Wednesday, August 20, 2008

BI Competency Centers: Do CFOs Help or Hinder?

Intelligent Enterprise Editor-in-Chief Doug Henschen moderated a webinar last week titled “Business Intelligence Competency Centers (BICCs): Many Choices, Many Pitfalls” sponsored by Forrester Research. With BI now considered “table stakes,” panelists Boris Evelson and James Kobielus of Forrester, BI consultant Claudia Imhoff and Capgemini’s Joe Moye discussed how enterprises can drive greater value from their BICC investments.

One recommendation was to cross-pollinate BICCs with other CCs in areas such as Business and IT Governance; Enterprise Architecture; Data Warehousing, Data Quality and Data Integration; ERP, CRM, Supply Chain Management, etc. While this makes perfect sense, doesn’t it seem ironic that we still need to encourage coordination after the costly lessons we (hopefully) learned from propagating BI application stovepipes?

Side note: With many of the CCs above revolving not just around competencies but applications and processes, it was interesting that James suggested BICCs be renamed BISCs (BI Solution Centers). We'll keep an eye on a Forrester report in queue on this topic for October.

The idea of coordinating CCs reminds me of conversations I’ve had with an aerospace and defense company that extended their BICC with specialized data integration technology for key applications. As a result of tapping into finance data, the company is supporting deeper BI analytics based on time-sensitive operational insights.

To boost synergy between CCs, one panelist suggested overlapping them and allowing personnel on the teams to create hybrid roles. This brings to mind the success story of a cosmetics company that adopted a war room approach to unite IT and line of business experts for projects.

The most interesting part of the discussion involved who should own a BICC: IT or line of business. Not surprisingly, opinions varied, with Evelson advocating for ownership by C-level business executives and Imhoff taking a more IT-centered approach. Evelson added that most of the successful BI environments he’s seen have had strong business ownership (for more check out his keynote at the Computerworld BI Perspectives conference Sept. 8th). Imhoff underscored the need for technical acumen beyond the skills of the business analyst – areas such as data integrity, data quality and database performance. (Rajan Chandras takes this a step further on his Intelligent Enterprise blog post, urging readers to explore the qualifications needed to influence BICC success)

Imhoff asserted that CCs should not report to the CEO’s or CFO’s offices, going so far as to suggest that CFOs may infuse too much of a finance or accounting flavor. It’s hard for me to imagine many business decisions that don’t impact profitability, competitive advantage or shareholder value, but since time ran out on the webinar, let’s open up that part of the discussion here.

What do you think? Are CFOs the best stewards of these BI centers?

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