By Sam Wuertz, Chateaux Sr. BI Technologist

Defining Your First BI Project

Selecting your organization’s first BI project can be a daunting task, especially if you do not have any business intelligence infrastructure in place. Where do you start? How do you know if you are selecting the right solution? The process does not have to be as big of a challenge as it seems if you follow a few guidelines.

  1. Avoid over-promising and under-delivering.  Rather than trying to cover numerous subject areas in your organization’s first BI project, try to focus on a single, well-understood subject area.  Set yourself up for an easy win, and you’ll get the funding you need to pursue those additional subject areas later.
  2. Listen to the business users. BI Solutions that are developed in an IT-vacuum are rarely successful.  Work closely with the people who will most likely benefit from a BI solution and who will also be determining the success of your solution.  Look to them for ideas or suggestions, and be sure to keep then involved as much as possible along the way.  If they personally invest in the solution, they will want to see it succeed, too.
  3. Create a list of questions that you intend to answer with this solution. What problems are people experiencing that you could provide a solution for? Here is a list of possible questions to consider:
    • Do your key decision makers have access to all the information they need?
    • What do you want to improve and how can you measure it?
    • Are your customers happy? What about the employees?  Is the staff as productive as possible?
    • How does your company compare against the competition?
  4. Keep it as simple as possible.  It is important to choose a project that is within your skill-sets and capabilities. Organizations that attempt complex projects as their first initiative often find it involves more work than expected and in turn lose the confidence and support they need from upper management.  Also, complex solutions require longer development cycles and are more difficult to support.

Ensuring Success

There are a few things you can do throughout the duration of the project to help ensure success. For your first BI initiative, I would recommend choosing a project with a 3-4 month time frame. This amount of time should be long enough to accomplish your goals, but not so long that funding is difficult and users lose interest.

Second, leverage any existing reports that are already created. These reports may give you an easy way to map important fields and even test various aspects your new BI solution.

Again, you also need to carefully control the scope of the project by setting realistic goals. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver, rather than the alternative. If your solution proves to be useful early on, you will validate the project and gain the support needed from business and IT users for future endeavors.