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New Year’s Data Resolutions

It’s 2013!  Will this year be the Year of Self-Service BI?  Or the Year of Mobile BI?  Or perhaps (for the second year running) the Year of Big Data?  Trend-watching is fun, but what does it tell you about making real business decisions with respect to your  growing Enterprise Reporting or BI needs?  Maybe not as much as we’d like to believe.

A mentality of “keeping up with the Joneses” can lead to throwing good money after bad.  Or to just plain throwing money away, period.  Trends are important, but only inasmuch as they apply to your industry, market, and company.  Still, sometimes it’s hard not to suffer from “buzzword hypnosis”.  So here are four “resolutions” you can keep for the coming year that might help to keep your feet on the ground as you evaluate your BI plans for the rest of the year.

1) Resolve to know what you’ve got, and what it can (and can’t) do.

You should be very familiar with the reporting and data management capabilities currently available in your organization.  Knowledge you need includes:

  • What software you have
  • What database platforms are in use
  • What features are included
  • And what 3rd party options are available to leverage your current platform

Having this information will keep you from making redundant investments, duplicating capability you already own.

2) Resolve to keep your culture in mind.

When making bold BI moves, there are always adoption risks.  If your organization has particular reporting needs, or dysfunctional reporting processes, or is just not ready for a data-driven mentality and culture, you will need to plan with extra care.   Think about how your workers and executives actually interact with and consume data, day in and day out.  What suits their needs?  Do they need mobile BI?  Or just a few reports made centrally available?  And consider the future:  as smartphones and tablets augment or even PCs across the business landscape, will you be prepared to support them?  Keeping the context of your business situation will help ground your decisions.

3) Resolve to focus on the Capability/TCO equation.

All too frequently, where BI/reporting is a sore spot, it’s easiest to blame the current platform.  But don’t be too tempted to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  It may ultimately make sense to take big steps, but only do so after a careful TCO analysis of any new solution you are considering.  This can be difficult in the BI arena, because there are many “soft” elements (i.e. usability, users’ confidence in data) that are hard to quantify for that kind of analysis.   So take extra care to look at your purchasing through an ROI lens, and make sure than any big moves will be worth their cost.

4) Resolve to remember maintenance.

Once the dust settles on your data solution implementation, what do you do when something goes wrong?   BI solutions are inevitably “organic” systems, in which both need and capability will evolve over time.  Who will support that?  In most situations, a custom BI solution is built and the keys are handed to someone who is not a seasoned BI architect/developer.   So you have to ask: do we have the resources and expertise to support what we’re getting?  Do we hire?  Do we train?  Do we contract for support?  Some combination of all of the above?   It will behoove you to consider the long-term plan for “care and feeding” of you BI solution.

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