** This guest post was written by Estelle Nicholson. Learn more about Estelle in the author bio at the end of this post. **
When starting a BI project, your first step should be taking a quick look at existing initiatives and the overall culture and support for BI. Understand the “4 Ps” of “people, products, power and pilot” before you launch:
- Assess what you already have. Who are the people currently doing business intelligence activities? What roles could they play in a more formalized BI setting? Data experts, analysts, data set owners and compilers – all are key resources for requirements gathering and power use.
- What products and tools are people already using? Large data repositories, analytical software, spreadsheets, custom-built systems?
- Check your sponsorship or the power behind the mandate or the initiative.
- Engage influencers in a pilot early to demonstrate the capabilities of the tool(s) you’re implementing and build support.
In a nascent BI environment, exploit skills and resources that already exist. Assess the existing tools to see if data sets, data mappings or software can be incorporated. If they can’t be, the champions/users of those resources are some of the most important people to engage so they don’t undercut your project. If they’re involved, they can’t claim they weren’t consulted and they have a stake in the success of the project.
If the project is being launched by executive fiat, find out how the executive plans on measuring the success of the project and structure goals to that end. Make sure the mandate filters down through the ranks so that resources are allocated and the initiative has support. Organic growth of a BI initiative will have the support of the rank and file, but this type of sponsorship needs to plan on showing a proof of concept to win executive support.
Which leads to the pilot. Early success builds support and also enables you to change directions to address criticisms. People have limited attention spans, and a successful project will provide a consistent flow of milestones to keep people excited about your initiative.
Understanding People, Products, Power and providing an early Pilot will get your project off the ground and maximize the chances for success.
Estelle Nicholson is an independent business intelligence consultant, with experience working on several business intelligence projects at a Fortune 500 financial firm. She has worked on various aspects of (what is now called) BI for nearly 20 years.