What does the title mean?
An April 2016 report from Forbes Insights strongly suggests that the most successful business intelligence (BI) programs feature processes and solutions that place analysis and decision-making solutions in the hands of local business units and functions: so-called ‘distributed’ or ‘self-service’ BI. Specifically, Analytical Enablement: How Leaders Harness Distributed Business Intelligence to Drive Breakthrough Results, found that a majority of respondents (53%) say their overall BI programs are delivering significant benefits.
But what also stood out was that the number of companies reporting significant benefits rose to 87% among the group identified as “leaders”. Moreover, a key attribute of this group is that leaders tend to exhibit significantly higher degrees of self-service within their BI programs.
So the question became: How are best-of-breed BI programs able to balance self-service against the need for data governance? And what we learned in follow-on research, our October 2016 report Breakthrough Business Intelligence, is that those companies achieving the greatest value from their BI programs were doing so through a nuanced and sophisticated blend of governance and distributed BI.
Success Drives Success
Nothing drives adoption and usage like success. So the more success end users experience with BI the faster and more deeply it will spread throughout the organization. But the research found a range of issues that continue to plague the realization of BI’s full potential. Frequently-cited problems include instances of inconsistent data, multiple versions of the truth and inconsistent formulas/definitions and limited adoption across the enterprise.
The common thread? All can be addressed via better governance. And indeed, our research further reveals that companies seem to understand this too and are taking steps to address problems such as those just mentioned. For example, 83% are doing more to manage data access at the departmental level, while 81% are assigning data access by role.
Being able to control who is able to see what data and when is actually a means to enabling broader general access to data. This is an idea that absolutely resonates with Carolin Borchert, Worldwide Business Systems Analyst, Data Warehouse & Analytics, at Germany’s MTS Sensor Technologies GmbH & Co. “When customers have a question, it is very important that our people can provide the correct answers,” says Borchert. But due to data privacy rules and related considerations, access to customer data must be carefully managed.
So the company takes proactive measures. As Borchert explains, “We have very good control: there’s a single sign-on, but from there we can adjust what each person sees; the kinds of data they can access.” For example, “a sales manager may only see customers in their own region.” Overall, says Borchert, “governance is critical, but it is because we have strong governance that we can provide our people with so much access to data.”
Enablement Through Governance
Though companies are recognizing the vital importance of sound governance practices, they are by no means seeking to create any sort of inflexible BI leviathan. In fact, the term “governance” has a bad reputation at most companies, says Saum Mathur, SVP, Big Data Analytics & Information Management at CA Technologies, “because most people associate that term with strict control.”
Consequently, CA Technologies has “banned the term in association with BI” say Mathur, replacing it instead with the term “enablement.” Indeed, says Mathur, steps such as standardization of definitions and formulas, improving data security and enabling secure access—all steps typically associated with governance—“are the means to enabling better BI.” (Note that Mathur adds additional insight in our on-demand webinar, joined both by yours truly and Qlik VP, Global Industry Solutions Mike Saliter.)
Similarly, Venilla Vetrivillalan, Senior Manager, Integrated Information Technology Services, at Singapore Management University (SMU), agrees that the role of governance is to provide a “foundation,” which in turn “improves the experience for users.” This, she says, “drives adoption, success, innovation and further improvements.”
No doubt, this drive for enablement helps explain why the survey shows that more companies will be migrating BI from a function solely controlled by IT into either (a) a dedicated enterprise BI function, or even more so, (b) a more even mix of centralization/decentralization. So in general, BI is becoming less of an ad hoc endeavor implemented by business units and more of a well-planned and implemented group-wide strategy. Fundamentally sound governance is vital to these efforts — but it is being implemented within an ethos of enablement, not control.
This article was written by Bill Millar from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.