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24 May 2011

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D inesh Kotecha explains how business intelligence strategies – properly implemented – can provide a real boost for your company.

What are the main inhibitors to good business intelligence and how can they be overcome?

Dinesh Kotecha. Corporate culture dramatically impacts good BI: resistance to change, micro-managing the business, inadequate process controls and a lack of vision over the use of information. Changing this requires commitment from the top to a strategic review, requirements analysis and re-engineering of information management processes. Equally, buy-in is necessary at all levels.

Technical challenges include infrastructure and connectivity, consistency in database technologies, and implementation of reference data and coding structures. Identifying these technical issues can be difficult, and resolution requires investment in technology to address the shortcomings.

Understanding the role of BI is crucial. Companies typically have good business and operational knowledge, and good internal IT, but fail to leverage their corporate data to drive the business.

Data quality issues are paramount. Poor reference data or incomplete and inconsistent operational data can make BI ineffective. Resolving this requires a review, analysis and cleansing of data. For reference data, a more strategic improvement to underlying source systems may be required.

Successful implementation requires good project management, implementation skills, and technical expertise. These can be acquired by training, through recruitment, or by partnering with a BI consultancy. The latter offers scope for skills transfer during the project, leaving the in-house team trained to maintain and support the system.

How does BI help to ensure that executives get what they want, when they need it?

DK . Implementing BI moves the company to using a single integrated source of accurate, consistent, relevant and timely data. The vast repository of corporate data can overwhelm executives and impair their ability to make correct decisions. Good BI will put key drivers at their fingertips, allowing them to focus on the areas that need attention.

Critical information is more accessible through simple graphical tools such as traffic lights, drill-through, dashboards and cockpits. Trends can matter more than the absolute position. These tools provide comparatives, variance reporting and modelling capabilities without extensive training or investment in pre-designed reports.

Why do many BI implementations fail to live up to their initial promise?

DK . The key failure in BI implementations is a non-strategic approach that does not address the issues raised above. Corporate culture is not changed to embrace the new, dynamic mechanism for decision-making. Time is not taken to understand the key business drivers that need to be exposed by the solution. Underlying systems are inadequate. Data quality issues are not addressed.

Even if a decent BI platform is developed, users are often not trained or supported sufficiently to exploit the power at their disposal. The pervasive use of tools such as spreadsheets makes it all too easy to revert to old practices.

What BI solutions can you present to companies that are maybe being forced to downsize or restructure as a result of the economic crisis?

DK . Thought IT offers a complete range of products and services for cost-effective BI solutions suited to all organisations, to help them monitor and manage all aspects of corporate performance management using measures that are relevant to their business.

Essbase can deliver a low-cost solution provided good disciplines are adopted for application design and managing data quality. With appropriate reporting tools, a high-performance OLAP cube provides a functionally rich BI platform that can be implemented quickly.

Hyperion Enterprise offers a complete web-enabled consolidation and reporting solution especially suited to mid-market companies and departments or divisions of larger organisations.

Hyperion Planning and Hyperion Financial Management are best of breed, feature-rich applications for planning, forecasting, reporting and consolidation.

CXO-Cockpit provides an excellent self-serve toolset that allows executives to leverage BI value from HFM, Planning, HSF, Essbase and Enterprise.

OBIEE 11g provides a common platform for producing and delivering enterprise reports, scorecards, dashboards, and ad hoc and OLAP analysis.

Thought IT provides a complete service encompassing BI strategy, problem identification and resolution, project management and system implementation.


With 20 years of IT systems delivery experience, Dinesh Kotecha is the founder and MD of Thought IT. After managing finance systems at Prudential Corporation and HSBC, he turned to consultancy in 1998, and has since brought his unique blend of business, finance and IT expertise to numerous organisations.

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