Making BI Fit Your Needs

According to Burton, one of the first things an organization must do in order to have a successful BI implementation is to “establish the business case for BI.” Shortly afterwards, well before any technology is deployed, the organization should establish a Business Intelligence Competency Center (BICC).

According to Gartner, a BICC is critical to the success of any BI implementation. The BICC is where an organization defines the scope and goals of a BI initiative, monitors ongoing progress, manages the budget, decides who will act on what data and – most importantly – ensures that BI cuts across the organization, rather than being stuck in application silos.

The BICC is the place where business objectives are linked to the technology tools that will be used to accomplish them. It’s also where parts of the organization that don’t normally interact meet to agree on common goals. “To do it right, the BICC should have equal representation from business and IT,” Burton stressed.

Finally, the BICC manages another important consideration: deciding who handles what data. Data alone is useless if not acted on, yet this is one problem that has unhinged many BI implementations. The reports look good and make sense, but no one does anything with them.

Encompassing process management

If Gartner’s predictions are correct, the importance of a BICC can’t be understated. First of all, Gartner believes that BI spending will grow to $2.5 billion this year, representing a 6.2% increase from last year. “When we surveyed CIOs recently, their number one technology concern was BI,” Burton said. In previous years, the top concern was security. As BI continues to gain traction, Gartner believes that it will be integrated into 85% of business applications by 2012.

Another trend, one on which both the analysts and vendors seem to agree, is that the nature of BI is evolving beyond reporting and querying to encompass process management as well, with traditional BI evolving into BPM (Business Process Management).

“There is definitely a shift taking place,” Cunningham of Business Objects said. “Rather than being all about data, BI is now as much about the business processes generating that data.” Rather than simply reporting that an inventory is low, a BPM tool can be used to determine exactly what should happen next. Moreover, for oft-replicated actions, it could even automate them, say, triggering an automatic reorder with a supplier.

This is exactly the sort of thing Casual Male is trying to do. Hernreich noted that they have developed an application that coordinates and synchronizes tasks among 520 stores. “If nothing else, it avoids a succession of endless phones calls and emails floating around,” Hernreich said. “Instead, we have a centralized way for store managers, district managers, and corporate to coordinate and plan.”

With access to updated, coordinated information, when someone at Casual Male updates an inventory, rolls out a new marketing offer, or discontinues a poor-selling item, they’re confident those actions are based on raw data, not educated guesses.