When it comes to business intelligence (BI), it’s a well-known fact that the majority of BI projects fail. Gartner has proclaimed there’s a staggering 70%-80% failure rate among corporate BI projects – hardly an encouraging statistic.

Why such a high failure rate? Well, the space inside BI projects can be plagued by many kinds of ‘BI black holes’, that quickly and unexpectedly suck the business value clean out of them. Don’t let that put you off though, because the value to be gained from successful BI projects can bring heaps of positive business change.

Once you get stuck in a BI black hole, it can seem almost impossible to get out. So, to help you spot, and ultimately avoid them, here’s the signs you should be looking out for:

BI Black Hole One – Technology

At the centre of BI technology black holes, are technology-centric BI solution approaches which consume project attention, funding and efforts. The result? A complete shift in focus towards the wrong things and the delivery of little, or no, business value.

Technology-centric BI solutions mean that your people focus on building data warehouses, or on implementing the BI tools themselves. Two factors which are often mistakenly made the object of concentration to ensure maximum value from a BI project’s focus.

Que our first core principle at Saltare – true BI is about more than just technology. It’s not about what tools you use, but how well you use them. Instead of focusing on getting the most expensive, or any additional, BI software, channel efforts into ensuring your people can effectively interpret data to get the value needed. Equip them with the knowledge required to use your current software to their maximum advantage so they can make data-driven decisions that improve the way your business operates.

BI Black Hole Two – Poor Communication

As any productive business will tell you, communication is key. It’s no different when it comes to achieving lasting BI excellence and creating a strategy that consistently delivers genuine high-value BI.

However, before you even begin to develop a BI strategy, your team must completely understand what your business goals are. Shockingly, two thirds of senior managers can’t name their firm’s top priorities, highlighting a common lack of clarity across organisations alike. How can an employee possibly know what information is needed to meet business goals if they’re not 100% clear on what they are? Communication will allow your team to understand the nature of your business, your objectives and your customers. Once that’s in place, then begin to think about engineering a BI solution – that’s something Saltare’s unique 4dBI methodology can help with.

Communication ensures that everyone is on the same page and that they’re all working towards the same goals. Look at how to avoid the ‘volume-equals-value’ trap and how important it is to only report the data you need. With that in mind, make sure your people know exactly what data they should be focusing on. Otherwise, you’ll soon be consumed by a BI black hole which overwhelms you with information that brings no benefit to your business. Ask your people about the data on their dashboards and why they are reporting on it. Can they answer you with confidence? Or are they reporting for the sake of it without your business goals in mind?

BI Black Hole Three –  Inability to Evolve

One of the most crucial elements of any BI solution is its ability to adapt to the ever-changing needs of your business. It should be able to keep up with the challenges today’s fast-paced world presents.

We know all too well that many BI solutions aren’t developed to evolve. They’re developed for the needs of the business at the time of implementation, without a long-term view in mind. Unfortunately, such ‘quick-fix’ BI solutions fail to last and typically send the teams working on them back to the drawing board, scratching their heads. What happens if you develop a new product? Or a new way to gather customer insights? You risk losing the value this data can provide if your BI projects can’t accommodate these additional requirements.

BI is all about creating positive business change and moving forward in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Yet, getting sucked into a BI black hole will dispel any indication of business progress and leave your people struggling to get the right information. BI isn’t something that can be rushed, it’s a strategic and tactical process which facilitates enduring BI capabilities. When thinking short-term, you may get a quick initial ROI, but this will soon fizzle out if your BI solution can’t continuously adapt. Your BI solutions must be able to work towards achieving your business goals, regardless of changes to your operations. Your business goals shouldn’t have to adapt to suit the changes in your business and miss out on opportunities as a result.

About the Author

Phil Husbands

Phil Husbands

I show organisations of all shapes and sizes how real business intelligence isn't just about technology. As the Data and Analytics Director at Acrotrend, I help businesses to turn their data into truly valuable reports and information, by aligning BI and data technology with their goals, people and processes.

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