Sunday, August 29, 2010

Has Business Intelligence become a commodity?

Many of us in the consulting field will probably answer no, giving examples of multiple projects that have failed because people did not know how to properly execute them. From an industry perspective however, the Fortune 500 CXOs who see IT as an expense could not care less who or how they BI projects are being executed as long as the cost is right. What started as a differentiated capability to provide business the "extra edge" over the competition evolved into one more of the IT tools that need to be maintained, ideally at the lowest cost.
So, to put it in Austin Power’s terms, has BI lost its “mojo”?
All the Fortune 500 companies that I have had the opportunity to visit have some kind of BI tool, many of them have multiple tools and probably some of them have all the commercial BI tools. The BI team might range in size from a few individuals working on-site to full floors of analysts and developers in India but most want to reduce it – both in size and in cost. In contrast, very few companies have initiatives to get more out of their BI investment. However those that truly believe in BI are using it to drive their business transformation.
How is this possible? On one hand we seemed to have reached a plateau where everybody has BI capabilities and it is looking to reduce the cost. On the other side of the spectrum, we seem to have a few outliers that don’t believe they have reached the maximum potential out of their BI investment and are pushing the organization to continue to re-invent itself based on information.
In my experience, what differentiates these leading edge companies are not the BI tools, or their budget but rather their vision. In particular there is a champion in the organization who is driving change through BI. This visionary can articulate the value of the information and provide the business with business driven solutions that can improve performance (both revenue and profitability) by suggesting very concrete and actionable ideas that are the result of properly measuring and analyzing the information.
So, while the tools might be a commodity, how you use them is certainly not. The key to success is not to have the best tool technologies, but rather have the right mindset and business experience to create value beyond IT. As Austin Power’s realized in his movie, the “mojo” is always within, it is just a matter of knowing how to tap into it.

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