Insider Business Club: business intelligence

Are too many businesses failing to manage information effectively?

John Tate, IT analyst and consultant, Tate Technology

In the mad world of the internet where more and more data is available,
knowledge is more and more difficult to extract. So if a business intelligence
solution does its job, it can hopefully turn data into knowledge.

If you look at the research work that has been done on IT projects across
the board, I’m afraid most of the research suggests there are more failures
than there are successes. I think the answer is that it can deliver, but all
too often it doesn’t. Often though, it’s not a technology issue, it’s about
chain management.

I work with the Charity Finance Directors Group as their IT advisor. We’ve
done some work with CASS business school and the professor of Cass business
school came up with a hypothesis that actually charities often get more value
from IT because they have less to spend. And if you apply that to the
commercial world then there may be some truth in that.

There are potentially many ways to get quick fixes to delivering business
intelligence solutions which don’t necessarily cost a fortune. Big budgets
don’t necessarily mean successful IT projects.

I find the most effective projects are ones where you go through an
iterative process with the key performance indicators and the summary
information. You then present things to people, discuss with them what they are
looking at, decide whether it is actually what they want or not.

In many cases it is three four five iterations into reporting and layout
that actually gives you what you want. You have to make sure that you have a
flexible approach and iterative approach to designing your system.

Iis dedicated business intelligence software absolutely necessary?

Nigel Gale, Director of EPM solutions, Northern Europe, Business

The key thing really is what our clients are saying and we are constantly
doing a check with our clients to see what material difference business
intelligence is actually making not just to the organisation in terms of timely
reporting and in being able to take actions on the back of reports, but also in
terms of what it actually means to peoples’ lives inside the organisation and
inside the finance office of as well.

The goal is that after investing in technology and advice with somebody like
Deloitte you can actually say that we can do our full annual budgeting process
in one month and, using the technology and new processes we have employed, we
can now actually have Christmas off with our families.

There are obvious benefits from a Sarbanes Oxley perspective. You’ve got to
be seen to be in control of your business. If you are going to actually tell
the City and investors that you are going to miss a specific quarter then you
better have the reasons exactly why. If you are going to lose a major customer
or you suddenly gain a major customer how is that going to impact your profit
line. That is a key thing. I think the major factors and pressures are more
around service lines, profitability and understanding customer profitability
and how to make those strategic and tactical decisions and words of focus and
invest to get the maximum profit.

As with any implementation, you need leadership from the top. The difference
has to be made at the corporate level. A few of our clients have a number of
different stakeholders and business intelligence will allow you to be a lot of
things to a lot of people.

Who should be controlling business intelligence projects?

Sophia Steiger, director, Deloitte

Reuters have had a highly successful implementation of their business
intelligence on top of their general ledger and that was 100% driven by the

He then had a bunch of his peers including the CEO that he used to brief on
a six-weekly basis and they all got together and I think the key was not that
the CEO or any of the others were involved on a daily basis but they could see
where the management information that was going to come out of this tool was
going to sit on their board report.

It was about flagging to them your monthly and getting your weekly reports,
and flagging how they are going to change and where the data is going to come

Actually once they had agreed that, then they were happy that the rest of us
built the tool behind it along the lines of how the rest of the business wanted
it to be functioned.

But it was getting them to buy into it and say: ‘Yes we are going to use
this information to change our board level reporting and we will then give the
rest of the business a steer that my God we are really serious about this’.
That’s another way of trying to get the CEO tagged into it.’

Not everybody wants huge all-encompassing, end-to-end stuff.

There are other clients where there are a handful of people that are using
it in finance because it makes their planning and budgeting much easier and
then once the FD is comfortable with that implementation, how they are using it
and he has got some of his people trained, they are then rolling it out through
the rest of the business.

Chaired by David Rae

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