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Originally published 22 April 2008
Enterprises see enormous potential value in turning their corporate information into a competitive and strategic asset that drives their business forward. Companies of all sizes are implementing business intelligence (BI) solutions in an effort to get the most out of their data. In fact, according to a recent survey by a leading research firm, business intelligence was the top technology priority for CIOs worldwide in 2007.
Yet many of these organizations receive limited value from their BI implementations because these initiatives are driven at the department level and not developed with a central strategy in mind. As a result, these companies are left with disconnected BI tools, higher operational and maintenance costs, and no resources to manage and support cross-functional BI solutions.
However, a BI implementation can be effective when it features unified and integrated processes that span multiple departments in an enterprise. One way to implement this is by creating a Business Intelligence Competency Center (BICC). This business model – often known as a center of excellence – is an approach being utilized by some companies worldwide to complete multiple data integration, reporting, analysis and exploration projects rapidly and cost-effectively.
A BICC refers to a centralized team that consists of both IT employees and business users who work together to address technology, people, processes and organizational culture. This group streamlines business intelligence by integrating data reporting and analysis and by sharing corporate governance, resources and methodologies to develop reusable assets. When implemented correctly, the team forms the backbone of an effective enterprise BI program. In addition, companies can use a BICC to craft a coherent, enterprise-wide BI architecture with no redundancy. A BICC helps companies to bridge the gap between IT and business, and quickly respond to a changing marketplace with the right products and services.
In short, implementing a BICC can help you optimize a BI strategy for your entire organization, accelerate the adoption of new BI solutions at a lower cost, receive higher quality data and improve decision making across the enterprise.
So how can you successfully implement an effective BICC in your organization? There are three important phases to consider during implementation:
Once all of these elements are in place, you can proceed by establishing a common methodology, development standards and environment, and supporting tools for the BICC.
Ultimately, the effectiveness of the BICC is highly dependent on proper planning and implementation. For example, one company, a global player in the high-tech sector, had recently decided to build a BICC to further support its growing presence in the industry. During the creation of the center, the company implemented an enterprise data warehouse.
The company constructed this center, which includes 400 employees, without any vendor support. Unfortunately, the organization lacked the industry insight and BI domain expertise necessary to establish the center successfully. Many of the organization’s BI initiatives were departmental, with redundancies apparent in information repositories and in data integration. Different measures and metrics were used to define processes. Furthermore, the company did not have efficient BI delivery processes in place, so it failed to achieve the business results that it expected during the first year of the center’s existence.
This organization partnered with a BI consulting company, who provided them with resources, software and architecture support, and consulting services to help to streamline all processes within their center of excellence. With this help, the high-tech firm now has a fully integrated BICC. While reducing costs, the company has accelerated overall development of BI applications. In fact, using the new center, the company has been able to reduce its development cycle by 20%.
The keys to a successful BICC are experience, planning and resources, all of which may reside internally or may be best served with an experienced partner. If you are among the organizations interested in setting up a BICC, assess the most efficient path to turning your company information into a strategic asset. As I mentioned earlier, the company previously cited didn’t thoroughly evaluate – or at least it underestimated – what it needed to succeed. To borrow a carpentry mantra: measure twice, cut once.
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