By their nature, BI projects are likely to raise a significant number of challenges. For not only are they likely to represent complex IT implementations in their own right, with all the issues this can raise; but are also likely to surface issues relating to data quality, require collaboration (potentially for the first time) across departmental borders and necessitate new ways of working to fully embed the technology and make maximum value of the benefits.
Clearly no two BI system implementations will ever be the same, and the nature of the challenges may vary considerably depending on the individual circumstances at play. Through the experience of the Jisc-funded projects, however, we do at least have access to the experiences of eleven organisations as they sought to progress their BI initiatives. Though each presented their own unique challenges and solutions, it is also possible to discern a number of key implementation issues which were common to the majority of projects and which therefore are likely to manifest themselves to varying degrees, regardless of the specific organisational context.
In the following sections a selection of the most common implementation issues faced by organisations active in this area will be examined from the perspective of the aggregated experience of these projects, together with hints and tips for overcoming or avoiding them. They include:
This section draws attention to the symbiotic relationship between your BI solution and institutional strategic planning and the importance of them both mutually informing each other.
This section covers how a BI project can help an organisation uncover existing inefficiencies in their processes, better connect management with the processes responsible for delivering data and reduce the need for periodic large-scale readjustments in processes.
This section covers the benefits and potential problems implicit in running a pilot project and the difficulties of dealing with both large volumes of data and projects seeking to utilise open data sources.
This section covers the importance of engaging both senior management and (potential) users, and the dangers of not doing so. It also stresses the importance of looking at the potential impact of your project from the broadest possible perspective.
This section covers the likely challenges of relying on data from both internal and external sources. It also examines the potential benefits of implementing a data warehouse.
Data definition and management
This section covers the common issues faced that affect data quality and the importance of tackling them early during a BI project.
This section sounds a cautionary note regarding the use of data visualisations, stressing the need to not get carried away and to always bear in mind the needs of your user and the fact that simple is often best.
This section acknowledges that not all BI initiatives will involve a vendor or supplier, but where they do stresses some of the practical points necessary to establish in your relationship to ensure a smooth and productive outcome.