Facing the BI challenge

See also: Business Intelligence, a timeline

The business intelligence (BI) challenges facing CIOs vary enormously, depending on the sector and their current infrastructure.

“If you’re in the reporting Stone Age, getting from 0 to 60 will be a big challenge,” says BI analyst Andreas Bitterer, VP of research at Gartner.

According to Bitterer, there are many CIOs in global corporations who are creating fantastic systems for their constituents, only for their users to prove to be wasteful.

“Often the CIOs generate masses of fantastic information for their users, who then just throw these impressive reports straight over the wall,” says Bitterer.

A business intelligence report is like a cross between a corporate comfort blanket and a shield you carry into a boardroom battle.

Nobody can accuse you of not being good at your job if you’ve got a massive tablet of data you can throw at them.

Good understanding
The challenge of good BI, says Bitterer, is to create something the users understand.

“You need to find and present information that makes sense to someone, and gives them something that they can act on,” he says.

The problem is, he argues, too often people aren’t able to articulate what they need.

One of the most over-used phrases in any corporation, he says, is “can you give me a report on that”, but the problem is that most organisations have far too much information anyway.

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The one issue that all CIOs have in common, no matter where they are and what challenges they have, is that the very people they must work with can make or break any BI project.

Understanding the mentality of the human resources at your disposal is a major boon in ensuring a successful BI strategy. You can tell a business intelligence strategy is successful when everyone wants to take credit for it.

The fact that so much can be achieved by technology is probably a good reason for the eventual failure. At the moment, we are cursed with a bewildering array of new innovations.

The big trends are: big data, consumerisation, mobile access and the emergence of open source alternatives to traditional BI tools.

Tablets are giving users increasing mobility, improving their access to systems when they are out the office and whetting their appetite for more information and reports by offering user friendly interfaces.

Cloud computing is offering more options for business intelligence apps.

Some argue that cloud-enabled BI apps should be avoided at all costs, given that they take sensitive company information and entice it outside the company firewall.

That’s not a distributed architecture, argues Bitterer, that’s a company whose governance is all over the place.

The increase in the number of tablets and smartphones has driven another wearisome (for the CIO) development in business intelligence.

Not only are these devices giving people more chance to access reports, they have created a new type of input.

Social media and social trends are newly created areas that the CIO must cover too.