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SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence platform

Business Intelligence Best Practices 1

Phase One - Do You Have a Strategy?

Go to Phase Two

Business Intelligence Strategy – Do You Have One?

Business Intelligence continues to be of the top investment priority for CIOs. The most critical success factor for a BI program is to have a BI strategy in place. However, only few companies today have a comprehensive enterprise BI strategy. Why? Major barriers to building a successful BI strategy include lack of alignment between IT and the business and the tendency to jump to technology decisions or architecture diagrams without considering what business problems the organization is trying to solve.

What are the signs that a company does not have a BI strategy?

  • The BI Strategy consists of a BI architecture slide
  • IT is asking the business what reports they need
  • Step one is building a data warehouse
  • None of the BI team members can articulate the company business strategy
  • There are no metrics defined to measure progress   

Example of questions typically answered by a BI Strategy:

  • Do we have sufficient information to make critical business decisions? 
  • What capabilities are required to make information available and useful? What are the dependencies? 
  • Are we using information to identify strategic and competitive advantages? 
  • What should the high-level BI roadmap of initiatives look like?  
  • What is our vision for information accessibility and usage?  
  • What business decisions do we not have sufficient information to make? 
  • What metrics should we use to manage the BI implementation and fulfillment of BI business goals? 
  • What kind of governance model do we need to support BI initiatives? 
  • How should we design the processes, applications, and organization to fulfill our BI vision? 
  • What toolsets should we use to fulfill our BI vision?


1. Find a high level Executive sponsor

An executive sponsor is someone who can understand the value of business intelligence, champion and promote the project across the organization. BI case studies report that a high level executive support is one of the key reasons for success. The role of an executive sponsor includes:

  • Championing the program 
  • Influence and gain trust of other c-level executives 
  • Approve the budget required for the project   

2. Business Intelligence Competency Centre (BICC)

In many ways the critical competency for success with BI is having the right people and program management practices in place. Having a broad-based Business Intelligence Competency Centre (BICC) is a crucial factor.
The role of BICC is to

  • Develop the overall strategic plan and priorities 
  • Define and implement the requirements (including data quality and governance) 
  • Help the organization to interpret and apply the insight to make business decisions

The BICC should be a cross-organizational group that encompasses of people skilled in Business, IT and Analytics.

Source: How to Define and Run a Successful Business Intelligence Competency Center, Gartner, August 2007

Examples of Business skills include understanding of line-of-business (LOB) needs, and ability to help business managers set and balance priorities by analyzing consequences of choices and creating business cases. Examples of IT skills include ability to understand the business intelligence infrastructure implications of business and analytic requirements, and deep understanding of how to access and manage data required to support business and analysis requirements. Examples of Analytical skills include fluency with key analytic applications and researching business problems and creating models that help analyze these business problems.

Depending on the type of organization, the BICC will report to a high-level business executive, such as the CFO, COO, CIO or chief strategy officer. Some potential BICC (or Center of Excellence) organization charts are below. Actual organization charts can vary significantly from the simplified options presented.

Business Intelligence Competency Center - Organizational Charts

Source: How to Define and Run a Successful Business Intelligence Competency Center, Gartner, August 2007

3. Alignment between IT and Business

One of the critical factors for BI success is the alignment between IT and Business. It is important to identify the intent and expectation from the BI initiative. The BI objectives should be closely aligned with the business objectives and business strategy. Understanding the information needs across the organization as well as by stakeholder groups is a key to success. Ideally, this will include prioritization of needs both within and across stakeholder groups. The activity of selecting priorities must be transparent and agreed on by Business Intelligence leaders and its stakeholders and where possible, tied to the impact on corporate objectives.

4. Define Architecture and Standards

Define architecture for different components of BI infrastructure. Develop and maintain standards regarding methodologies, definitions, processes, tools and technologies required to implement BI.

5. Develop roadmap, measure progress and success

It is important to develop a roadmap, measure progress and manage key decision points within the program timeline. Develop metrics that will measure both the implementation and ongoing success of BI.

As the market leader in BI, SAP has seen more implementations of BI than any other vendor. We make this experience work for our customers. Partnering with Gartner (the leading industry analyst firm with the largest BI practice), we have created a BI strategy development methodology based on best practices independent from specific products. Stay tuned to learn about this methodology in our next edition of BI Best practices.

For my information on how the latest innovations from SAP BusinessObjects can revolutionize decision making in your organization, register for our upcoming webcast on May 28, 2013, 8 AM PST:

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