Risk, and why IT has such a hard time getting BI right

IT has always feared risk and uncertainty. But to get BI right, it is going to have to embrace them.

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For a hot technology, business intelligence is mighty long in the tooth. BI has been around in one form or another, with one name or another, for decades. In all that time, it has never lived up to its potential, but business leaders aren't ready to give up on it. The critical question is, Can IT respond to the challenge this time?

IT had its chance to be the BI provider in the 1980s and 1990s and blew it by failing to address the BI challenge as anything more than a technical one. The last decade saw the business units try to take on BI without IT support, with only limited success.

The technical challenge of BI becomes less daunting all the time. Analytical software has improved tremendously, and there have been significant improvements in the hardware and software for managing large amounts of data -- which is good, since vast quantities of data are essential to business intelligence.

The problem is that many enterprises that have spent seven figures and more for BI tools, databases, data warehouses and extraction software have ended up with little to show for their investments besides some colorful but essentially worthless charts showing quarterly sales sorted in multiple ways. What the business wants is detailed analysis and predictions of future performance. What does IT need to do differently to give the business what it wants from BI?

IT needs to face two BI challenges. The first challenge is rather simple, while the second is complex and, for IT, more than a little frightening.

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