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You Can't Spend Your Way to Business Intelligence Success

by Dave Hannon

December 5, 2011

By Dave Hannon


There has been a change in IT priorities taking place at many companies in the past couple years and it may well be taking place at your company. There's an increased emphasis on data and business intelligence (BI), which is forcing IT departments to put the automation benefits that IT provides on the back burner.

This shift is documented in a recent survey from the Corporate Executive Board which states that CIOs plan to spend 39% of their 2012 budget on information management initiatives and 32% on automation projects. "This represents a significant shift in IT departments' priorities as information outstrips process automation," the report says.

CEB predicts this trend will continue and even accelerate due to the "rise of big data and the desire for organizations to use information more effectively for competitive advantage."

Another survey released recently by the Society for Information Management (SIM) also ranked business intelligence as the top application or IT investment in 2011, ahead of cloud, ERP, mobile, and CRM.

While this news may not be a total shock to you, these surveys do put the trend into some perspective. Companies are putting their IT budgets where their mouths...are...and supporting BI. Data-focused initiatives are going to get bigger and more than likely a larger percentage of the IT budget will be dedicated to these projects. But the spend level is merely a number to help document the trend, it is not the answer to the business intelligence challenge.

Put another way: you cannot spend your way to a successful BI strategy. Maybe there have been past IT initiatives where you were able to buy a piece of software, pay a third-party to implement it, hire a training consultant, and get users up and running on the software. But BI is different. To develop a business intelligence strategy that is meaningful to your company, those involved need to understand your company thoroughly, including both its current goals and future goals. It might require sitting down with every business organization in your enterprise to understand how they can benefit from BI. This will not be quick.

It's a lot of work and frankly, there are a lot of areas you can go wrong. So if you're feeling unsteady about BI, you're not alone. A survey earlier this year from TEKsystems confirms budgeting is not the main hurdle to BI success. According to the survey, 47% of IT executives polled were not confident about their business intelligence strategies. Why? TEKsystems Director Rachel Russell explains: “While some IT leaders cited a lack of allocated budget (39%) as a critical reason for their lack of confidence in their company’s business intelligence strategy, the resounding issues are clear: IT leaders do not feel that IT, the business and the enterprise as a whole are in sync on the strategy or how to find the right talent to execute it.”

So while you have to have the budget in place to support your BI initiative and have the technology in place, that al one won't bring BI success. In fact, when it comes to business intelligence, getting the budget might be the easy part (I can see you rolling your eyes). Developing an enterprise-wide strategy for how you will use business intelligence, what is most important to the various parts of your business and how it should be delivered -- that's the tough part.

To learn more about setting a strategy in these areas, read this Q&A with Tianbing Qian, Senior Director of Information Solutions, Celestica.

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