How does an enterprise — especially a large, global one with multiple product lines and multiple enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications — make sense of operations, logistics, and finances? There’s just too much information for any one person to process. It’s business intelligence (BI) to the rescue! But what is BI, and how does BI differ from reporting and management information systems (MIS)? What is the business impact, and what are the costs versus the benefits? What is the appropriate strategy for implementing BI and achieving continued BI success? Our new report will give business and IT executives an understanding of the four critical phases of strategizing around BI to achieve business goals — or “everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask” about BI. Here’s a sneak preview of the kinds of topics the report covers and the kinds of BI questions one needs to ask in order to build an effective and efficient enterprise BI environment:

  1. Prepare For Your BI Program
    1. The future of BI is all about agility. IT no longer has exclusive control of BI platforms, tools, and applications; business users demand more empowerment (or make empowered changes without IT involvement), and previously unshakable pillars of the BI foundation such as relational databases are quickly being supplemented with alternative BI platforms. It’s no longer business as usual. Ask yourself:
      1. What are the main business and IT trends driving BI?
      2. What are the latest BI technologies that I need to know about?
      3. What’s out there beyond traditional BI?
    2. Quantify the business impact of BI. Many specific BI use cases demonstrating business impact are mostly vendor hype. Forrester recommends concentrating on case studies conducted and verified by independent third parties. When considering business impact, remember that:
      1. Cost savings and cost avoidance case studies are easier to prove.
      2. Isolating BI from supporting technologies makes your business cases easier to support.
      3. Razor-sharp, focused case studies with top-line benefits often hit the mark.
    3. Assess your current BI environment. Make your current-state assessment actionable by:
      1. Using Forrester’s BI maturity self-assessment model to determine your current state.
      2. Taking annual Forrester BI maturity surveys to benchmark yourself against your peers.
      3. Periodically correlating BI maturity with enterprise performance.
  2. Create Your BI Plan
    1. Prepare your BI business plan. Building BI business cases is not for the faint of heart. Challenges include: the grey boundary lines around which processes and tools are or are not part of BI; multiple BI components that typically need to be customized and integrated; and the frequent unpredictability of BI system integration efforts. To ensure successful BI business cases that can stand the test of time:
      1. Use Forrester’s Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) as the framework for your BI business cases.
      2. Leverage existing BI TEI studies to improve your chances for success.
      3. Follow Forrester’s recommended best practices to build and support BI business cases.
    2. Set your BI strategy. BI strategies usually contain a visionary, directional document that envisions a BI target state. They also often describe a road map of how to get there, including: BI definitions; a business plan; considerations for functional, architectural, technical, and operational requirements; governance and organizational structures; change management plans; and company culture. When strategizing for BI, ask yourself:
      1. Is BI strategy clearly linked to business and IT strategy?
      2. Who are the key BI stakeholders?
      3. Have we charted and determined the scope of our BI programs?
      4. Have we created a BI operating model?
    3. Create your BI future state and road map. “Future state” is not just a simple depiction of target state architecture; it should include functional, architectural, operational, and technical requirements as well as list major priorities, dependencies, and constraints affecting the road map. When developing your BI future state and road map, consider the following questions:
      1. What should my BI target state reference architecture look like?
      2. How do I determine what I do first?
      3. What’s the road map to achieve our target state?
  3. Build An Agile BI Environment
    1. Staff your BI program. Early-generation BI support centers — organized along the same lines as support centers for all other enterprise software — fall short when it comes to taking BI’s peculiarities into account. These unique BI requirements include less reliance on the traditional SDLC and project planning and more emphasis on reacting to constantly changing business requirements. Structure your BI solution center (BISC) along somewhat different lines than traditional technical support organizations by asking:
      1. How should I organize, staff, and assign BI roles and responsibilities?
      2. How do I enable BI users?
      3. How do I find the right resources and provide training for the existing ones?
      4. Where do I find external help for BI initiatives?
    2. Create BI policies and procedures. Within most organizations, BI and data governance remain an immature and poorly understood competency. The challenge for most organizations is to effectively scope, prioritize, and organize BI and data governance programs that will be acceptable within the confines of an existing corporate culture. Organizations should: identify the ways in which trusted data can optimize the most-critical business processes and decisions; define the policies, business rules, and standards that will ensure trusted data; and deliver business value-oriented metrics that will justify the resource investments.
    3. Build or buy BI capabilities? Organizations should perform a “build, buy, or outsource?” analysis based on the high-level requirements they created when mapping out their future state. The next step is to select a BI platform, tools, and implementation partners. Ask yourself:
      1. Should I build, buy, or outsource BI tools, applications, and solutions?
      2. What are the leading vendors providing BI software, applications, and services
      3. What should I expect to pay for BI?
  4. Continue To Optimize Your BI Environment
    1. Assess the performance of your BI programs. IT organizations too often rely on qualitative subjective assessments to make key decisions relating to performing or underperforming applications, projects, and programs. But BI performance assessment has to be as objective and quantitative as possible. BI has objectives, specific tangible goals associated with those objectives, and metrics that let you measure the progress toward the goals. The organizations that measure the effectiveness of their investments are able to drive initiatives that gain the most business value and are often able to help reduce the total cost of ownership by eliminating waste.
    2. Develop BI reporting and metrics. At a bare minimum, BI metrics and reports must provide insights into efficiencies and effectiveness. For example, efficiency metrics could include the usage of various BI resources (servers, applications, tools, data sets, specific reports and queries, etc.). Firms can then proactively — rather than reactively — take steps to improve the performance of popular resources and eliminate waste by removing or deprioritizing seldom-used resources. Metrics that measure effectiveness of BI usage are trickier to quantify, but they are critical to the overall success of BI programs. When deciding what metrics you should collect, consider:
      1. What are the key BI measurement metrics?
      2. How do I collect and report BI metrics?
      3. Communicate Your BI Plans And Changes
    3. Implement an effective BI change management program. The pace of continuous improvement and transformational change in BI continues to accelerate, often outpacing employees’ ability to keep up. Many BI initiatives fail because they lack a clear change management program. Forrester recommends that you avoid this pitfall by implementing some of the most important components of change management: leader support, flexible short- and long-term planning, ongoing communications, and metrics to track the success of the change initiative. Consider the following questions:
      1. How do I ensure that change does not stand in the way of my BI programs’ success?
      2. How much emphasis do I put on BI change management?
      3. Who should be in charge of the BI change management program?
      4. How do I communicate BI programs?

We invite you to read the full report and provide your comments and feedback here.