BI Technology Selection: Who’s in the Driver’s Seat?

Author: | Category: Industry Trends | Tags: collaborative bi, bi, business intelligence | Published: 8/21/2015

BI Technology Selection: Who’s in the Driver’s Seat?

My previous post, User Agility or IT Control? Reconciling the BI Dilemma, elicited an interesting question for discussion:

Will line-of-business (LOB) managers factor in governance as a selection criteria for BI technology, when they lead the decision?

In my experience, it all depends on how mature the company is in its BI efforts. In organizations without a BI team/BI owner, technology selection tends to be optimized on a tactical level for the immediate task at hand:

  • Get insights into the business
  • Improve key performance indicators (KPIs) at a team or departmental level

Therefore, organizations at that stage might be less likely to prioritize governance, when they are selecting BI technology.

On the flip side, enterprises that have already formalized BI as indispensable to the business will make more holistic, strategic decisions, in which governance is often the backbone that underpins other decisions and goals such as the following:

  • How to propel a data-driven culture, within a governed environment
  • How to effectively roll out analytics to a larger user base
  • How to consolidate disparate tools into a standardized platform
  • How to be more intentional about achieving results

The whole question of whether BI decision-makers include governance as part of their selection criteria invites these tangential questions:

Who is actually leading the efforts to select BI technology? For instance, how often is the LOB manager, IT, and/or the BI program leader* in charge of these decisions about BI technology?

Presumably, all three areas get involved. Still, when it comes to identifying who initiates and leads the decision process, here at Pyramid Analytics we observe an increasing incidence of conversations initiated by the BI program leaders. Here is the basic breakdown we’ve seen:

  1. 45% of our opportunities originate from BI program leaders or their auxiliaries.
  2. Next, LOB managers and corporate executives (CxOs) initiate another 40% of prospecting conversations. They represent different departmental priorities—namely marketing, sales, risk management, operations, finance, human resources, and some others that handle industry-specific, mission-critical processes.
  3. Finally, core IT infrastructure teams trigger the remaining 15% of sales calls.

This distribution indicates a shift towards more hands-on involvement from business areas and even more so from BI program leaders who orchestrate holistic, strategic, and successful BI—the rise of the BI maestro, if you will. (Data Analytics in the Era of the Power-Share examines this shift, and includes strategic planning assumptions that are important for BI decision-makers to steer their program and platform choices.) It also depicts the increasing incidence and importance of BI practices and respective leaders in organizations, and their accountability to select a platform, drive change, establish processes, organize people, and ultimately drive results.

This type of multi-departmental selection process is typical for us at Pyramid Analytics, given our enterprise-wide platform approach. In contrast, vendors who go to market with narrower desktop-based tools might observe mid-ranked business users driving the selection – downloading applications directly to their computers to gain personal productivity.

Business users participating in the selection process is certainly optimal, since users ultimately have a key role in whether and how a BI solution is used regularly. Purely user-driven selection, however, is not the answer. There need to be decision-makers who direct and orchestrate the process with governance in mind, such as leaders of BI programs or LOB managers. Although the ability for business users to directly download desktop tools might seem convenient and user-friendly, these individual BI tools can create data silos among other issues. Preventing and dealing with the outcrop of individual tools, and its results, is one of many challenges that BI decision-makers face.

In my next blog post, I’ll talk about the successful BI leader/decision-maker — a BI maestro of sorts — and how this person successfully navigates such challenges to create a winning BI program.

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