Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Business Intelligence Challenge

The term Business Intelligence would imply the "intelligence" that "business" can create and use with help from tools and technology orchestrated by the IT team. Many billions of dollars have been spent on this journey across industry verticals and an equal number of technologies, broadbased or niche, with limited success.

Over the last few months with new projects hard to come by, the focus for many enterprises has been to improve decision making with the help of insights that can be delivered from existing data marts or data warehouses. This is off-course expected with no additional funding. Business Intelligence has also featured on CIO agendas researched by many marquee research entities.

Thus vendors have been getting quite aggressive in their sales pitch claiming to have all the magic formulae towards achieving the elusive ROI from BI as well as improving the usage of information towards making effective decisions. Many of these vendors have staff they have hired from the industry, who worked on in-house BI projects, successful or not, but now purportedly have the wisdom on how to make it work.

The question that baffles me is that in most cases the effectiveness same consultants was at best average with a few exceptions. What has changed that now gives then the insights from the outside to create exceptional performance for their customers ? Talking to them rarely gives one the comfort that they will be able to indeed drive through the change and create value irrespective of what their PowerPoints may depict.

The technology or tools do not appear to matter to this brood. The list appears like a menu card in an expensive restaurant which also includes esoteric dishes with fancy prices. And if it is not on the menu, don't worry, the chef will create what you want (custom solution).

Why is it that "wisdom" on how and what on business intelligence is with the consultants and vendors and rarely manifests itself within the enterprise ? I scratch my head and all I get is hair ! I am now losing it faster with the number of BI shops mushrooming everywhere. Maybe I should think of joining the herd rather than trying to beat them at their game.


  1. Sanjeev Agrawal - Teradata India5:50 PM

    I believe that is so because Retail Analytics is still very nascent and maturing in India. And consultants being consultants always paint a picture that's great to appreciate but very difficult to draw ( your views).

    The answer to this conundrum is to deal with people who are experienced, have references who can vouch for them and the technology, have practices (global best practices may not be best for India) and methodology to suit Indian business situations.

    As far as BI vendors mushrooming all over is concerned, I agree with your views completely. BI is a buzz word and vendors are showcasing what they are doing with great zeal. But again, the golden rule of depth of solution offering, technology leadership, references and references, implementation methodology, partner solutions to round the technology capability - all apply in proper selection of the vendor to work for you.

  2. The ROI of BI is undoubtly the most elusive of all the numbers. The word "BI" is overused and overhyped. In its spirit, Business Intelligence should should do what CIA does for the security of US. It should aid decisions (model decisions), monitor peformance, optimize outcomes. In its current state, the BI is just seen only from technology angle....very few people see it from Business perspective. Try beating the vendor hype......