A friend of mine, making his living by giving exclusive leadership training for C-level executives, shared with me that the key to his success is … back to the basics! We are so overwhelmed today by myriads of scientific theories and advanced methodology etc. that we tend to forget the sound basic principles providing the very fundament for succeeding in our endeavors. E.g. this could be about Ingvar Kamprad walking the factory floor at 7am and chatting with his workers. Stuff like that.
Willy Koulichev, CEO and founder.
The CIO of an ambitious young enterprise contacted me the other day looking for the expert’s advice on building a powerful BI solution for the company. He was explicitly seeking after a single vendor able to deliver a «turn-key» BI solution fast and single-handedly, i.e. without involving any company resources in the project. Sounds tempting? I call this the «Fast & Furious BI» case. Anything wrong with this picture?
You’ve probably guessed already that all the vendors he contacted before he called me, reassured him that they can deliver exactly that spot-on; «a turn-key BI, in no time, without bothering anybody» etc… Sure, why not! What else did he expect? But does it really work that way in life? If you’ve been in the BI game as long as I have, you’re probably smiling right now.
There are several major misconceptions involved here. I don’t blame the CIO, of course. From a general IT application mgmt perspective, his strategy is justifiable. Only that BI solutions are something else!
Here are some of the basic principles in the BI world of long-lasting experience.
What a BI solution is NOT:
• A single product that is finished and delivered once and for all
• IT-driven initiative delivering some technology toolkits and systems
• An application «package» that can be simply purchased, installed and turned on
• One-off project with a start, end, and a final «turn-key» delivery
• A solution not involving any company employees in its lifecycle, only serving them quietly
What a true BI solution IS:
• An ongoing process for delivering fresh (predictive) insights continuously (also on demand)
• A «living creature» constantly evolving, growing, and adapting to the business needs
• A solution integrating strategy, processes, technology AND people parts together in one BI
• Owned and Managed by the business (not IT) and actively sponsored on a C-level
• Having a distinct lifecycle with regular performance evaluations and adjustments as needed
Companies today (and their leaders) are very impatient, move fast, and often get blazed by the flashy buzz adverts about the latest fashion hypes of Cloud and Big Data innovations, off-the-shelf «silver bullet» BI solutions, and … what have you. That’s fine, as long as you keep the basics closer. You know, «if something sounds too good to be true…» This proverb still works today, believe me.
So what do we do? Most people know by now that «one size fits them all» doesn’t work neither, but let me try anyway to give you my $.2 on the proven approach to building sound BI over the years.
Provided that you’ve understood and accepted the platform of basic principles above, you always need to keep the two perspectives: (1) short-term actions and (2) long-term actions, coordinated and mutually balanced. You don’t want to do just one of those. They always go together! Here’s why.
Plan part (1) – Sample short-term actions benefits…
• Deliver fastest possible results in critical or desired areas (don’t make it permanent though)
• Will buy you time to think in-depth, to mature, and to grow your own experience
• Provide useful inputs and insights to the long-term activities (lessons learned etc.)
• Allow you to experiment in a «try before you buy» mode, freely, cheaply and informally
• Create inspiration and commitment in the organization, as well as keeping you up-to-date
Plan part (2) – Sample long-term actions benefits…
• Building reliable trustworthy BI solutions require a solid strategy and it doesn’t happen fast
• Allow you to get your organization on board in their tempo with a feasible learning curve
• The people analytics skills and results (= true value gain) grow aligned with the BI solution
• Establish solid credibility and trust in the BI results delivered (otherwise your BI will die)
• Building a healthy well-organized vault of the enterprise (historical) data which takes time!
Your Master plan obviously needs to embrace both parts into a joint dynamic harmony, balancing each other in terms of priorities, resources usage, and mutual results etc. so that the Master plan supports your Business Strategy moving ahead in the best possible way. Tough? You can do it!
And keep in mind that a profitable «living» BI solution needs a proper daycare by dedicated people. If you leave it as a shared responsibility to some already overworked IT technician, you’ll find yourself putting a lot of money and frustration in it without gaining much business value. Hire some good BI people to take care of it! You’ll thank me later.
So I’ll leave you with that. The «Fast & Furious BI» approach may occasionally deliver what you want (is it what you need?), but it probably won’t last for long and it eventually will cost you a lot more than the carefully planned approach to patiently building a solid BI actively involving your people.
About Willy Koulichev
Willy has over 25 years experience as a strategist, trusted advisor, solution architect, SME and project manager in the areas of Analytics, Business Intelligence, Enterprise Data Warehousing, and Enterprise Information Management, including Master Data Management & Metadata, Data Quality, Data Integration, Data Governance, etc. Willy became the Accenture’s Nordic IM Lead (2002) and then their EMEA BI Lead (2007), when he decided to accept the position as the Nordic IM Executive Director at EY (2010). He is one of the founders of NextBridge Advisory (2013), and currently CEO of his company 1o1 BI. Willy is also a member of several professional organizations including TDWI, DAMA, and was a Chairman of the National Jury assigning the yearly BI Award in Norway 2006-2011 (jury member since 1997). Willy is a highly profiled keynote speaker at Executive Seminars and Conferences, and has contributed numerous interviews and articles as well.cutive Seminars and Conferences, and has contributed numerous interviews and articles as well.