Let Me Guess: Your BI Strategy Consists Of One Architecture Slide

Iver van de Zand

No doubt you have thoroughly thought out your business intelligence (BI) strategy and have it available …. on ONE slide! Your strategy to execution, business needs, governance model, BI objectives and needs, information categories, components and architecture, sponsorships, measurement, training, support, and metadata management … they all fit on your magical one-slide. Let me smile.

BI Strategy to Execution

This blog is not an argument about the importance of a solid BI strategy; there has been plenty written about that. It is about how you can create one in a few clearly outlined steps that can guide you to a rock solid base for your BI strategy with limited investment in time and effort. I am speaking of days — not weeks or months!

Let’s start your BI strategy foundation here, based on four simple steps I have applied many times with customers.

  1. Current BI needs baseline analysisBI Strategy Foundation
  2. BI strategy and execution baseline
  3. Gap analysis
  4. Compose BI strategy foundation

 

1. Current BI needs baseline analysis

The objective of Step 1 is to create high-level insight of the business intelligence needs by line of business (LoB), and the expected impact on the company’s performance management. To gather the required information, I interview representative decision takers by LoB (i.e. HR, finance, sales, purchasing) discussing what they need to optimize their LoB’s performance. After the interviews, I create an overview with:

  • Business challenge and degree of priority/pain (scale of 0-10)
  • Business impact and degree of impact (scale of 0-10)

Here’s an example of a sales LoB:

example

There are typically 10-20 business challenges and business impact statements per LoB. I use a simple spreadsheet to log the challenges and impacts together with their individual scores. Visualization tools easily allow me to share detailed insights with my customers on their BI needs baseline. If you, for example, use a scatter-chart with degree of pain versus degree of impact, one can easily spot the key domains that require focus.

2. BI strategy and execution baseline

Next I assess the customer’s existing business intelligence strategy, components definition, completeness of execution, and business impact. The BI strategy and execution baseline includes five strategy components, each of which is examined for three areas —existence, execution, and impact:

  1. Objectives: Describes the extent to which the history, key reasons, and objectives for the BI strategy have been documented and to what extent the objectives have been executed. Degree of documentation definition is rated on a scale of 0-10.
  1. BI needs: Describes the extent to which the business needs and the future state have been defined and executed, in terms of the business requirements and corresponding KPIs. Degree of KPI definitions rated on a scale of 0-10.
  1. Business case: Describes the extent to which the benefits of implement­ing the BI strategy have been articulated and quantified. Degree of articulation is rated on a scale of 0-10.
  1. Information and technology: Addresses the types of information that has been, and/or will be captured, and the technology that is or will be put in place to meet the BI needs. One of the methods I use is the BI component selection tool.
  1. Organization and implementation: Describes to what extent the organization is ready to implement the BI strategy and is on track to execute. Degree of execution readiness is rated on a scale of 0-10.

Step 2 requires a bit more effort than Step 1. My experience is to allocate 2-3 days to get a fair insight. Again, I log everything using a spreadsheet with the above mentioned domains each rated.

BI Strategy execution baseRemember that we are creating a foundation for a BI strategy, and not a detailed strategy execution plan. Detailed strategy plans require Steps 2b, 2d, and 2e to be further explored. Our foundation is the perfect framework to do so.

Note that I keep the registration of the above steps simple and with a single rating degree of 0-10 for each existence, execution and impact. If properly done, one can very easily generate a visualized insight of the execution baseline like a radar chart with the three metrics.

 

3. Gap analysis

You’ve probably already guessed that the gap analysis in this third step is basically the delta between the two first steps. The objective is to prioritize the gaps, and document the benefits of addressing them. The gap analysis prioritizes the insights giving the customer a clear understanding of where to focus their BI efforts. It also provides an understanding of the value of addressing unmet business needs, which is crucial input to the custom­er’s investment decisions. Here are additional questions the gap analysis answers for my customer:

  • Which gaps will drive the biggest benefit for our enterprise?
  • What BI needs are causing the most disruption – and the highest business pain for decision makers?
  • How can or should identified gaps be prioritized for the maximum enterprise impact?

Again, I use a very simple spreadsheet to document the individual gaps and their scores. For the score I reuse the degrees from the previous steps. Below is a version of the outputs with a bit more detail.

BI Stratgey Gap

4. Compose your BI strategy foundation

For the last step, I create a recommended capabilities map to resolve the business pains from step one. I use the outcome of the previous three steps and visualize them in clearly digestible overviews and infographics. Basically I leverage them for:

  • Strategy recommendations
  • Descriptions of the solution and value of closing the gaps caused by the pains/needs.
  • BI category and solution description – what are the business intelligence solutions required for addressing this pain?

If you have rated your degrees consistently, radar and scatter maps will clearly indicate where the most important needs are, what the current and future capabilities to address those needs are, and – as a result – what the prioritized gaps are.

The above approach works very well for me and my customers. Having used it now for several occasions, here are some key takeaways:

  • Easy to use, especially a consistent use of rating the degrees helps to visualize the customer’s situation
  • Results in actionable insights immediately with the prioritized gap analysis
  • Takes reasonable time efforts – usually I complete the full exercise in fewer than five days
  • Can be used iteratively: One can easily apply this approach at the departmental level and later enlarge the scope to cross-department or corporate level

Want to take your BI strategy one step further? Here’s more information

Follow me on Twitter – @IvervandeZand


Iver van de Zand

About Iver van de Zand

Iver is the Director of  the SAP Global Analytics Hub for business intelligence and predictive analytics focusing on enablement for pre-sales, collaboration, content generation, and best practices. He works closely with global leadership and stakeholders across SAP incorporating the latest insights, tools, and best practices in order to optimize the use of SAP resources, improve cross organisational collaboration, and drive efficiencies in business execution. Iver is also a member of the Lumira Advisory Council (LAC) and the International Business Communication Standards (IBCS) community that focuses on data visualization standards and Hichert principles.