Make BI business as usual

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At these organizations, a top-down commitment helps business intelligence efforts spread throughout the enterprise.

If 1-800-Flowers.com CIO Steve Bozzo had his druthers, even the online retailer's mailroom clerks would have access to business intelligence. "There's valuable information at every level of the organization," he says.

Clearly, Bozzo sees the power of pervasive BI. "Business intelligence needs to be part of the business fabric: not an afterthought layered on top of a business initiative, but part and parcel of the overall process from the get-go," Bozzo says. "And that's what it is for us -- it's a part of our culture."

But pervasive BI doesn't mean everybody in the company has sophisticated analytics tools to use as they wish, cautions Dan Vesset, an analyst at IDC. Rather, he says, pervasive BI is about ensuring that everybody -- front-line employees, middle managers and executives -- can make decisions using the right information at the right time.

Aberdeen Group has seen the correlation between training and the success of pervasive BI programs, says David White, an analyst at the research firm. "Best-in-class companies on pervasive BI are making sure users understand not only the capabilities of the BI tools, but also the data, statistics if necessary, and analytical techniques, and how these help in decision-making. They have broad educational efforts around pervasive BI," he says.

Democratizing Data

Training is a critical success factor in achieving pervasive BI, which is, in turn, essential for better business excellence, agrees Bobby Nix, director of business intelligence and analytics at Allconnect, an Atlanta-based consumer services company. "We want to be a data-driven company, so we are democratizing data and making sure everybody has access to it," he says.

Everybody from the top down must understand the importance of the data -- even individuals who never use an analytics tool or see a business report, agrees John Lucas, director of park operations at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

"In achieving success, the key has been allowing our project to be steered by the people who are influential in the organization -- those who can make budgetary decisions and set strategy and vision, as well as people who are directly responsible for the success or failure of the business, specifically revenue," says Lucas. "But the pervasiveness is core." He spearheaded the decision to foster an enterprisewide culture of BI at the zoo, and he selected the IBM Cognos tools that IT now supports for the effort.

The zoo was one of the first visitor attractions to take on such a deep BI project, and Lucas frequently shares his experiences in speaking engagements around the country. "The No. 1 thing I tell people is, if you don't succeed on making everybody understand, embrace and participate in the process, you really shouldn't do analytics," he says. "The cultural buy-in is key to reaching your full potential with analytics."

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