In the 1989 phenomenal hit Field Of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s character, Ray Kinsella, hears a voice instructing him to build a baseball field. Later on in the movie, James Earl Jones, who plays Terence Mann, tells Ray Kinsella “If you build it, people will come”. What a great tag line. All you need to do is build it, and people will come.
Well, for Ray Kinsella say “all you need to do”, means driving across half the country, on a sometimes very scary journey, almost losing his house and all his lifetime savings, and not to mention almost having his daughter die. So, building it is not easy. But at least Ray is being reassured that once he is done, people will come.
Oh, how i wish this was the case in BI projects.
The build part can be similar. Erecting an enterprise data warehouse can be a very difficult and lengthy task. And any BI project, small or large, always presents challenges. Some are common to any project work, like scope creep or expectations management, but some are unique to the domain and have to do with the subtle dance BI professional have to learn between technology and business.
But the most difficult challenge, comes after the project work is supposedly over, and the new report, application, dashboard or system are in place. Will people come?
Unlike a mission critical operational system, a BI system is typically not integrated into the operational processes of the business. Its purpose is to analyze and examine these process in order to provide insight that can improve them. So, in its essence it’s a change driving force, and a lot of people in the organization don’t like change.
If there is no clear and decisive adoption plan for the BI solution that articulates very clearly how and why the system must be used to complete the operational business procedures, it’s very likely that, well, people won’t come, and while the quality of the product produced can be undeniable, without usage, it is worthless.
So, be sure to keep this in mind as you set your sights on your next BI project and ask yourself how will you assure that once your data modeling, etl, metadata management, reporting and dashboarding goals are all met, will you assure sufficient adoption by the business users community to guarantee your return on investment. The same way all the other project activities are planned, managed and risk assessed, the training, business process adaptation, perks and contexts around the new tool usage, must all be planned in advance as well, and be ready to execute once the development work is complete, and the BI product is rolled out.
There are a few situations where gaining usage of BI is a little easier than normal. One is so-called “operational BI,” where the BI application is used to make sure the business is running with at least minimally acceptable performance, for example, a report of late shipments. In this case, BI does become part of the operational process. A second is where the BI app shows metrics that are widely watched and evaluated, and especially those that figure into people’s evaluations and/or bonuses. A third is where a senior executive indicates that he or she will use the BI app to monitor business performance, and then you can bet that lots of others will view the app as well.
It really isn’t difficult but is quite often overlooked by IT. The B in BI stands for Business. Those folks need to be involved in the project from beginning to end. If they are included they will come. If they aren’t included… well, us old mainframe programmers learned a very long time ago that they MUST be included for success – even in a typical business application.
Thanks for you comment Tom. Good point about keeping the business involved to assure adoption