In a recent poll, we asked visitors to this website to vote on the statement “If Business Intelligence is successful it turns the organization upside down”. The outcome of this poll has surprised us positively; the majority of voters believe that with a successful implementation of Business Intelligence the organization is turned upside down. In other words, the organization is going to organize itself differently or regroup.
A positive development
It is good to see that the majority of voters – 87 of the 130 – think that successful Business Intelligence has an effect or should have an effect on the way an organization is organized. Because that is what it is all about: Business Intelligence – integrated management information and clear figures on performance – must lead to action and changes in processes or policies. In short: BI changes the business. If not, you are clearly not (yet) successful with BI.
It is quite useless to have good figures and then not to make changes based on them. The question is whether change is always necessary. Perhaps it can be concluded from the figures that the trend is positive or is remaining stable. However, even in those situations we will in any case be able to ask questions and may need to take action: do we have enough resources if the trend continues for several months? What are our competitors doing? What could be better still?
An example: the national crime figures showed that the crime rate of a certain Municipality was the highest in the province. The Mayor would not comment on this because she still had to study the figures (which she had presented herself!). The journalist then went to the Police Commissioner who was able to report the following: “The figures are not a reason for us to adjust our policies”.
That is where a number of organizations still fall short: doing something meaningful with the figures. This is also clear from national research and the report “The 7 biggest pitfalls of Business intelligence” by the Passionned Group consultancy and research agency.
The Amsterdam-Amstelland regional police would probably handle it differently. They won an Excellent Performance Award at the presentation of the national Business Intelligence Awards in 2009 for their information-driven organization.
Why does business intelligence turn everything upside down?
Good management information shows how an organization performs on several fronts. This can lead to a change in strategy or policy. More importantly with Business Intelligence, we are not only going to manage more hierarchically but also horizontally. That means that the process becomes central instead of the organization chart.
We will communicate about the figures and discuss the results with each other whereby the dependencies in process management can become visible, amongst other things. However, through Business Intelligence we also gain insight into the data quality in the systems. A common complaint incidentally, which many executives initially do not know how to handle. The first figures and reports in particular are never correct. “We cannot manage with this unreliable information, IT do something about it!”
We will get to the bottom of this
Then you can have a discussion, and then they will start to manage well. Not substantively initially, but by putting questions to their employees such as “why is that?” and “explain these figures to me?” Employees are asked to find this out and often quickly see what is going on. Data is not recorded correctly – and IT is not responsible for that – or the definitions of indicators are not yet precise enough. After a number of these improvements – in line with the PDCA cycle – the organization is indeed slowly turned upside down: they are getting to the bottom of it! Not only will the quality of the information be able to increase over time, but an improvement will also be seen in the recording of data and the overall process.
The process by which we succeed with Business Intelligence does not stop with the delivery of reports and key indicators. It is actually only beginning then. We will need to follow through, even after the project is completed in a technical sense. I wonder which players in the market and end users also (dare to) take into account the behavioral and organizational aspects. Given the chart above, we certainly believe in it! Maybe it is time to take part in the Business Intelligence Awards or the National BI survey, and then you can benchmark your organization against your industry peers.
Further reading: The 5 biggest pitfalls in predictive analytics