Make BI business as usual

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

If 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.

Achieving BI ubiquity takes considerable time and effort -- 10 years and counting in the case of "Pervasive business intelligence is something that we have and continue to work very hard at -- and we think we're really successful at it," Bozzo says.

Over time, the Carle Place, N.Y.-based company has learned the imperative of having a BI/analytics practice within IT as well having corresponding liaison groups in each business unit. "These liaisons are experts in BI, but they major in business and minor in IT, whereas the analytics group in IT majors in IT and minors in business," Bozzo says. "The groups complement each other perfectly, and this has made a huge difference in the way we roll out BI."

At, a family of 20 brands, IT asks each business group to identify who needs access to BI and to classify each designated individual as either a basic, intermediate or super user. A basic user can generate basic queries and pull ad hoc reports, while a super user can write macros and generate his own reports; the capabilities of an intermediate user fall in between the two, Bozzo explains.

These are not static designations, he adds. "Our goal is to turn basic users into intermediate users and intermediate users into super users. Ultimately, someone defined by the business as somebody who has a need for BI information will go through that process, with IT taking the responsibility and accountability for facilitating the training," he says. Thirty-two employees recently attended a training class run by its BI vendor, SAS Institute, he adds.

"Our basic goal is that we understand everything we can about our customers, so it's important to get increased numbers of people involved in business intelligence. That effort cannot hurt as long as they have the appropriate training and can use the tools that we give them," Bozzo says.

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