Business Case a Must for Successful Business Intelligence, Says Cognos VP

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New research puts analytics and other business intelligence capabilities at the heart of modern marketing. And after disaster recovery and Web services, business intelligence appears in more IT budgets than any other IT initiative. This underlines the importance of building a business case to support successful enterprise business intelligence deployments, says Leah MacMillan, vice president of product marketing at Cognos, one of the world's leading providers of business intelligence and performance management solutions.

They've seen the benefits it brings to their performance and to the business and are passionate about sharing their success. In building a business case, they can channel that passion in a way that can bring about greater success.

New research puts analytics and other business intelligence capabilities at the heart of modern marketing. And after disaster recovery and Web services, business intelligence appears in more IT budgets than any other IT initiative.

This underlines the importance of building a business case to support successful enterprise business intelligence deployments, says Leah MacMillan, vice president of product marketing at Cognos, one of the world's leading providers of business intelligence and performance management solutions.

Overcome limitations

According to MacMillan, one reason is to overcome the limitations in current business intelligence deployments. Many begin in response to an immediate tactical need, in the absence of a business case and with little thought given to longer-term requirements. These deployments often deliver on their objectives. But over time, says MacMillan, they also create a mess of disconnected deployments, overlapping architectures, and data silos that cause integration headaches when it comes time to build a foundation for enterprise-level business intelligence.

Assess organizational skills

Building a business case can help IT untangle that mess to understand their organization's business intelligence landscape, adds MacMillan. Overlapping deployments usually mean overlapping skill sets as well. Creating an inventory not only of applications, but of user sets and their respective skills can help IT determine both current and future needs.

In the business case, data, architecture, capabilities, and training must all be aligned. Most IT organizations are likely familiar with their organization's data strategy. They must also understand their users' readiness to use business intelligence.

Clarify goals

IT and business users must agree on a clear answer to this question, stresses MacMillan. Sometimes it comes down to language: IT thinks in terms of capabilities, while business users talk about top-line benefits. Working out an answer together and documenting the results, ideally through a Business Intelligence Competency Center (BICC), can help the two sides find a common ground. In this way the business case becomes a common reference for everyone

throughout the process.

This can be easier said than done. The broad range of business intelligence capabilities present enormous potential to improve decision-making and insights about the business. The key is to keep the discussion focused on strategic goals.

Discussions about strategy are easier when they involve a senior executive, observes MacMillan. These individuals can strengthen the business case in three areas that often lie outside of IT's core skills: a deeper understanding of corporate direction and strategy; framing the case in a way that other executives will understand; identifying relationships with other stakeholders that IT must either form or nurture to build internal support.

For enterprise-level deployments, an executive sponsor is essential. IT departments that view business intelligence as a strategic priority must approach the business case in the same way the organization treats its ERP and other mission-critical applications. Costs, complexity, and risks must all be thoroughly addressed.

Channel enthusiasm

Business intelligence users are usually its most ardent supporters, concludes MacMillan: "They've seen the benefits it brings to their performance and to the business and are passionate about sharing their success. In building a business case, they can channel that passion in a way that can bring about greater success."

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Amy Shanler
Cognos
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