Selling the Business Intelligence Implementation

The
old saying goes you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. The
same can apply to the struggle that can ensue in selling a Business
Intelligence Solution to the wider company audience. You can show the company
leaders the data and the results but how do you ensure as a consultant that the
company continues to use the information after you have left.

Introduction

Business Intelligence uses a variety
of systems – data warehouses, business analysis and data mining to track a
company’s data and key trends, with the aim of improving these key processes to
improve market performance. From a consultants perspective you have been
successful if the company or organization that you have been working for
accepts the ability of the Business Intelligence system introduced to assist
them in their decision making. A successful implementation is usually driven by
an urgent requirement to make sense out of all the companies’ myriad of
information to drive a vision of market place enhancement. Business
Intelligence projects are usually initiated from a senior management level and
for them to succeed, ongoing support from this level along with an ongoing
business motivation and the availability of data to support the project are the
minimum requirements for a successful project.

Selling the Business Intelligence Idea

In my experience, over many years of
delivering projects to major organizations, it is critical to identify those
members of the organization who are championing the idea of Business
Intelligence within the company and work with them to promote the benefits of a
successful implementation. I usually have at least two or three running systems
installed on my laptop along with example data, which is usually tailored for
the company – this helps to deliver graphically the results that can be
expected, especially when in boardroom level meetings with personnel who are
not fully committed to the idea of a Business Intelligence implementation. The
aim of these meetings however is to convince these powerful people that the
project can be successful and that the benefits will be immediately visible and
more importantly, profitable – especially as the project is likely to be a
major investment for the company. At this point, it is critical to set the
goals for the project – managing expectations is a major part of ensuring that
the business community who will use the project, buy into it. Ensure that you
are clear in your delivery to the group about what can be expected from the
various example systems you are displaying. Once you have explained what can be
achieved, take time to listen to their concerns and any further requirements
they may have. It is important to take notes and ensure that the questions
raised are answered quickly and fully.

A few points should be raised at this
level to ensure that everyone is aware of the various pitfalls that may provide
trouble during the build:

  • Ongoing support availability
  • Alignment with business requirements
  • Quality of and availability of data
  • That the system implementation will only be successful if the
    business buys in
  • That the project is structured to start small and grow (do not
    tackle everything at once)

Requirements

Once this initial meeting has been
concluded, ensure that any questions raised are answered quickly and completely
– this ensures that the business leaders do not think that this is just another
‘IT Project’. In my experience, communication is key to a successfully
implemented Business Intelligence project. It enables the project to be kept at
the forefront of the company agenda especially in the current economic climate
where funds are at a premium. Ensure that once the go ahead for the project has
been given that the requirements collection follows quickly and is
comprehensive and personal. In my experience it is critical that the
requirements collection is achieved by face to face meetings with all
interested departments of the business and that any current reports that are
discussed at these meetings are fully broken down during that meeting and
copious notes taken. Stakeholders who are present at these meetings will go
back to their various departments and discuss the possibility of being able to
see a particular part of the companies data, which will provide the department
with the ability to perform better. This is the aim of the personal requirement
meeting – it empowers the business user with a stake in the project.

The Design

The project can now go forward and not
to be discussed in this article are the many stages of Technical Architecture
production, Data Selection and construction of the ETL process. However, during
all these processes – which as the consultant you will be responsible for – the
watchword must be communication, communication and more communication. At every
stage a brief meeting – I prefer the face to face medium – or if this is not
possible a stakeholder email to explain where the project is and the progress
so far should be delivered. If you try to ring
fence the project from outside business influence it will fail – the
delivery of a Business Intelligence project must involve and have business
influence otherwise it is not fit for the purpose for which it is intended.
When the model is complete and it is time to start delivering data to the user,
I find it most helpful to involve all stakeholder departments in this process.
I will set up a conference room with the ability to display the raw OLAP data
in a reporting host, which allows manipulation and creation of basic reports.
At this point, I will have used the requirements collection to create some
first view reports and KPIs, which can then be delivered to the stakeholders
for their dissection, consumption and analysis. Again, communication is key,
feedback must be used constructively and queries answered either at the meeting
or very quickly afterwards. The system can then be tailored to the
stakeholder’s requests to ensure that ­­their requirements
are met.

Conclusion

Business Intelligence is described as
referring to computer-based techniques used in spotting, digging-out, and
analyzing business data, such as sales revenue by products and/or departments
or associated costs and incomes. BI technologies provide historical, current,
and predictive views of business operations and focuses on all-source
information and data (unstructured or structured), mostly external to, but also
internal to a company, to support decision making. [1] This decision making is
critical in how a company performs in today’s information critical environment
and more and more organizations are turning to Business Intelligence
professionals to provide this view on their critical information. As a Business
Intelligence consultant, your challenge is not usually the sourcing or delivery
of the information, but how that information is used going forward once you
have left the organization. I have explained the processes that I use to ensure
that the company’s employees are invested in the project and that all major
stakeholders are happy with the results of their system.

Additional Resources

IBM New Intelligence Briefing Center
Smarter Ways to Manage Information

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Peter Evans

Peter Evans
Peter Evans
Peter Evans, a Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing Expert, Targit Certified Professional and industry recognized independent consultant specializing in delivery of applications utilizing primarily but not exclusively Microsoft technologies and in delivery of solutions to non standard cases. He enjoys explaining the methods e has employed in over sixteen years industry experience including work for major corporation and government clients.

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