It seems that after 20 years we still have articles being written on “Why do Business Intelligence Projects Fail?”
Many of these articles summarize the reasons typically within 3 general areas:
1. Tools – were too expensive, took too long to implement – were not easy to use, complex to adjust/modify – they had great visualization but poor data management – great datawarehouse but visualization was poor
2. People – Users/company resists change, user adoption is to blame – More comfortable with status quo/spreadsheet – Always needs IT to make changes – Management got sold on a premise that BI will yield specific financial results
3. Process – There was no process and BI needs specific process definitions to work within – BI is a “culture” or a philosophy – Data was poor/bad quality, garbage in-garbage out
This is by no means an exhaustive list but in essence it summarizes most of the reasons why, according to Gartner, over 70% of these types of projects fail.
Then come the specialists, consultants and vendors with the solutions to the above issues, myself included in all of these groups, having been a business and IT client charged with implementing BI in many companies, a BI consultant charged with implementing several BI solutions, and a vendor of a BI solution. This serves first as a disclaimer and also as a way to declare that I do have some experience in the subject matter.
What do the specialists, consultants and vendors typically offer do border on a “magic” bullet with promises of increased revenue or financial results?
If you think about it BI is no different than CRM and ERP systems. These are not systems that will yield better financial results, these are in essence, management systems. You need these to manage a group of people, customers and suppliers, their activities, efforts, costs and payments. You need them because your brain and memory is not enough to track all the details and volume of data, spreadsheets and word documents becomes unmanageable, and hiring more people to handle the paper work, processes, and tracking it all is costly.
So we look at software to make our company run smoother. If done correctly, with the right software and right people and clear processes, it will provide operational savings. It will not help you sell more. It will not magically give you an increase in profits unless your sole reason to do so was to lay off staff which is already a sign that you are heading down the wrong path.
You implement CRM, ERP, BI and other software to give you clarity on how you are running your business, both from a transactional and analytical point of view.
– There is no point in having invoicing processes fully automated if you can’t summarize and aggregate how many invoices are due and what is their amount, how quickly do clients pay you, etc. etc. – There is no point in having a sales force contact management if you can’t summarize the activities of that sales force by day, week, month, or to track their progress against objectives. – There is no point in having an expense tracking system if you can’t monitor at a grouped level who is spending how much on what and when.
All these aggregations, summaries, totals, are needed from a management perspective. Furthermore, it is not just about monitoring each individual process but the entire company across the different divisions, departments, teams, client groups, products, and so forth.
BI software is not an optional tool and should not be sold as a way to increase your profitability or guarantee sales results.