Addressing the Business Intelligence Leadership Gap in Your Organization
por Nancy Williams
Originally published septiembre 18, 2007
Many organizations experience what can be called a “BI leadership gap” in embracing the promise of business intelligence (BI) and in moving their organizations forward to realize the full potential of BI investments. TDWI Best Practices winners clearly demonstrate that business intelligence return on investment (ROI) is optimal when business intelligence is positioned as a business initiative aimed at improving business performance. This is no small task, involving technical, organizational, and business process change that must be supported by strong business and technical leadership. Unfortunately, experience shows that there is a noted lack of education and alignment of expectations about the need for strong BI leadership in many organizations. Common symptoms of a BI leadership gap include:
Having seen these problems repeated in many organizations that are struggling to establish a successful BI program, I will offer my perspective on their causes and potential remedies.
BI Core Challenges and BI Leadership
Whether a company is just getting started in business intelligence or is reinventing its BI program to get a better return on its investment, there are a number of business and IT core challenges that must be met in order to be successful. While the particulars might vary, all companies face the need to:
In our consulting practice, we think of these prerequisites for BI success as BI strategy, BI assessment, and BI program planning/management, and the fundamentals apply whether yours is a new BI program or an ongoing program in need of reinvention. The BI leadership gap occurs when business leaders and IT leaders provide an insufficient amount of direction, funding, oversight, and follow-through to ensure that a suitable BI vision is created, that the gaps and risks are understood and overcome, and that the BI program is managed so that BI-enabled business improvement opportunities are realized. The cost of the BI leadership gap is business under-performance and lost business opportunities.
To illustrate the BI leadership gap, I’ll draw on an engagement where we worked with a nationally known company to develop a BI strategy and road map. As part of the engagement, we posed a number of questions to the business and IT executives we interviewed. Two key questions and the associated representative responses were:
When we look at these sets of questions and responses, we see that leveraging business intelligence is felt to be a strategic imperative, with adverse business consequences for failing to do so. At the same time, there are a number of barriers to success, and most of them could be overcome with sufficient BI leadership. If business intelligence is as imperative as it appears to be for this company, then the BI leadership challenge is to address all of the identified barriers. In this organization, the business and IT leaders stepped up to the plate, but, unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Why the BI Leadership Gap?
BI leadership needs to come from both the business and IT organizations. During my career, I have had the opportunity to experience both perspectives. As an MBA, my background and training is in general business management. I have also spent a considerable part of my career in IT. As a business intelligence/data warehousing consultant and educator, I have had the opportunity to observe many organizations attempting to build a BI capability. From these perspectives, I have come to see that the following factors contribute to the BI leadership gap:
More broadly, and being of the same general vintage, I believe that the current generation of business leaders often has a limited understanding and appetite for IT, regarding it as a cost center. At the same time, many of the current generation of CIOs have risen through the classic IT disciplines, and thus they may not fully appreciate the business improvement opportunities that business intelligence enables. As a result, both sides of the “business-IT divide” tend to give BI short shrift – despite years of case examples across the spectrum of industries that show that business intelligence delivers competitive advantage and profit improvement. Thus, the BI leadership gap.
Building BI Leadership Capabilities
Experience suggests that there are 4 key activities that are fundamental to building BI leadership capabilities:
These activities combine to create the desire to lead in the BI arena and the skills required to do so. Specifically:
Taken as a whole, these four activities build BI leadership capabilities by creating the desire and know-how required to drive creation of a suitable BI vision, ensure that the gaps and risks are understood and overcome, and ensure the BI program is managed so that BI-enabled business improvement opportunities are realized. What’s more, this is a very practical approach that does not require huge amounts of executives’ time. In short, this is an approach that helps business and IT executives “get” BI and want to do what it takes to use it as a key weapon in their profit improvement arsenals.
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