Analytics And BI: Centralize? Decentralize? Both!

Nilly Essaides

The analytics delivery model is changing.

Delivering insight through advanced analytics is a critical capability for any enterprise. Without insight, companies can’t make smart decisions about how to make investments. Or how to adapt their business models for the digital era.

The value of analytics is rising. The technologies that support it are maturing – and so the way analytics is “served” to business leaders and management is changing. At first, the shift may seem contradictory. Analytics and business intelligence (BI) capabilities are at once being pulled into centers of excellence (CoEs) – literally, centralized. But the CoEs are pushing these capabilities into the hands of the business, decentralizing them. The result is a hybrid model that includes both. Partly that’s a cost calculation. Partly that’s a technology play. Partly that’s sound business management.

Analytics/BI CoEs

The Hackett Group recently conducted a study of enterprise performance management (EPM) in CoEs. In our research, we found that more finance organizations are setting up CoEs to handle reporting, performance management, and analytics and BI.

  • 36% of finance survey respondents already have CoEs in place
  • 42% are planning to implement an EPM CoE in the next two to three years
  • 36% of those financial organizations with active EPM CoEs already run BI/analytics CoEs
  • 41% of organizations planning to implement a CoE in the next two to three years expect to have a BI/analytics CoE

And this is only within finance.

Using analytics is fast becoming an enterprise-level capability. In conversations with CoE leaders, we’ve learned that some analytics/BI CoEs report into the IT department. And all analytics CoEs support multiple departments and business units.

Self-service tools

New analytics and BI tools make it possible to provide business users with basic analytics capabilities – and more. Those solutions can be pushed out to the business so managers can run their own queries and get answers faster. It’s an approach that generates a much higher level of customer satisfaction than telling business users to put in a request to a central entity and “get in line.”

The CoEs can:

  • Run all standardized reporting and analysis at a lower cost and serve multiple customers
  • Standardize enterprise performance analysis

Simultaneously, they possess high-level expertise to handle complex, ad hoc requests and enterprise-wide initiatives. It makes sense for business users to answer a lot of their own questions. After all, they’re the ones who know their business best. They can view the central database through their own analytics/BI windows and get answers faster without placing a financial burden on the central entity – wherever it sits (often virtually).

Sure, there’s some training involved. But IT or the CoE team need not train everyone. They choose “super users” and get them up the learning curve so they can support their local staff.

The new analytics hybrid model has the following benefits:

  • It makes analytics an enterprise capability.
  • It allows the organization to pull experts and sophisticated technologies into a single center of excellence, which improves the quality of service to everyone as well as the satisfaction of staff.
  • It empowers business users to solve their own problems faster.
  • It makes it possible to centralize all standard analyses in one place (could be virtual) to reduce cost.
  • It frees up experts’ time to focus on higher-level problems.

Learn how to better leverage Data – The Hidden Treasure Inside Your Business.


Nilly Essaides

About Nilly Essaides

Nilly Essaides is senior research director, Finance & EPM Advisory Practice at The Hackett Group. Nilly is a thought leader and frequent speaker and meeting facilitator at industry events, the author of multiple in-depth guides on financial planning & analysis topics, as well as monthly articles and numerous blogs. She was formerly director and practice lead of Financial Planning & Analysis at the Association for Financial Professionals, and managing director at the NeuGroup, where she co-led the company’s successful peer group business. Nilly also co-authored a book about knowledge management and how to transfer best practices with the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC).