A recalibration is taking place in the way that companies staff and organize for success with business intelligence. We discussed the topic of organizing for success in one of my recent weekly #BIWisdom tweetchat sessions on Twitter.
Leading into the discussion, I tweeted that success requires the right culture and strong C-level management to drive alignment of all involved parties to make BI work at a strategic level. Also required is an organizational model and set of processes, methods, etc. And well-planned success criteria and metrics are key. It’s also useful to have a funding model and some potential projects lined up. And it’s necessary to take inventory of resources, identify skills and knowledge gaps and and plan to augment, when necessary, with external resources. And, of course, processing and preparing data is important; but where, when and how that takes place will be determined by these other questions.
When I asked those attending the #BIWisdom session what else is necessary for success, the group was off and running with a discussion around the necessary skills. Contrary to what you might assume, it wasn’t about the skills of information architects or data scientists.
Someone tweeted that BI managers need a business background, not IT, and added that it “helps draw in more folks and expedite delivery times.” Another went further, tweeting that “Non-IT folks are more likely to own a business problem, not just infrastructure, which is important because BI is no longer just an IT initiative. Those that know the business and the data should be involved.”
A member tweeted, “The biggest change is decentralization of BI skills. Central IT in companies is becoming smaller and pockets are forming across the company. And BI is shifting to self-service.” Another likened the situation to BI IT staff “gradually moving from flying planes to becoming air traffic controllers and building/maintaining the airport.”
As the tweets continued, the group shared deeper insights. Someone pointed out that the decentralization of BI skills goes deeper than “ownership.” Another said it’s an instant way to transform BI “tool talk” to “value talk.”
The focus on value drew an important observation: “The skill sets for BI have changed. More soft skills are needed. A lot of empathy is truly needed to understand what to look at in BI.”
Bottom line: People can be enablers or impediments to BI success. The impediments are those who resist change, fear loss of ownership of data and maintain a silo perspective.
The enablers possess the “soft skills” – social skills or interactive skills. Yes, the knowledge of business users that understand their domain is valuable in knowing what to look at in a BI initiative. And curiosity is a valuable attitude in deciding what to look at. But empathy and other soft skills such as the following will drive even better outcomes:
- Teamwork and partnering attitude
- Creativity and problem-solving skills
- Communication skills, especially in reporting results via presentations or storytelling
- Ability to motivate others
- Big-picture thinking
Most of all, adaptability or flexibility is an essential soft skill in BI as needs, requirements and strategies will change over time.
Soft skills will be even more crucial to achieving value in BI as more and more companies begin sharing their information with customers and other external entities.
Howard Dresner is president, founder and chief research officer at Dresner Advisory Services, LLC, an independent advisory firm. He is one of the foremost thought leaders in Business Intelligence and Performance Management, having coined the term “Business Intelligence” in 1989. He has published two books on the subject, The Performance Management Revolution — Business Results through Insight and Action, and Profiles in Performance — Business Intelligence Journeys and the Roadmap for Change. He hosts a weekly tweet chat (#BIWisdom) on Twitter each Friday. Prior to Dresner Advisory Services, Howard served as chief strategy officer at Hyperion Solutions and was a research fellow at Gartner, where he led its Business Intelligence research practice for 13 years.