Here at Thinking Faster we are always thinking about ways to help make people more productive. To me, one of the simplest ways to make people more productive is to provide them with tools to access all the data their company has created, in a method that is simple to create and easy to understand.
It constantly amazes me how difficult that is to do in reality, no matter how simple it seems in concept. People need information to do their jobs more effectively, but more so need data to analyze trends and spot patterns so they can begin to take action before a problem is magnified or before an opportunity passes them by. Some larger firms have decided to implement enterprise business intelligence from the larger software firms. There are three challenges to implementing business intelligence as an enterprise application:
- The CEO and CFO were told that other Enterprise systems (CRM, SCM, ERP) would solve all their data needs. To a point this was true. Each application creates and stores a vast volume of data. But none of them present the full picture of the end to end business process.
- Enterprise business intelligence takes a long time to deploy and to learn. Imaging putting your team through a long ERP implementation (let's say 12 months, just for grins). Then let's say you decide a year or so after the implementation (just long enough to get everyone up to speed on using the application) that you still don't get all the data and reports you need. Now you've got to implement another enterprise application which will take another 8 to 12 months to implement and another year to really learn. Four to five years later you finally have a solution to your data problem, just in time for...
- The business to change. Business cycles are shrinking and firms need flexibility. Enterprise BI tools aren't flexible to change as the business changes.
Another problem with enterprise BI is that it generally is selected and implemented to solve the problems of one specific functional group - usually finance or sales. While the application may work for other groups, it never gets rolled out or the project peters out before it is rolled out company wide.
If we are to become more dynamic and flexible as businesses, if we are to share information across the business and even with our business partners, if we push decision making down the chain of command to speed up decision making and cut costs, EVERYONE in the business needs up to the minute access to data and the tools to make sense of the data. Otherwise, all we've done is expand decision making throughout the organization without providing the tools necessary to make those decisions responsibly. And that is a recipe for disaster.
I've attached a longer document I wrote about business intelligence for a firm where I was a consultant. Feel free to take a look and let me know your thoughts.Download business_intelligence_or_insight_for_everybody.doc