Monday, 30 July 2012

4 fundamental questions for business intelligence

When setting up a business intelligence project, most people tend to start with systems, people and processes. It is very common to consider the 'hows' before the 'whys'. Taking a step back and asking some more fundamental questions may be more beneficial.

Any piece of information can be captured. Is it financially feasible to do so? Compare the costs to the anticipated benefits of acquiring the information. What people generally miss from a good cost benefit analysis is the cost of acquiring the money. This will depend on how your organisation is funded. If you have shareholders, the cost of acquiring money (dividend payments) is probably far more expensive than loaning from a bank (interest rates). But when you factor in financial acquisition costs, your benefit analysis may be far less than you thought. As new technologies become established, their cost comes down. Could you wait until this happens or are you losing a potential opportunity to gain an advantage over competitors?

Is it ethically appropriate to collect the information? Do your customers or colleagues know you are capturing this information? Do they have a right to know? If they found out, what would their reaction be? What are the rules about this information? What are the regulatory obligations and constraints? 

Who will own this new data? Ownership and accountability should be ascertained right at project inception. I guarantee that as soon as something has been built without an accountable owner agreed beforehand, your colleagues will head for the hills. If they can get something built without being held accountable, then they will. Without an accountable business owner, it becomes so much harder to get cooperation from the rest of the organisation when the data requires remediation. 

This is like accountability, only the other way round. A new report or data set becomes available and EVERYONE wants access. Do they really need it? Is the information politically sensitive? Could the performance of other colleagues be derived from this information? What could be the repercussions of general circulation? How valuable would the insight be to an external company? How vulnerable is this data to theft?

Consider carefully before you start. There are inherent risks - both financial and human - to collecting new data that need to be carefully considered.


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    1. Thanks for your comment, Joki. In my experience, data governance is still an emerging discipline, with companies taking up best practices at different rates. These are often driven by external factors like regulation and threat of fines. I'm pleased your experience with UK data is good. Hope it will continue.

      All the best, Rich

  2. These are really great questions for any company considering implementing business intelligence. Thanks for sharing!