How to facilitate user adoption in BI projects

A successful BI project is a mountain to climb for even the most experienced managers. Many can attempt the climb, yet few get to see the view from the summit in their lifetime. In fact so few succeed that. SAP BW Consulting reports that more than 70% of businesses worldwide fail to see results from their business intelligence projects.

And Australia is no different.When SAP business analyst Timo Elliott presented at the Mastering Business Objects 2009 conference in Sydney, he detailed the six key areas that cause BI projects to fail. He explained, ‘it’s not only about knowing how to climb … you also have to know how not avoid falling off.’ Like those tackling Everest, there are always those trying to reach the peak of a successful BI project. It is important to know where even the most experienced project managers can lose balance and fall off track.

When we look in our own backyard we see that Australian manufacturers also understand the lure of the challenge and are on the quest. The AI Business prospects report for 2016 show the majority of Australian manufacturing businesses are continuing to invest in research and development projects and in new technologies at the same rate as previous years. The stability in this area means Australian businesses see innovation and new technologies as a priority – but with such high failure rates of BI projects, how can you ensure your BI project makes it all the way to the summit?

Why do BI projects fail?

 One of the biggest reasons for the high failure rate is that project managers fail to understand the nuances of change. When presenting your vision to key stakeholders it is important to remember there are many sides to every decision and that these decisions may have significant impact on their teams. 



According to Theory of Constraints you need to consider change from all angles. They suggest it’s not enough to merely discuss the positives of change. You need to think about how change will directly affect your team and anticipate:

  • How the change will positively affect your team
  • The challenges of change
  • The risks of change
  • The reasons why your team might not want to change
  • The consequences of not changing

A lot of people fear change because it creates insecurity. If your staff are concerned that BI projects will make them redundant, they will be resistant. Be open and communicate the purpose behind the project.

Think about all sides of an idea before you pitch it to your team, ask for feedback, review and revise your strategy accordingly. Make sure your BI project is flexible enough to scale and evolve if needed with the outcomes of the reviews.

Treat it like a program, not a project

BI projects are almost like raising a child – it takes a village. You need all members of the team on board and ready to help. You need to be prepared to test new ideas, reflect and adapt as the project demands.

Our business optimisation principal Geoff Nunan said, ‘it's important to treat BI projects like a partnership. Finding a way to look at the data and make decisions on a day-to-day basis while reflecting and reviewing practices provides more points to fine-tune the solution’.

The high failure rates of BI projects is sometimes due to the more traditional and rigid project techniques of planning, development and implementation rather than continuously reviewing and reflecting. The Business Intelligence Blog explained how reports created on the fly using relevant, real-time information allow for efficient decision making and provide a competitive advantage.

Businesses that adopt agile BI to guide daily decision making stay ahead of competitors. Rapid access to data in a simple, intuitive reporting solution helps businesses respond to market changes and this method can, and should, be applied to BI project implementation.

Growing a successful BI project requires the whole business to be backing it, barracking for its success.

Embracing the challenge of a BI project

To encourage the whole business to get behind your BI project you need to create a culture of communication and celebration.

QGate explains that BI projects affect the entire business, from the top down. Like any big organisational change, you need to make sure you are communicating the importance of BI to your executive team as well as your user base.  

Leaders in your company will need to be committed to data-based decision making. If they are on board, anyone who wants to be a high performer in your business will be on board as well.

It is key during this stage to establish your company’s KPIs early so you can celebrate milestones as you reach them. It will also make it easier to review and reflect on the process. Successful BI projects are ongoing, so it is important to acknowledge and celebrate decisions and insights that are supported by hard data. Celebrating these successes creates a feedback loop of positive reinforcement around the solution.

The more you and upper-management celebrate insights, the more encouraged others are to find insights that can be celebrated, and so on, allowing a project to develop and succeed.

Getting started

BI projects are difficult, but with a change in approach and letting the data lead your decisions, you will see a return on investment There is no one right path when it comes to BI projects. Getting your team behind you, understanding their fears and creating a culture of transparency will give you a competitive advantage. Understanding what the data is telling you while you implement and review changes will allow you to make smart and responsive changes. Celebrating successes will create constant feedback loops making it easier to build ROI and switch off from changes that aren’t paying off.

Attempting the summit with a BI project requires the leaders in your company to support all the members of the team. Consider all the angles and challenges of the climb, use real-time data to evaluate risk and make necessary changes and celebrate the achievements as they happen –and you should get a great view from the top.

For more tips on  about how to get your BI project over the line, check out our guide to  Managing BI Projects in Manufacturing - The Ultimate Guide to Drive Effective Change today!

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Topics: business intelligence