Changing Your BI & Analytics Culture

Changing Your BI & Analytics Culture
I just finished reading a recent Aberdeen Group research report that examines differences between highly successful companies and laggards in how they use business intelligence and analytics. One interesting finding is that companies that benefit the most from their BI investments have executive sponsorship and a culture around information usage.

The report, based on feedback from 222 executives worldwide, found that the most successful companies were 140 percent more likely to have an executive sponsor or champion for business analytics. In addition, they were 82 percent more likely to have their information analytics projects initiated by a business manager instead of by IT.

Those research results demonstrate what should be common sense by now: that BI uses technology, but it's not primarily a technological tool. It's primarily a business tool. Unless it's clearly aligned with business needs and supported by the business culture -- as many comments on my previous post note -- it can't deliver the benefits that it can and should. Thinking of BI as "just another IT project" is a prescription for disappointment.

To get the most from BI, business leaders must take charge with a clear and compelling vision of how the organization can use business analytics to improve profits and performance.

So what can you do to ensure that your organization has the culture to benefit the most from BI? Here are some action items to consider:

Redefine the role that information plays in the organization.
Historically, reliable business information has been hard to get, so companies have learned to "get by" without it. With BI, you have the ability to get detailed and summary information in an integrated and timely way. You can use it to get even more and better information using business rules, such as by identifying "high-value customers." That lets you rethink how you use information to boost profits. But the leadership can't come only from IT: Business managers must redefine the role that information and analytical tools play in the organization.

Change the way you define information requirements.
Besides being inadequate, information has historically been fragmented into a haphazard system of reports from individual operational systems. Often, initial BI efforts focus merely on improving this outdated information paradigm because it’s so deeply ingrained in the organization. To overcome this hurdle, business leaders must broaden and enrich how their companies define information requirements. Only then can BI deliver maximum benefit.

Change behaviors in using information.
The dearth of reliable analytic information has led to another bad habit: In most companies, decision support processes arose in unstructured and ad hoc ways. They depended not on facts and solid data, but on individuals who had the institutional knowledge to make not-awful decisions based only on the inadequate information they had. BI provides better information, but that won't be used to support fact-based decision processes unless leaders can change behaviors that rely on inflexible and inadequate reports.

Even when the benefits are large and obvious, change is never easy. People are comfortable with what they know. People who derive status from outdated methods of obtaining and using information will naturally resist changing the methods. But if an organization's top decision-makers lead and support the effort, BI can transform both the business and the individual roles for the better.

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