Five Reasons Why Many BI Projects Are Doomed to Fail

BI project management problems and how to mitigate them before disappointment sets in

Wayne, PA, USA / Langenfeld, Germany – February 20, 2013  When asked about Business Intelligence (BI), most companies rank it as strategically very important. BI helps them identify areas for performance improvement, cost savings, and process efficiency, and enables them to plan better for the future. Nevertheless most BI projects – as many as 70% according to market analyst firm Gartner – fail to meet the enterprises’ objectives. Though successful BI and analytics projects yield a return of $10.66for every dollar spent, failure is the norm. Global BI innovator arcplan has identified the five project management reasons why BI projects fail and how companies and vendors should mitigate these problems when implementing new software or enhancing existing BI infrastructure.

1. Not enough focus on business benefits
Before even evaluating software providers, companies should define the business benefits they want to achieve by implementing a BI solution. Is it to aggregate data in a central location, thereby saving the time and cost associated with manual data gathering and consolidation? Is it to achieve better insight into customer data so programs can be designed to increase profits through upselling? This question is, why are we implementing the solution in the first place? Whatever the reason, it should be defined before kick-off, refined during implementation, and measured afterwards. Any project can be considered a failure if its success criteria are not stated up-front. Management – with input from users – must agree on the criteria and the vendor and project sponsors must ensure that success is measured post-implementation or they risk a lack of user acceptance. arcplan, the #1 Large Enterprise Project vendor for Business Benefits Achieved according to The BI Survey 12 – the world’s largest independent survey of BI users – solicits feedback from a constituency of end users throughout implementation because if their expectations are not met, the BI solution will always underachieve.

2. Vague scope
Anyone with project management experience will say that defining the scope is the most crucial step; without clearly defined and agreed-upon project boundaries and deliverables, there is no chance for success. BI projects are often large, complex, and involve many departments. They can quickly get unwieldy, so it is critical to define the scope correctly. What often happens is the confusion of “nice to haves” with “need to haves.” Solution providers can help sort out these requirements into phases, so the most important requests are met first, followed by others in priority order. It is usually more efficient time-wise and cost-wise to divide projects into phases, and deploy them with an agile approach rather than the traditional waterfall approach. This gets the solution into users’ hands faster, allows time to make adjustments, and ensures that expectations are met and that the scope can be adjusted along the way if the need arises.

3. Lack of accountability
BI projects have many moving parts and it is easy to lose track of who is accountable for what. With so many deliverables internally by the project team and externally by the solution provider, it is better to concretely lay out responsibilities than to make assumptions that work is getting done. The up-front work will avoid conflict and confusion later. arcplan finds that early and regular planning meetings with all stakeholders is a proven path to project success. In these meetings, responsibilities are identified, due dates are set, and “sign-off” criteria are defined. It sets the stage for communication and cooperation among all parties.

4. Poor project team selection
Too many cooks spoil the broth. It is imperative to involve only the right people in the project from the beginning or you risk too many wish lists overcomplicating an already complex project. Keeping the project team tight means better control over the requirements, scope, and accountability. The time to involve more people is when rolling the solution out in phases to relevant user groups to assess how expectations are being met, how they perceive the usability of the solution, etc. Another thing to consider here is the use of external consultants. arcplan employs an in-house services team and a global network of partners who efficiently implement BI solutions for customers around the world. But we also offer eLearning to customers so they can become self-sufficient. Therefore, it is important that the project staff includes one or more individuals who want to learn the software and can take responsibility for enhancements, changes, and future applications so it remains sustainable.

5. Not seeking sign-offs
Just as important as accountability and meeting deadlines is getting sign-offs (approvals for deliverables) from both sides. Not only must the vendor’s project manager sign off that deliverables were completed to scope and on time, but the client’s side must approve and accept the result, or convey specific feedback about why they cannot accept the work. Building sign-offs into the process ensures that the solution is validated as the project progresses. This avoids the need for a dramatic overhaul at the end, when budget and time have run out.

“Business intelligence generates an excellent return as long as projects are planned and deployed properly,” explained Achim Röhe, Vice President of Professional Services at arcplan. “If customers and vendors communicate well and keep the business goals in mind, the percent of BI project successes will outweigh the failures. You can have the cleanest data, the most accurate KPIs, and ideas for the most detailed reports, but if you fail in project management, all is for naught.”

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