Mark Twain wrote that the difference between the right word and the almost-right word is like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. In the world of business intelligence the word in question is “control.”
We discussed the issue of control at one of my Friday #BIWisdom tweetchats when someone asked whether there is a trend in BI control moving away from the IT group and to the business users. After all, this movement away from IT is happening in infrastructure, ERP and front-end technologies. IT is shifting to more of a supporting role rather than a driver mandating BI solution decisions.
One of the group asked, “What is being controlled? Is it protection of the data? If so, what is it being protected from? Or is it more than the protection of the data?”
Some of the group tweeted their real-world observations:
- IT should control the infrastructure; the lines of business should control the data.
- Both should control; IT should guide and advise (without being heavy-handed), and the business units should manage.
- IT should be the data guard.
- IT needs to be more visible and speak the same lingo as the business users to overcome obstacles and validate the data. Otherwise, delivery of the solution tends to be like a game of “pin the tail on the donkey.” But this communication skill is not a core strength for most IT folks.
- Several companies’ failing BI projects were turned around when the business units took control.
- In larger organizations, IT is more likely to drive BI initiatives. In smaller organizations, which often lack IT groups, executive leadership drives the initiatives.
- Tech budgets have shifted to the business stakeholders rather than IT. Yet IT still has a definite role to play.
- New end-point devices and increasing demand for data-driven decisions pushes data decisions to the end users.
Someone else pointed out the growing need for the control issue to be resolved, tweeting: “BI is now more revenue focused and is used to create ‘customer experience,’ so there will be more squabbling for control.”
Bottom line: Control is “ownership” and, therefore, accountability, whether it’s for the data or an initiative. So it’s an issue that organizations should not sidestep, no matter how difficult the challenge is.
The issue of “IT versus users” is a perennial challenge because they have different priorities and cultures and different perspectives on control. My observation is that not many organizations have bridged this gap. From my observation, the best way to address the issue of control is to take both a tactical and strategic approach through a BI Competency Center (BICC).
IT is best at validating the data, and the business users are best at validating the strategic use of the information. The issue of control is one area where a BICC can really help. The BICC can help bridge the gap between business users and IT, resolving disputes between the two groups and creating links that drive increased insights from the data.
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.