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Originally published 6 January 2010
In my previous article, I discussed how a business intelligence strategy is confused with a technical architecture document which is a very common practice regardless of industry, company size or maturity level.
I also addressed three main components of a true BI strategy document which basically tries to answer three questions of who, what and how. I will be explaining the who component of BI strategy which is basically the concept of a business intelligence competency centre (BICC).
Lack of a true BI strategy has led many organizations to create uncoordinated and siloed business intelligence implementations which resulted in multiple technologies, processes and skills within the organizations. In most cases, tactical BI projects originated in multiple departments regardless of how they will contribute to overall company objectives. IT people support these initiatives without questioning the impact on the IT strategy.
One starting point to establish a solid BI strategy could be to take an inventory of the all BI initiatives along with the people, processes and technologies within the organization to understand the reasons for such a siloed environment.
Some organizations have formed BICCs to improve the overall success of BI initiatives. Many of the BICCs have been formed to make sure that business intelligence is driven from the business and aligned with cross-organization initiatives that include a wide range of users, customers and partners rather than IT-driven projects.
BICC develops the overall strategic plan and priorities for business intelligence, defines the requirements (including data quality and governance), and helps the organization to interpret and apply the insight to business decisions.
In this section, I will try to shed some light on the common practices of BICC structure.
1. Be Responsive: BI is all about business defining strategies, people delivering those structures, processes supporting overall communication and underlying technologies. All of these need to be driven by business objectives, and it is inevitable fact that business objectives, processes and organizations will constantly change over time. Your BICC needs to be able to change with your business needs. Technology will change for sure with new products, vendor offerings and consolidated tools. A BICC should be responsive to all of those changes, whether internal or external, and take necessary actions to help facilitate the changing needs of all parties.
2. Define Clear Sponsorship: It is important to have a CxO-level or equivalent sponsor for your BICC that is actively involved in the process by providing strategy and direction to overall program. It is important that your sponsor understands, and is committed to, his or her responsibilities. This senior executive should not only guide the BICC, but should also promote the BICC's efforts and work with other senior executives to adopt and further develop your business intelligence efforts.
It is also important to monitor and adjust sponsorship to reflect the changes in the business objectives. It could be that your company focuses on the customer-centric metrics and performance; in that case, the BICC might report to the chief marketing officer. If the focus area is on the financial aspects, then your chief financial officer could be the main sponsor for the BICC.
3. Create the Right Mixture of People: The BICC should include range of members including business users, analysts and IT resources. Whatever the business priorities are (marketing, finance or operations), your BICC should have representation from other key areas of the business. This helps to promote your BI initiatives much easier ensuring a wider acceptance and adoption from users.
Figure 1: BICC Mixture, Roles and Responsibilities
4. Shift Focus at Different Stages. As your business objectives change and as your BI initiatives mature, your BICC is likely to focus on different areas. It could be case that during the initial phase, the focus would be more on strategy, governance, people and processes. In later phases, the focus would be more on building the BI systems, architectural concerns and technology developments. During the operation phases, the BICC would focus heavily on user adaption, user skill support and maintenance of existing systems and tools.
Although all of the tasks at different stages are equally important, the main focus should always be promoting the BICC within the organization so it continues to receive the necessary sponsorship from the business side. The BICC should spend most of its time on user adaptation, support and enhancing user skills which can be regarded as non-technological aspects.
5. Establish Correct Direction. Even if you create a solid BICC structure, it should be supported with a defined and prioritized list of projects that your BICC should focus on. Because a BICC does not make any decisions or set any prioritization about the business objectives within the organization, all internal clients from the business should clearly define which areas are most important to focus on, allowing the BICC to respond better to all type of initiatives either tactical or strategic.
Crafting a solid BI strategy driven by business objectives will definitely help organizations move from an IT-centric BI team to a true BICC. A BICC structure allows organizations to leverage their BI initiatives. That’s why organizations should spend enough time to decide the who component (BICC) of the BI strategy
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