The key to BI is talk, not tech: Gartner

Research firm says software alone won't achieve goals

Research firm Gartner has warned organisations against splurging on technology for Business Intelligence (BI) projects.

Speaking of the discipline of BI, rather than the technology, Gartner global BI manager Ian Bertram says organisations will fail if they "throw products at the problem" and do not invest in training or acquire business support.

The BI discipline involves analysis of raw data through data mining and online analytical processing, which companies can use, for example, to find malfunctioning machines, improve manufacturing processors and cut costs.

The sticking points, Bertram says, are as much about improving poor communication and BI skills, as sifting useful data from the rubbish.

"Organisations tend to throw technology at BI problems. You could have the right tool, but it could be doomed to failure because of political and cultural issues, an absence of executive support so the message doesn't get out and poor communication and training," Bertram says.

"It provides transparency through all levels of business right down to the forklift driver and can help business to react fast to competition and change."

Gartner says BI is top of mind for CIOs, along with enterprise information and content management, data management and integration, and social software and collaboration. It has remained in the top spot for three years in the firm's annual Executive Programmes survey, while the firm predicts BI vendor revenue in the Asia Pacific region will increase by a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 15.5% by 2011, thanks in part to emerging green field developments.

Bertram says many organisations struggle to find benchmarks and metrics, and do not know where to define objectives.

"Having a standard set of enterprise metrics sounds easy, but can be quite complex. We've come across organisations with a 1000 metrics, but [which] follow the old Kaplan and Norton balanced scorecard and focus on 'visionary' metrics at the top," he says.

Subsequent metrics gathered from all levels of an organisation should assist with achieving the "visionary" objectives.

Gartner endorses the concept of the BI competency centre (BICC).

A BICC is a centralised hub within an organisation, devoted to BI. Representatives from each unit chair the centre and are tasked with deciding how BI can best serve their field of work, including defining governance, appropriate metrics and architecture, and staff training.

Bertram, who recently discussed the BI competency centre at a Sydney Summit, says businesses of all sizes can make money from a well planned BI process.

"Sydney Water saved millions when it found [though BI] one of its turbines was running all the time. They were able to balance the load across other turbines," he says.

"You could pick a number of organisations from every sector and find those that haven't managed [BI] projects well. They realise the BI technology is not a silver bullet and that it is intrinsically linked to business process and management of applications and data," he says.

Additional reporting by David Watson

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