I heard the following anecdote from a client the other day that "when IT did an audit of the access databases in the IT landscape they found more databases than the number of people employed at that company". Stories such as this are a clear illustration that not only is there significant demand in the business for information, but there is also an urgent requirement to govern it in an effective manner!
Since the end of 2010, this business demand has been further fuelled by the advent of visualisation tools that have opened up a ‘Pandora’s Box’, enabling the business to see their data in a highly visual manner, with high performance driven by the in-memory technology and without the latency often experienced in the generation of the reports.
One of the ironies for BI projects of taking this visualisation approach is that instead of the ‘typical’ scenario of IT having to convince the business of the solution, it is the often the IT function introducing inertia as it lacks the frameworks to address demand, which is quite a turnaround.
Therefore it’s important that IT adapts quickly to address agile requirements, so that it can harness the business demand and provide it with a platform that delivers the high degree of flexibility it’s accustomed to; in a controlled manner, of course. It is equally important that the business recognise the fact that they can no longer work in silos of spreadsheets or access databases. They need to ensure initiatives are integrated and focused on the value that can be delivered. To support this renaissance the following key areas need to be addressed to ensure the business demand can be closely governed:
- A clear information landscape: This needs to capture the different groupings of information that exist within the company from a business perspective and map them onto the high level organisational framework. This allows the business to confirm the areas of data that are important to them and the IT team to focus on establishing the prime system that provides the information. The IT team can then identify areas where data quality is a potential issue.
- Requests are channelled through a single governance body: To optimise information use it is important that as many initiatives as possible are governed by a single group. This enables interdependencies to be assessed, costs to be reduced, similar projects to be amalgamated - and a consistent governance framework can be applied.
- A prioritisation framework: As the degree of adoption of information management increases within the company, the capacity of both IT and business to support multiple initiatives is saturated. As a result it is a function of the governing body to ensure that there is a clear framework by which high value projects with a clear alignment to business strategy can be prioritised. In addition it needs to ensure an optimal mix between longer term initiatives (that put in place a strategic platform) and shorter term initiatives (that realise value quickly to ensure momentum is maintained).
- A single accountable owner: Once prioritised, there needs to be a single person who is accountable for a specific initiative. Their role is to ensure that both IT and the business maintain alignment and focus is maintained on value realisation.
- Value-based metrics: A challenge often made of BI projects is to demonstrate how they have delivered value. Therefore, it’s important to establish clear KPIs upfront to show how the insight provided by the solution has driven value. These metrics are the responsibility of the owner who is accountable for the initiative and are tracked within the governance body.
As the complexity and volume of the data increases and it becomes ever more transient, if a company is not able to get on top of BI initiatives and govern business demand it will start to drown in information and not be able to realise the value of the capital outlay. With apologies to the Ancient Mariner it becomes a case of "data, data everywhere but not a drop to use".
by Will Gatehouse, Process & Information Management, Accenture