Sunday, October 30, 2011
BI in an imperfect world: When organizations let us down
It is probably a well known fact that BI projects have the least successful completion rate in any organization: entire books, whitepapers and Blogs have been written on this topic alone with the hopes that many project teams will recognize, and more importantly avoid these issues. If you are reading this blog, chances are that you are very familiar with them, in fact you might have already experienced and (hopefully solved) some of them yourself. However there is probably one that you are not aware of, even though it maybe “hiding in plain sight”: what if the organization itself (all the way from top management) does not want you to succeed? Impossible, you might say, isn’t the organization paying for your salary and giving you a mandate to complete the program for its own benefit? Although, it might sound like a conspiracy theory, sometimes there are forces coming all the way from the top that have a mandate to protect the status quo at the expense of keeping everyone in the dark. Just recently I had the opportunity to have a good discussion on this topic with a long time friend who works for a top IT firm running a global BI program; he has been working over the last two years to gather performance scorecards on every major area in the organization. Through this process he has discovered things that are working extremely and identified areas that might be consider for improvement, some of them for significant improvement. The results were published and made accessible to all the top lever managers in the organization. You would expect that given the reputation of this global organization, they (management) would have taken the results very seriously and created specific programs to address the short comings or improvements identified in each area. Well, not only this did not happen, but my friend was called into the global CIOs office for a face-2-face meeting. During this meeting he was literally told that his scorecards were creating too much noise and making the company look bad, so he should go back to them and separate the real from other issues and more importantly fix the problems in a couple of days when the Global CIO was meeting with the CEO and the board. If you are still looking for the positive side to this story, the Global CIO offered him to take some sabbatical to evaluate his priorities. I cannot imagine how my friend must have felt after dedicating his efforts to improve the organization through Business Intelligence. I guess it must have been similar to when some people in the dark ages tried to prevent the usage of candles as it brought light to night activities that they would have preferred to keep hidden and people felt they were standing on the way of progress. Going back to our premise, the organization let down my friend, they (management) made the decision that they were better off behaving like an ostrich, hiding from their enemies rather than addressing them head on. However, I side with my friend that he did the right thing by shedding light into difficult situations rather than hiding the truth. My only advice in this situation is even if the organization is letting you down; you should never let your organization down: this is something that you might never forgive yourself as a professional true to Business Intelligence.