Gartner predicts that business intelligence and analytics will probably remain the top focus for C level executives over the next couple of years at the least. Small to medium companies have joined the larger conglomerates in implementing BI solutions. The number of BI solutions has grown significantly, but so too are the number of failed implementations. The reasons are many starting from choosing the wrong BI solution to the end users not properly using the solution.

A mistake in investment can be very costly. Here are a few most common mistakes organisations make with selecting and implementing business intelligence solutions.

Unidentified Business Problem

Organisations should not rush into implementing any BI tools unless they have clearly identified business problems. One of the most common mistakes in pursuing a BI initiative is jumping in too soon without clearly defining the business problems that need to be solved. Without identifying the business problems, it is very hard to know if you’ve achieved anything at all or not, let alone measure the return on investment.

Most often companies invest in a BI solution with general overall capability as opposed to solving pre-defined business problems. This has been identified time and time again as one of the major mistakes companies make in implementing a BI solution.

Instead, start with clearly defining the business problems to be solved. Then also understand the specific solution to the problem so that you can look for that specific functionality within the BI tool and thereby choose the right BI solution.

Features Vs Functions

We see many instances where companies have invested time and effort in identifying their business problems and have shortlisted a few well known BI vendors. But when it comes to the sales process and demonstrations, companies are dazzled by the flash features and momentarily forget the functions. From trying to solve their specific business problems, they begin to evaluate the vendors based on features such as dashboards, visualisation, KPIs, scorecards, chart types and so on.

They forget about their specific business problems and sometimes don’t take into account the integration with other Office applications. For eg: Embedding live data from the BI dashboard into Microsoft Powerpoint which automatically refreshes if there is change in source data or easily exporting information into Excel or even creating a pdf out of the reports within the BI tool. These can come in quite handy during board presentations or sales meetings.

Whilst features are important, it is also critical to ensure the BI solution you choose integrates well with other business applications. You might solve your immediate business issues, but end up with a different kind of problem if other factors like integration is not taken into consideration.

Scalability

One other very common mistake we’ve seen is companies end up choosing a solution that solves their immediate need, but they have not considered scalability. The business industry is fast changing and as business grows or expands, you need something that is adaptable and scalable. There could be various factors involved. For eg: Sheer increase in data size, significant increase in number of users or maybe even a change in source data with the change of the backend ERP system.

A BI solution that can work with new data sources, be flexible and has an architecture that allows for scalability is critical. Do not ignore this question when speaking to vendors. Ask them for their architecture and how scalable the solution is. Else you will end up with a solution for a temporary fix of your identified business problems.

In addition, mobile devices are becoming more and more prevalent in businesses. Most C level executives would much rather have information at their fingertips on a mobile device if possible. This demand is only going to increase. It is essential therefore that the BI solution is able to cater to the mobile hungry market.

Rushed Implementation

A rushed and quick implementation is often times not a successful implementation. A little bit of patience can go a long way. Often times, end users haven’t had sufficient training and they haven’t been given enough time to acquire the skills needed to use the BI solution effectively.

Companies make a list of identified business problems and they expect to have solved all the problems in one go with the completion of implementation. This is often times not true and almost certainly frustrates users and the management alike. Very quickly they conclude that they made the wrong choice or blame the vendor.

Instead, take an incremental approach to business intelligence implementation. Rather than expecting to solve all your business problems in one go, prioritise specific outcomes you want to achieve. When you have resolved the first critical issue, move on the next one and incrementally resolve all that is on the list. Yes, business intelligence will most likely answer all of your questions eventually, but expecting all of the answers at once is naïve and most certainly a recipe for failure.

Unrealistic Budgets

We’ve seen many organisations exhaust their BI budgets on software licenses and a few days on implementation and training. Once they have exhausted their budgets, they feel left out in the cold with insufficient user skills and training. Often times this has been construed as incomplete implementation. The organisations don’t understand what went wrong and when the vendor tries to help, it is construed as another sales attempt to fleece them off their money.

Instead, negotiate with your software vendor to reduce the cost of the software license and increase the services. Budget for a 5-10% increase on the price the vendor gives you. You will need it more often than not. Read through the services fee with critical eyes and ensure that the user training takes up most of the cost and not the implementation and installation.

A good BI solution shouldn’t take too long to install and implement. The more time you invest in user training, the more you will benefit from the implementation.

Non Action with Information

Lastly organisations collect valuable information from their business intelligence solution, but then it just stays as “information”. There is absolutely no action taken. The information is not shared, not analysed and not acted on. This is a critical mistake.

With the implementation of a BI solution, the C level executives suddenly are exposed to a whole lot of invaluable information which they never knew before. They are mesmerised by the quality of information and often times just revel in the revelation but don’t do anything with it.

This is why it is important to also document the “solution” to the previously identified specific business problems at the start. You would then know what to do with the information gathered from the BI solution.

A good BI solution can be used to report on various data points, identify potential risks, opportunities and even forecast trends. Companies become complacent and are satisfied with a standard set of reports originally setup during implementation and do not take into account the changing business environment. Ideally companies should maximise the predictive analysis capabilities of the BI solution, identify potential risks and trends and make a well informed evidence based decision to drive the business forward.

In conclusion, I would strongly recommend you involve an experienced business intelligence consultant for a couple of hours prior to considering investing in a solution, who can advise you on important factors to consider and guide you through a decision making process.

 

Santosh Chandran is the Business Development Manager for BOARD Management Intelligence at Olympic Software. He regularly blogs about business intelligence and corporate performance management. You can follow him on Twitter  or on LinkedIn.  Please contact him directly if you would like to find out how BOARD can improve your business results through better decision making, phone 09 980 3964 or email: santoshc@olympic.co.nz