BorisevelsonBy Boris Evelson and Norman Nicolson

If you haven’t yet heard the latest news on the American political scene, let me fill you in: Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and soliciting bribery. Among the alleged offenses is that the Governor planned to sell the Senate seat of President-elect Barack Obama to the highest bidder, or, if no offers met his expectations, to take the seat for himself for personal gain.Sign_best_government_money_can_bu_3 One is reminded of the remark, often attributed (perhaps incorrectly) to Mark Twain, that the United States has “the best politicians money can buy.”

Putting witticisms aside, this news does remind us all that spending more money is no guarantee of success. When we say someone has “the best X money can buy,” we don’t mean they have the best, period. There’s always room for using what you buy more intelligently, effectively, and efficiently, or finding a hidden gem at bargain prices. Information and Knowledge Management professionals often delude themselves into thinking that spending more money on enterprise applications, especially business intelligence, is the key to success, but that’s simply not the case. Our latest survey (the results of which will be published soon) shows that most large businesses have at least three, and often many more, BI tools in house, often with no plans to consolidate – and larger enterprise deals for BI can run well over six figures. Add to those license costs and maintenance fees the price of associated professional services (which can be, anecdotally, up to five times as much as license fees for a given project), and it becomes abundantly clear that enterprises are spending plenty on “the best BI tools money can buy.”

However, are they really getting the best BI, or just expensive BI tools? User satisfaction is still mediocre at best: our latest survey shows that BI applications are hard to use, trust in the data is poor, and IT is too slow to respond to requests for new reports or data sources. Additionally, in spite of the best efforts of analytics evangelists, BI is still mostly relegated to back-office efficiency gains, instead of being used to drive the strategy of the business.

Our client interactions constantly show that, while the best BI tools are a necessary component for the best BI implementation, other components are equally as or even more important than the BI tools themselves. Business led data governance, integrated MDM and metadata processes, finely tuned Business Intelligence Solutions Centers, and end user BI self service, are among just a few non-technical components that make up the best BI money can’t just simply buy.

What do you think? How can we move from “the best BI tools money can buy” to “the best BI?”