Why BI and PM Projects Fail

It’s a no-brainer: few of them actually have the strong top-down support that they need to be successful, Gartner claims

It’s a maxim that top-down support is a prerequisite for business intelligence (BI) success. Any BI pro worth his or her salt will tell you as much. The rub, according to IT seer Gartner Inc., is that so few BI and performance management (PM) projects actually have the strong top-down support that they need to be successful. One upshot of this, according to Gartner, is that information management in general and BI applications in particular will continue to be problem “hot spots” in many organizations.

Gartner’s conclusions are based on a survey that it conducted last December, when it asked more than 350 global organizations to describe their BI and PM efforts. What Gartner found is surprising, to say the least. For example, only one-in-ten respondents said that their BI and PM pushes had top-down support from a C-level executive with a direct link to the business.

As a result, Gartner says, the same information management problems that have bedeviled IT organizations for a decade or more continue to persist. “Many business managers find themselves overwhelmed with a plethora of data and content, but, due to a lack of access, consistency and quality, they are unable to actually use this information to drive their business,” said Gartner vice-president and distinguished analyst Betsy Burton, in a statement.

It isn’t as if BI and PM projects don’t have executive backing of any kind, of course—just that C-level executives are conspicuously out of the loop when it comes to driving BI and PM projects. For example, Gartner reports, 40 percent of respondents said that their BI and PM efforts were sponsored by specific executives, while 25 percent were supported by an “IT manager.”

On the other hand, Gartner says, fully 25 percent of respondents acknowledged that their BI and PM projects didn’t have any executive sponsorship at all.

Nevertheless, business managers continue to blame IT for their information management and application infrastructure issues. Gartner says that the root problem isn’t actually an IT issue. Instead, says Gartner vice-president and distinguished analyst Ted Friedman, it’s primarily a question of governance. “Gaining information access, semantic consistency and quality are, first and foremost, challenges to management commitment and focus, which must be supported with appropriate technology, governance, processes and methodologies,” said Friedman, in a prepared release.

At some point, Gartner analysts argue, organizations are going to have to get serious about addressing it: over the next five years, the market watcher predicts, organizations will experience a 300 percent increase in the number or frequency of data, content, and application quality issues. One proven way to ferret out (or steamroll over) such issues is by ensuring top-down backing from C-level executives a prerequisite to pursuing BI or PM initiatives.

In this respect, Gartner analysts say, strong top-down sponsorship helps to ensure that rank-and-file business users also toe the line, keeping turf-warring, business-unit-petty-fiefdoming, and other anarchistic elements to a minimum. “Without business user involvement and hard work to define common definitions, metrics and quality levels, the problem can’t be solved,” said Burton. “Most successful organizations focus on getting the right skills, forming a team that’s business- and IT-oriented, working on semantics issues, measuring quality levels and agreeing on what’s good enough and what isn’t. Until companies have all that figured out, they should limit their focus and investment on technology.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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