Business Intelligence Solutions – Points to Ponder

The quest for Business Intelligence (BI) continues as companies try to find the perfect balance between maximizing revenue and minimizing expenses. IT departments attempt to increase revenue by preventing service interruptions and improving business functionality, while minimizing the operating costs associated with maintaining both the IT staff and systems. The idea that BI monitoring will help achieve this much sought after Utopian balance has become generally accepted. Just as vital as understanding the need for Business Intelligence, is the ability to determine a BI solution that meets ones needs.

One of the most common forms of Business Intelligence for IT departments is systems monitoring. Whether it be network, application, or process monitoring, their purpose is to provide a more efficient and economical way for a business to reduce the expense of system outages, which in turn increases revenue. However, many BI implementations fail at achieving that result and in some cases, will cause increased expenses in training or staff. It is even estimated that approximately 60 percent of Business Intelligence projects end in abandonment for one reason or another.

One Company in particular, spent close to a million dollars for a giant wall of monitors that display all of their critical system data. The idea was to increase efficiency but in reality, no one uses it. Since an employee can get the specific information they need to perform their immediate task on their personal PC, the montage of video screens are no more useful to productivity than a piece of art. However, had they purchased the artwork, they may have had something to show for their million dollar investment.

The purpose of this article series is not to provide an exhaustive guide to developing a Business Intelligence system. After all, a BI implementation for two companies who offer the exact same service or product, may need two radically different systems in order for them to reach peak profitability. If the two organizations have diametric infrastructure or process weaknesses, a solution that addresses the first company's needs may not meet the second's. Therefore, my goal is to arm people undertaking BI initiatives, more specifically, monitoring, with information that will help them determine what to look for in a product, solution, company, and / or consultant.

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Below is a brief list of questions that once adequately addressed, will help enable companies avoid the all-too-common failures of many BI implementations.

  • Is the solution tailored to your needs or is it "Out of the Box?"
  • What is your desired goal or what do you hope to gain?
  • Does everyone involved in this BI Project have a "Business Focus?"
  • How useful is the reporting and monitoring compared to the decision makers needs?
  • Does the BI solution allow for adaptability for changing market needs?
  • Are the reprint and Monitoring functions understandable by the Decision Maker / Management team or is it only useful to the IT department?
  • How relevant is the information being displayed
  • Is the "Big Picture" or overall goal being taken into account by every process or product?
  • Are there any Faulty Assumptions being made by the BI team?
  • Is "Up-to-date" information available when needed?

While failing to implement BI initiatives can prevent companies from reaching their full potential, choosing an inadequate solution can be quite costly. There are many variables that come into play when determining what is needed in a BI product or service. Therefore, it would be prudent for one to complete some due diligence before deciding upon any monitoring solution.

by Samuel Schultz

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