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Gartner BI Summit report: culture problems persist

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2nd Feb 2007
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By Neil Davey, editor

The message from this week’s Gartner BI Summit was loud and clear: business intelligence will continue to be the biggest priority for CIOs in 2007. But with the suggestion that many companies already operate with too much BI software and confusion reigning due to a series of long-standing cultural complications, there remains some debate over its present contribution to modern firms.

The good news for businesses looking to buy into BI is that competition in the market from major software vendors such as Oracle, SAP and Microsoft will enable firms to take advantage of the situation to negotiate contracts and buy basic BI functionality at lower prices.

BI platform revenue will grow 10 percent in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) in 2007 to reach 1.5 billion euros, according to Gartner, with platform revenue growing at an annual CAGR of 9.7 percent to reach 1.9 billion euros in 2010.

“BI has become a strategic initiative and is now recognised by CIOs and business leaders as instrumental in driving business effectiveness and innovation,” said Andreas Bitterer, research vice president at Gartner. “A preview of the results from Gartner’s annual survey of 1400 CIOs worldwide shows that BI is the number one technology priority in 2007 - for the second year running.”

However, Bitterer also cautioned that while BI is recognised as a strategic priority at management level, it is not well understood and is being hamstrung by a variety of problems – many of which are cultural, rather than technological. Speaking at the Summit, held in London this week, Bitterer reeled off a variety of long-standing issues facing firms, including the view of BI as a project rather than an ongoing process; confusion over who takes care of the data; struggles with ‘dirty’ data; and a lack of best practices and methodologies to manage complex BI capabilities.

According to a Gartner survey conducted at the BI summit in January 2006, large organisations that already invest in BI spend an average of 1.16 million Euros per year purchasing BI software. But Bitterer suggested that companies may even have too much BI software.

Governance models

In order to use BI to drive business transformation Gartner advised organisations to take several steps, including: identifying data ‘stewards’ in the business; investing in data quality tools; changing the way the information architecture and application portfolio are managed; changing the way BI is integrated into business processes; increasing the focus on developing user skills and instilling a culture for the use and analysis of information as an integral part of achieving business objectives and transformation; and establishing a BI competence centre. Relating to this last point, Gartner suggested that a steering committee has been a proven approach in many successful companies.

“To make BI a truly strategic business initiative, it must be supported by a governance model and an appropriate organisational structure such as the competence centre,” Bitterer stressed. “Buying technology will not be enough and education of users is crucial to success.” Bitterer concluded that an increased focus on training would be crucial in 2007.

Despite the problems hampering BI, experts were quick to stress its value. “BI is transformational in improving business effectiveness at all levels,” suggested Nigel Rayner, research vice president at Gartner. “Once people know what factors impact business performance, they can change what they are doing.” Rayner cited the Norwegian logistics company Tollpost Globe, which featured at the BI Summit, as one example.

Tollpost went from being the worst performing company in its sector to the most profitable one in the space of four years, and also increasing its revenues by nearly 60 percent in five years. Other trends highlighted at the event included a significant shift towards bringing BI ‘to the masses’ in terms of making BI tools available to increasing numbers of employees as well as customers, business partners and suppliers.

Elsewhere, Bitterer was dismissive of the role of search providers in the field of business intelligence and of the so-called “business intelligence 2.0”. Quizzed about the growing trend that has seen the likes of Cognos and Information Builders announce partnerships with search vendors, the Gartner research VP stressed that search is not the same as BI.

“Look into BI 2.0 and it has nothing to do with BI. It is just a search engine,” he said. “BI 2.0 is just a nonsense.”

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