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Keys to a Successful BI Competency Center

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Posted February 8, 2011 By Ann All     Feedback

A business intelligence best practice pretty much everyone can agree on is establishing a BI competency center (BICC). While competency centers are a good idea for any enterprise software initiative, they are  especially important for BI because both BI technologies and business objectives for them are evolving so rapidly.

A business intelligence best practice pretty much everyone can agree on is establishing a BI competency center (BICC). While competency centers are a good idea for any enterprise software initiative, they are  especially important for BI because both BI technologies and business objectives for them are evolving so rapidly.

Also, while companies tend to have lofty goals for BI, it isn't yet well understood. That's what Paulo Dominguez, one of three smart guys from consulting, software development and training company Technolab, told me when I interviewed them about establishing BICCs. Said Dominguez:

BI is not being well represented. Organizations spend a lot of time going through the process of acquiring software. Once they purchase it, the question becomes, "What do we do now?" Having a competency center helps them not only build a strategy, but also to execute on it.

When designing and operating a BICC, companies should keep four dimensions in mind: technology, infrastructure, human capital and culture. All four dimensions must converge at some point to deliver the correct BI solution, said Desmond Mullarkey, one of Dominguez's colleagues.

Getting the proper hardware and software and providing the right infrastructure to support BI applications are both pretty straightforward dimensions. Human capital and culture are far less straightforward. BICCs can go a long way toward ensuring these trickier dimensions are addressed.

In addition to playing a key role in the development of an effective enterprise BI strategy that covers all four dimensions, BICCs centralize BI best practices, knowledge and experience so users can benefit from them.

Writing on BeyeNetwork, TDWI Research Director Wayne Eckerson says BICCs reinforce the importance of BI as a mission-critical competency and encourage the idea that BI "is a program, not an IT project."

BICCs must reinforce the idea that business users rather than IT organizations "own" BI initiatives, Eckerson says. He suggests recruiting business folks to participate in four areas:

  • An executive committee comprised of business sponsors who provide funding, prioritize development and help recruit folks to serve on a working committee.
  • A working committee comprised of super users from all areas of the business who provide input on data models, help select tools and submit requests for enhancements.
  • A super user alliance that ensures user needs are being adequately addressed.
  • Business recruits, who actually give up their day jobs to join the BI team and run the BICC.

One of the BICC's key goals, says Eckerson, should be building a standard dashboard or report for each department that will cover at least 60 percent of the information needs of casual users. Super users can create ad hoc reports to address those needs not satisfied by the standard reports.

Though building reports for each department will take time, the guys from Technolab encourage organizations to get BICCs up and running within six months. It's probably a good idea to create at least a couple of standard reports in that time. Said Mullarkey:

Sometimes an initiative can be too big – over planned, over staffed, too costly. Your management will lose its enthusiasm and it may not be funded correctly. There should be a short to midterm strategy to get it up and running and producing results. ... If you don't do this, you end up trying to convince people by talking about the benefits rather than living the benefits. We need to get them to experiencing the benefits as quickly as possible.

 

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