3 reasons why business intelligence projects fail

Change is never easy. Whether it’s starting a new job, moving cities or deciding to make the switch from boxers to briefs, the fear of the unknown can outweigh the positive outcomes a change might bring.And this resistance isn’t just a personal one; organisations can succumb to the fear. According to DeAnne Aguirre, Senior partner at PwC’s Strategy&: ‘The success rate of all change initiatives is 54% — which is actually quite a low number considering the amount of financial and human resources that are being invested in these kind of projects.’ Yet when change initiatives are applied specifically to business intelligence projects, the number becomes even more dire. Computer Weekly suggests: ‘Fewer than 30% of business intelligence projects meet the objectives of the business.’ Given that business intelligence technology can provide enormous value to a business, it begs the question: why don’t more business intelligence projects succeed?

Business intelligence projects are not fields of dreams

According to Gartner many organisations think it’s enough to have the technology and the rest will follow: if you build it they will come. While this approach may have worked for Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, it tends to be significantly less successful in the real world. Even if you have access to the most exciting and innovative technology on the market, if you approach the adoption as a technology project, as opposed to a business project, you are doomed to fail. Project champions who succeed understand that you can’t simply issue a decree and bam! implementation happens smoothly and seamlessly.

In order for a project to thrive, it must have the following:

  • Strong business sponsorships
  • Clear communication with those affected by the adoption at every stage of the project
  • The value of the adoption is articulated not just by the project manager, but by key influencers and senior management within the business
  • The consequences of not changing practices is articulated not just by the project manager, but by key influencers and senior management within the business

If you do not have a strategic plan in place, then the technology, no matter how appropriate, won’t perform for your business.

The silos are too strong

A silo occurs when there is an overlap of tasks and resources between departments, but instead of working together to pursue a common goal, there is a fundamental disconnect.

The silo mentality is one of the biggest reason business intelligence projects fail. In manufacturing, it’s not uncommon to see silos between departments, particularly the IT and engineering operations (whether they occur consciously or unconsciously.) This may be for a number of reasons:

  • The heads of the respective departments have different visions for the company
  • The departments are working off different KPIs
  • The structure of the organisation promotes division
  • There is a lack of clarity about what the other departments actually do

In order to ensure a business project succeeds, you need to ascertain what silos exist in your organisation. Then the discussion should be about how senior management can work together to create a shared vision and to clarify their department’s role in bringing that vision to life.

You communicate but don’t engage

Even if you manage to get senior management excited about your project, there is still no guarantee that your project will be a success. You may be evangelical about how transformational system will be, but your message may not be hitting its target. This could be because you’ve not followed some very simple advice. It’s like your mother always told you: there’s a reason you have one mouth and two ears, and that is because it’s not enough to talk with people, you need to listen to them.

And that in a nutshell is the difference between communication and engagement. Communicating, is merely connecting with people via information whereas engaging is a much deeper connection. It involves listening to the needs of others, involving them in the process. And that may be feedback, allowing them to problem solve or empowering them to make decisions.

Allowing your colleagues to engage in your project is important for several reasons. Not only do you get the benefit of their perspective and experience, but allowing them access to the project enables them to see how the project can positively impact their work. People are much more likely to be positive about a change if they feel as though they have some control. By adopting a give-and-take approach, fears about powerlessness can be assuaged.


We hope that the above tips have given you some food for thought. If you’d like more information about how to get a business intelligence project off the ground, download our eBook Managing Business Intelligence Projects in Manufacturing - The Ultimate Guide to Drive Effective Change.


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Topics: business intelligence projects