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Which comes first, the BI application or the business initiative?

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Augusto Albeghi: Is a BI project the consequence of a business initiative or does the availability of a new BI system give birth to the business initiative? Which comes first, the BI application or the business initiative?

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  • If an organization is truly focussed on improving decision making and performance, the business initiative would be first. Technology, without a clear understanding of the problem and options for solving it, only serves to increase confusion.

  • Well, you use BI to measure the success of business initiatives. And maybe using that BI will lead to insight to lead to new or changed business initiatives. So the answer is both... :)

  • There is no doubt about the fact that a business initiative based on real requirements should drive a BI initiative. Otherwise it’s a sure recipe for a disaster if not just a failure.
    Reminds me of big players pushing their newly acquired toys, bundled with their existing products – if you know what I mean!

  • It's almost like a "which came first the chicken or egg" question. Both is definitely my first answer to the question, but in all reality it depends upon the organization. It would be nice to say that businesses encounter a challenge and look to BI for a way to address it. But in some cases it ends up being the other way around. Through business intelligence, organizations are able to identify gaps in performance, data issues, and the like, and through that they end up developing a business initiative surrounding it.

  • I agree with the prevailing thought - the business initiative comes first. Understanding what you are measuring before you build the solution helps ensure that the best analysis takes place, something retailer Timbuk2 discovered per Aberdeen’s recent SaaS BI report. Knowing what you want to measure means you know which data sources (internal or external) should be leveraged. Plus, unless you are leveraging a new approach to BI that provides a flexible architecture, making changes to get to the metrics after implementation of a BI project required by the business may be exceedingly costly and challenging which would limit the benefits received.

  • Some instinctively may say business initiative first then the BI application. However, many will first begin to build a business intelligence application first as a proof of concept to showcase the capabilities of the product along with the business insight and intelligence about the business unit or corporations product, service, etc. These days, one can easily and quickly use an open source solution stack like Jaspersoft plus Infobright to quickly and rapidly showcase a demonstration of a business intelligence app that may deliver enough WOW to the business team that they pull the trigger to get the thoughts going on the business initiative. This frequently happened in the client/server and internet/web revolution where teams of software developers put together quick applications to trigger the business to move forward on the application.

  • As can be easily understood, I side with the business initiative.
    A BI project is a business project which has a rather strong IT component.
    Citing a famous phrase: "Business Intelligence is too a serious matter to be left to the IT people."

  • Practically, this is what I have seen happen, in some successful BI projects:

    1) First comes the business questions that need to get answered. These questions are generated by the business community and can either be current problems / opportunities for the future.

    2) BI team develops a prototype on how the business questions can be answered using BI techniques (reports/dashboards/OLAP whatever that might be!)

    3) Business understands their own questions much better based on the visualization in the prototype. They add and/or alter their questions and create a business case for a BI initiative.

    4) BI team works on the projects identified as part of the overall business initiative, once the funding is secured.

    So my take on the flow for successful BI is:

    Business Questions --> BI prototypes --> Business Initiative --> BI application.

  • Practically, this is what I have seen happen, in some successful BI projects:

    1) First comes the business questions that need to get answered. These questions are generated by the business community and can either be current problems / opportunities for the future.

    2) BI team develops a prototype on how the business questions can be answered using BI techniques (reports/dashboards/OLAP whatever that might be!)

    3) Business understands their own questions much better based on the visualization in the prototype. They add and/or alter their questions and create a business case for a BI initiative.

    4) BI team works on the projects identified as part of the overall business initiative, once the funding is secured.

    So my take on the flow for successful BI is:

    Business Questions --> BI prototypes --> Business Initiative --> BI application.

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