True story: The IT department at a small company decided it could save money if it removed one of two business intelligence tools long in use -- one more popular than the other.
Within a two-year period of IT's decision, the company not only had crippled its ability to complete analytics but also lost multiple key employees and ended up with an environment in which analytics became nonexistent. "Very dramatic
," you're probably thinking, and I agree.
With hindsight being such a great teacher, here are the three biggest teaching points from the BI failure.
Lesson 1: You can't move to an unproven system
IT had selected Tool 1 for a specific implementation and over a three-year period spent more than a $1 million with the vendor, but to limited success. Tool 1 didnít work for many reasons, most of which related to dirty data and the lack of internal knowledge and expertise. After a few painful years, departmental users abandoned the tool and returned to an Excel-based system.
Meanwhile, Tool 2's implementation met with success after only a few months. Because the team had intimate knowledge of the data and the tool was so flexible, it was able to overcome data and business process shortcomings. Users and customers received reports and analysis for many years. The team required little involvement from the vendor.
Nevertheless, IT decided to migrate everything to Tool 1 because that was more familiar to them -- and cost less than Tool 2.
Lesson 2: Your job title doesn't make you the real expert
Politics, pride, and ignorance played a role in this failed implementation. The IT VP, new to the company, failed to assess his teamís strengths and the business's strengths properly. He acted as if he was still in his former role at a larger corporation where IT naturally made tool decisions. As such, he failed to take into account that business managers often made such decisions at this smaller company.
When the migration began, IT instructed Tool 2 team to write the requirements and teach them how to make Tool 1 and Tool 2 the same. IT also took away Team 2's direct access to the data, instead making access to it available only through IT.
IT didnít understand they were experts in a tool, not BI. The Tool 2 team understood working with the analysis and data was a continual job. IT, a project-driven department, wanted to create a few datamarts, wipe its hands, and move to the next project.
IT wanted requirements, not cooperation or collaboration. Everyone involved felt uncomfortable.
Lesson 3: You must have a real tool champion in the business
The IT team never had buy-in for Tool 1 and appeared to have made its choice without due process. Business VPs didn't have strong opinions one way or another and ignored the sky-is-falling warnings from their respective staffs. In short, Tool 1 had no advocate -- even from among its existing users -- within the business, or even IT.
The Tool 2 team passively resisted IT. Team members attended all meetings, provided completed requirements, and received full training on Tool 1. However, no Tool 2 team member promoted Tool 1. No one thought it was an improvement, no one offered to train the user base, and no one talked it up. In short, nobody had any passion for the tool.
The users had been passionate about Tool 2, and that passion didn't die -- it moved, to another corporation.
Within a six-week period, a larger company poached the Tool 2 team, including the manager, without much difficulty. This set the smaller company back. These particular analysts were senior employees with many years of specific business knowledge.
With no one trained in the data, the user base also suffered. The migration was complete, but nobody could take it to the next step or maintain it. Certainly, the project-based IT department did not feel any ownership. Within a short while, the users returned to cutting and pasting data from the database to spreadsheets, an inefficient method that years earlier had led to the Tool 2 implementation.
Lack of passion was the single largest contributor to the failed BI implementation. Without the passion, no one would take tool ownership, provide ongoing requirements, and encourage users. Take a lesson as you plan your BI implementation -- ensure you have a team dedicated to the toolís success. Build the passion for the tool and then let the magic begin.
What are some strategies you have used to build passion for your BI tools? Share below.