What Keeps Business Intelligence from Reaching its Potential?

With the growing prominence of big data as both a strategic and tactical resource for enterprises, there’s been a growing shift in the scope of business intelligence. Not too long ago, BI’s world was in tools that ran on individual workstations or PCs, providing filtered reports on limited sets of data, or stacking the data into analytical cubes.

business intelligence

Now, BI encompasses a range of data and analytics from across the enterprise, and is increasingly likely to be online, supported in the cloud, as it is in a local PC. However, as it has been for years, BI adoption still tends to be limited, not reaching its full potential. In a recent interview, BI analyst Cindi Howson, asks the question, what’s holding companies back from achieving a big impact with BI?  In a recent Q&A with TDWI’s Linda Briggs, she discussed the issues raised in her new book, Successful Business Intelligence: Unlock the Value of BI and Big Data.

The success of BI depends, more than anything, on one factor, she says: corporate culture. Some organizations have achieved an analytic culture that reaches across their various business limes, but for many, it’s a challenge. “Leadership means not just the CIO but also the CEO, the lines of business, the COO, and the VP of marketing,” says Howson. “Culture and leadership are closely related, and it’s hard to separate one from the other.”

While corporate culture has always been important to success, it take on even a more critical role in efforts to compete on analytics. For example, she illustrates, “companies have a lot of data, and certainly they value the data, but there is sometimes a fear of sharing it. Once you start exposing the data, somebody’s job might be on the line, or it can show that someone made some bad decisions. Maybe the data will reveal that you’ve spent millions of dollars and you’re not really getting the returns that you thought you would in pursuing a particular market segment or product.”

It’s important to see an analytics culture as focusing on data as a tool to see problems and make course corrections, or act on opportunities – not to punish or expose individuals or departments.

Another point of corporate resistance is employing BI in the cloud, a challenge recently explored by Brad Peters, CEO of Birst. Here again, corporate culture may hold back efforts to move to the cloud, which offers greater scalability and availability for BI and analytics initiatives. In a recent interview in Diginomica, he says that IT departments, for example, may throw up roadblocks, for fear of being disintermediated. Plus, there is also a recognition that once BI data is in the cloud, it often gets “harder to work with.” Multi-tenant sites, for example, have security systems and protocols that may limit users’ ability to manipulate or parse the data.

The increasing adoption of cloud-based services – such as those from Amazon or Salesforce – are gradually melting resistance to the idea of cloud-based BI, Peters adds. He particular;y sees advantages for geographically-dispersed workforces.”

For his part, he admits that “has never been under any illusion that the shift of enterprise analytics to the cloud was going to happen overnight.”