommendation: take a "rogue" to lunch this week and begin the process towards performance-directed culture and strategic success with Business Intelligence!

As always, I welcome your comments!


About The Wisdom of Crowds BI Market Study (TM):

The “Wisdom of Crowds” Business Intelligence Market Study was created as a way to give a voice to those actually using BI solutions (i.e., “crowds sourcing”), creating a new and different perspective for measuring BI vendors and products in the market.

The Wisdom of Crowds BI Market Study Findings and Analysis Report includes 68 pages of in-depth market and vendor analysis including over 25 pages of detailed vendor and product analysis, comparisons and rankings.

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  1. Howard,

    Your observations are very pertinent.

    At a number of times in my career I have been labelled as one of the "rogues", but this is not from a deliberate desire to be a non-conformer, but typically because I have had a genuine business need to fulfil. This need typically required data and processing which indicates an IT solution. However, when trying to follow the "official" route of requesting IT to deliver a solution, you can be presented with many barriers to getting any kind of official solution - not on the IT plan, may not use the current standard IT tools, not invented here, have not completed the correct paperwork (despite there being no published standard to comply with), perception of insufficient payback etc.

    Most business managers when presented with all these obstacles and still having a requirement for a business solution will be tempted to develop a local, "rogue" solution. Who wouldn't?

    The challenge for organisations is:
    * To break down some of the bureaucratic barriers
    * To engage with business managers and users to better understand their requirements
    * To allow easier access to resources to enable quick solutions
    * To sanction the development of local solutions, with certain controls, to allow ideas to be tested

    Such an approach should allow business to be more responsive to changed needs, for IT to better understand the true demand for their services and for the rest of the business to better understand the constraints that IT departments have to work within.

    Unfortunately, there may be some people who still will not conform to such approaches, we label these as Data Anarchists on our recent blog posts about the "Data Zoo". For such people, you may need to assess carefully the action needed to introduce more control and standardisation.


  2. Hi Howard,

    This is the thorniest of BI issues. Wayne Eckerson also wrote about this issue last week, dividing the world into "Red" people (IT) and "Blue" people (business). The ones to act as intermediares are the "Purple" people, who can understand each other's language. I've blogged about his and your post here: https://www-950.ibm.com/blogs/performanceperspectives/entry/the_color_purple29?lang=en_us

  3. It is indeed!

    My bias is that intermediaries work less well than developing a common understanding within the two groups.