Having just recently published our 2013 Wisdom of Crowds® Business Intelligence Market Study, the group attending one of my recent Friday #BIWisdom tweetchats on Twitter wanted more insights on several of the study’s findings.
Of particular note was the fact that user penetration of BI solutions remains modest again this year, with 36 percent of respondents reporting less than 10 percent of users with access to BI.
Why is user BI access so limited? Budget? Politics? User resistance to change? BI has traditionally been more targeted to executives than to operational levels? The organization is not agile enough to act on BI insights? The tweetchat attendees believe all of these reasons are behind the low numbers.
Members pinpointed another reason for low user penetration: IT departments have very different priorities than line-of-business users. It was evident by responses in our 2013 market study that the past 12 months have seen an increase in demand among users for self-serve, ad-hoc and real-time BI tools. However, despite good intentions, ease of use and speed of implementation are not top priorities for IT departments.
There is a definite need to bridge the gap (described as an “abyss” in one of the tweets) between IT priorities and business needs. That’s why I started talking about the need for organizations to create a Business Intelligence Center of Competency (BICC) back in 2000 and included it as a topic in this year’s market study. BICCs are an effective way of bridging the gap.
“Should BI reside in IT or in a line of business?” a #BIWisdom member asked. I believe it should be co-owned and should reside in both worlds.
I think that the Finance group is in a unique position to help drive business intelligence through an organization if they are willing to rise to that challenge. Finance has tentacles everywhere. And financial metrics are a great starting place, especially for a public company. But it’s only effective if they don’t stop at the Finance department. Organizations need to evolve their BI beyond Finance to an office of performance or a BICC.
Our 2013 market study found that in organizations where there was a BICC reporting in to Finance, they were much more likely to be successful. By virtue of the fact that they had a BICC, in my mind, it also meant that they were willing to take on a broader set of challenges.
Our #BIWisdom tweetchat ended with an important question: How can we get to a point where BI is so pervasive that it’s invisible operationally, where people won’t even know they are using BI because it’s just part of the normal process?
A member tweeted that good penetration requires a BI “evangelist” along with tools and communications about success.
Another member said she believes that BI must be a top-down initiative in order for that to happen. “The C-level executives must declare that it is a data-driven company,” she tweeted. “This declaration even needs to be part of the onboarding process, and employees need to see that a data-driven strategy is a winning strategy.”
Improving today’s tepid BI user penetration requires the involvement of a CEO who is passionate about business intelligence. A company and its CEO are intertwined; in fact, in many cases the company is really an extension of the CEO. This is especially the case in smaller organizations. A CEO needs to understand where the market is going and make strategic and significant investments to move the company in that direction. Thus, the CEO is not only the number-one driver of business intelligence but also the number-one beneficiary.
Interestingly, our 2013 market study found overall that the executives across the board were not only the biggest drivers of business intelligence but were also the number-one target for business intelligence use. And that’s great because success requires a top-down approach. If BI initiatives deliver meaningful information on which executives can run their company, then BI will filter throughout the rest of the organization.
Howard Dresner is president, founder and chief research officer at Dresner Advisory Services, LLC, an independent advisory firm. He is one of the foremost thought leaders in Business Intelligence and Performance Management, having coined the term “Business Intelligence” in 1989. He has published two books on the subject, The Performance Management Revolution — Business Results through Insight and Action, and Profiles in Performance — Business Intelligence Journeys and the Roadmap for Change. He hosts a weekly tweet chat (#BIWisdom) on Twitter each Friday. Prior to Dresner Advisory Services, Howard served as chief strategy officer at Hyperion Solutions and was a research fellow at Gartner, where he led its Business Intelligence research practice for 13 years.