Why Business Intelligence Projects Fail

business intelligence project managment

27 Jan Why Business Intelligence Projects Fail

Starting up a new business intelligence project can be a daunting effort. BI projects can require company-wide changes as well as IT and network infrastructure investments. And in today’s business environment, not having a BI solution can mean losing customers to your competition. So there’s a lot at stake in implementing your project right.

But the truth is that most BI projects fail. According to Gartner, Inc., 70-80% of BI projects fail. That’s huge. So if you want to get up and running with your project, you need have a plan and understand why the majority of these BI implementations never make the finish line. Here’s three reasons projects like these fail and what you can do to improve your chances.

Lots of Data, No Plan

Some organizations think their BI project will work if only they have enough data. So they gather and gather, build data warehouses, and hope that somehow this data brings intelligence. But without coming up with a plan about what problems you intend to solve, you’re just pushing piles of data around. Everyone wants to jump on the Big Data bandwagon, but just having a lot of data won’t help you. Nobody wants to sift through lots of data to figure out what it can do; that’s a recipe for frustration and confusion.

Before you even begin thinking about your solution, you need to understand why you want a BI solution in the first place. What problems are you trying to solve? How are you going to use this information to make decisions? And who will be using it? If you own a car dealership, wanting to manage your ratio of used to new cars effectively is different than tracking the increase in foot traffic based on recent radio ads. And both are different from determining the effectiveness of individual salespeople. You can do all three, but you should build that into your strategy from the beginning to avoid data overload.

BI projects can get bogged down and run over budget if you are just gathering data and building massive data warehouses just to hold it. Your strategy should establish the borders of the data. Otherwise,your team could waste months – maybe even years! – building out data warehouses that are meant to hold everything, instead of building something efficient that holds the data that you need.

You’re Not Solving Anyone’s Problem

using BI tools

There’s a lot of BI tools out there, from the massive enterprise systems to agile dashboards that manage your KPIs for you. Sometimes individual departments can fall in love with a solution based on individual features. Maybe they’ll hire a consultant that recommends something they’ve liked in the past. But the BI project fails, even with the shiny new software, highly recommended systems that do nothing to solve the problems of the folks tasked to use it.

Too often, organizations pick a system and expect their employees to hop on board. But once the solution is in their hands, it turns out that it doesn’t actually solve their problems. It doesn’t help them make better decisions. No amount of consultants can make up for talking to the people who will use a BI system and figuring out what they want.

Everyone in your organization needs to buy into a solution for it to succeed. It can’t be a decision made by a few IT people or consultants or even a subset of the eventual users. Find out what your users want and need, then scout systems based on that. With this information, you can find a solution that fixes the right problems and lets employees make better decisions.

Not Enough Training

So let’s say you figured out a brilliant data gathering strategy, held meetings and talk sessions with employees to figure out their needs, and picked up the best possible BI system for you. Your project can still fail. Change is hard within organizations, because you need to convince people to move to unfamiliar software and change their habits. They already have have time-tested ways to work around their problems. Those methods might be labor-intensive and error-prone, but at least they’re familiar.

Changing habits requires you to make your employees comfortable with the new and improved solution, so save a little bit of your budget for training. This training needs to get everybody near enough to expert to where they can start using the solution in their daily routine. If your training doesn’t get everybody up and running, you’ll have just a few employees handling everybody’s requests for information. That not only creates a bottleneck, it’ll bog them down to where they can’t do their other job functions.

With planning, research, and training, you can overcome the common BI project pitfalls and come closer to success. Nothing in life in guaranteed, but don’t rely on luck to get your project on track. Your organization’s future is counting on it.

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