3 myths about business intelligence in manufacturing and supply chain management

 There are many misconceptions rattling around the world. Even years after being disproved, they cling on, eager to mildly embarrass a whole new generation attending trivia nights and dinner parties.

Despite what you may have read, Marie Antoinette never uttered ‘Let them eat cake.’ Chewing gum will not stay in your stomach for seven years and sitting too close to the television will certainly not make your eyes go square — if that were the case, we’d have a whole lot more children who look like this:


And while business intelligence applications in the manufacturing industry haven’t been around for quite as long as the above pieces of misinformation, in the time they’ve been around, they’ve still managed to attract their own particular furphies.  

From the moment it was launched, BI technology was being prophesied as the Great Technology solution. Yet, in the way of all new pieces of technology, BI went from being a game changer to just another dud solution.

So what is the truth? Is it the Great Saviour or the Great Disappointment? The answer lies somewhere between the two. By unpacking some of the misconceptions that surround BI systems, we can unveil its value.

Myth 1: BI software will solve all your problems

There is this perception that technology will solve any problem your business may have. Bung it in and away it goes. It will transform workflows and boost efficiency. You processes will become sleek, formidable and dynamic. Everyone will be happier. The company will be outrageously profitable.

But before you uncork the hypothetical champagne, you need to understand, TECHNOLOGY WILL NOT SOLVE EXISTING PROBLEMS.

Even though it’s shinier and fancier, in essence technology is just like any other tool. If used in the right way, in the right hands it can produce amazing outcomes. But if if it’s used unwisely, the results can be … unwieldy.

For example, if you use a screwdriver to hammer in a nail, you might get there eventually, but the process will be cumbersome and the nail may be crooked. And if you chose the screwdriver in the first place, people may question your ability as a good DIYer.

The same applies to technology, if you’ve not considered how the technology will work for your company, how it will align with the current systems, how it will be used by your colleagues, then you are in danger of picking  a screwdriver for a hammer’s job.

The best BI projects don’t view adoption as an end in itself, rather as one aspect in the overall business strategy. Which brings us to the next point:

Myth 2: It is a technology project rather than a business management project

If BI projects are only seen as enabling productivity and technology, they tend not to do very well. The ones that succeed are part of the overall business strategy and are therefore approached as a business management project.

Ensuring that BI technology works for the business isn’t just a simple matter of getting the green light from management and implementing it. It needs to be part of the broader plan for the business and the benefits should be well-articulated from the outset.

A key part of ensuring that the technology will achieve the desired outcomes is to employ change management strategies.

In essence change management requires strong business sponsorship, and not just from senior stakeholders. Think carefully about who will be affected by the change and how you might alleviate fears, make the case for why a BI adoption will make their lives better, or how ignoring change will have an adverse impact on their lives. Also understand what is motivating the stakeholders. What are their fears? What are some of the challenges of their role? How might your project fix that?

Understanding how BI will not only affect your current systems, but your colleagues and the business as a whole, can be the difference between a BI project that fails and one that succeeds.

Myth 3: It’s simple to implement

As demonstrated above, if you are treating a BI project like a business project, then the process isn’t just about adoption. It is a multi-faceted process that requires thoughtful and careful management at every stage.

Entrenched cultural cynicism won’t just disappear in a puff of smoke in the first stage of initiation. Siloes won’t come crumbling down because senior management have green-lit your project. Engineering and IT aren’t going to start acting like a charming mismatched comedy duo because there has been a technological change.

There needs to be awareness that in order for BI systems to be effective, then there has to be cultural change and shifting attitudes can take a lot of time and a lot of work and it has to start from above.

If you want to ensure that your adoption creates real value then your senior team needs to share the same vision, supplemented with cross-departmental goals and meetings.  It won’t immediately create cohesion, but it will be a step in the right direction.


Business Intelligence systems can provide enormous value to a business. If you approach implementation strategically and understand how it should be used, then it can be a very powerful tool.

Would you like to know more about best practices in BI projects then download Managing BI Projects in Manufacturing - The Ultimate Guide to Drive Effective Change today!

3 myths about business intelligence in manufacturing and supply chain management

Topics: Manufacturing