How to Find Success with Business Intelligence

by | Mar 8, 2021 | General BI

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Perhaps you’ve always felt that if you could just get someone in management to buy in to an idea at your organization, you could make great strides in business intelligence. Well, now you might have some solid numbers to back up your argument.

According to the 2020 Wisdom of Crowds Business Intelligence Market Study from Dresner Advisory Services, more than 70% of respondents who felt they had good business intelligence (BI) success had strong support from senior leadership. Fewer organizations reported unsuccessful BI initiatives than in the previous survey. There are lessons that can be learned from both the challenges and the successes faced by survey respondents. Let’s examine.

Challenges with business intelligence

The challenges that face organizations having trouble finding success with business intelligence are really no different than the challenges organizations face in any aspect of doing business. If important factors like culture, support, communication, and collaboration aren’t part of an organization’s approach to business intelligence, that has an impact on the chances of it succeeding.

  • More than half of the respondents to the Dresner survey (55.8%) say the main obstacle to success with business intelligence is a culture that doesn’t fully understand or value fact-based decision-making.
  • 4% say a lack of support from senior management or other BI champions is an obstacle
  • 1% point to poor communication and collaboration between those developing or supporting the BI solution and those using it.

Of course, even if all of those elements are in place, if the numbers aren’t accurate in the first place, the BI solution can’t do its job. 45.5% of respondents to the survey say unreliable data is to blame for a lack of success, and the same percentage points to a lack of skilled, expert resources.

Success: Support from management is key

For the most part, the Dresner survey results show that organizations are finding some level of success with their business intelligence. 88% of respondents indicated their BI initiatives were successful or somewhat successful. That’s a double-digit percentage point increase from the previous year. The reasons for that success ranged from the human relationships to the technical aspects.

  • Support from senior management topped the list of factors contributing to BI success. 70% of respondents noted this factor.
  • As you might expect, the successes are the inverse of the challenges. A culture that understands and values fact-based decision-making (59%) and good communication between the developers and the users (58%) also ranked highly as factors contributing to BI success.
  • 51% of respondents said the business objectives or needs were understood and met, which allowed for success.

What works

Two big factors that contribute to organizations’ success with business intelligence are the presence of a chief data officer (CDO) and data literacy.

Respondents to the survey who are in an organization with a CDO reported more successful initiatives. The presence of a CDO would seem to indicate an organization has a senior leader who values BI, which contributes to a culture that understands and values fact-based decision-making. A CDO would also have expertise around all of the technical aspects that factor into successful BI, starting with data governance. The survey results also indicate the longer a CDO’s tenure, the better the rate of success, especially for CDOs who have more than five years of tenure in their role.

Data literacy is another area that correlates strongly with BI success. Organizations that reported the highest levels of data literacy were the ones that were successful with their BI initiatives, while those that reported them as unsuccessful indicated the lowest levels of data literacy. Organizations with data-literacy programs reported less than half as many unsuccessful BI initiatives as those organizations without data-literacy programs.

Of course, the mere presence of data literacy programs doesn’t automatically mean an organization will find success. It’s how people use the tools available to them, or how they are presented to potential users that makes the difference. That’s where a CDO comes in. It’s good news that more and more organizations are finding success with business intelligence. But it’s an ongoing team effort to keep building upon each successful initiative.

Source for statistics: 2020 Business Intelligence Market Study Copyright 2020—Dresner Advisory Services

John Sucich
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