Best's Review


Insight: Succeeding With BI

Business intelligence centers of excellence take analytics from competency to excellence.
  • Lori Chordas
  • October 2014
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Analytics are hotter than ever. Recent trends like big data and the Internet of Things are driving demand too fast for either IT organizations or users to keep up with.

Organizations are creating new or extending existing business intelligence centers of excellence, or competency centers, to manage this growth and help IT and business uses improve their analytic IQ and their analytic maturity. Their role is not only to define the overall BI strategy but also to obtain, prioritize and align user needs; oversee project management; measure business value; provide access to trusted data; and select, train and support users on appropriate tools.

BI COEs emerged about 10 years ago. They have evolved from a tactical and technology focus on project management, tools and architecture and development standards because technology was not enough. Many BI and data warehousing programs failed outright, or failed to meet expectations, due to lack of business alignment and business support.

Today, BI COEs define and operationalize a BI strategy. That's a tall order and cannot be done without both executive support and business engagement through executive business sponsors, governance structures and continuous communication.

If you don't already have a BI COE, you should be looking to create one; if you have one, make sure it has expanded its focus, scope and capabilities. Leading practices to consider include:

-- Focus on business alignment, business value and actionability.

-- Include broader analytic capabilities such as mobile, predictive and text mining.

-- Profile end-users to understand different needs and skills, internal and external.

-- Supplement training with analytic "sandboxes" so users can test current tools and provide feedback on new tools being considered.

-- Ensure data is trustworthy; structure data governance committees.

-- Create a business glossary for end-user access.

-- Make data accessible to business users; create business "views;" document your "data ecosystem" so everyone understands your organizational data sourcing, creation and flow.

-- Provide easy access to existing analytics and reports including reporting templates for user customization.

-- Review existing reports; redesign them into analytic views and dashboards.

-- Engage and support decentralized user BI development areas; make them an extension of the BI CC by sharing best practices, tools and guidance.

-- Develop/publish a self-service BI strategy with user and IT roles, responsibilities and processes.

BI COEs are the glue that keeps business and IT working together on a business-driven BI strategy and ensure that you get the most value from your analytics assets--data, people and technology. They address the people and process part of your BI strategy to ensure analytics are put into action, since analytics that aren't applied have no value.

(Best's Review contributor Pat Saporito is senior director of SAP Global Center of Excellence for Analytics and author of Applied Insurance Analytics: A Framework for Driving More Value From Data Assets, Technologies and Tools. She may be reached at

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