"…it is recommended that an organisation does not assess maturity on face value. While on paper it may appear to be one level of maturity, a more detailed exploration may bring this into question."
University of Central Lancashire
Each of the eleven Jisc-funded BI projects were asked to consider the implementation model at both the beginning and end of their projects. Initially, the majority of projects made their assessment of where they featured in this model for the whole of their organisations.
However, when they revisited this for signs of improvement towards the end of their projects it became clear that generally the level of BI progress is likely to be variable and inconsistent across the organisation with pockets of both good and bad practice in evidence. It is worth bearing this in mind when considering the application of any such maturity or other measurement model within considering BI within an organisational context.
1. The level of BI implementation is inconsistent within organisations. It is better to accept this and attempt small gains in specific areas
Relatively few of the projects considered quantifying their BI implementation status on an organisational scale. Of those that did, the consensus was that attempting to move the whole organisation was almost bound to fail and what was important was to put in place a framework that would allow piecemeal development to be coordinated and managed.
2. The existence of a corporate data warehouse provides a common base from which successful BI projects can be built
In support of this idea, the Open University has put in place a project to develop an organisational data warehouse where definitive data items are stored and manipulated. Business Intelligence projects will continue to be commissioned but all developments will be expected to use the organisational warehouse and where appropriate reuse data items that have already been defined and placed within it.
Additionally a centrally coordinated development will ensure that the BI tools have a similar look and feel which will aid both user understanding and take up.
3. A BI centre of excellence provides a common pool of expertise which different BI projects can leverage
The University of Liverpool and, to a lesser extent the University of Manchester, both opted to develop a Business Intelligence centre of excellence where expertise and knowledge of BI developments will be focused.
The model in use at Liverpool and proposed in Manchester is of a relatively small central resource supporting a series of local experts who are based in the various academic and administrative centres throughout the university and will tap into a ‘group knowledge’ which will promote common standards and the use of common data definitions and structures. In addition the University of Liverpool have placed ‘BI Progress’ as a standing item on the university’s principal policy making and oversight bodies to ensure that BI remains an organisational priority.
4. Buying-in external expertise can help move an organisation forward with BI
The University of Bolton considered that as a relatively small organisation they were in a better position to move forward in a coordinated manner. However they came to the conclusion that in order to advance, a small organisation such as theirs would probably have to invest in an external supplier.
In the case of Bolton this was to enable them to move beyond level three of the BI stages of implementation model. In common with the OU, Bolton noted that it was vital to have the basic structure in place to allow the growth in demand for BI to be met in a controlled and timely manner.
5. The users are a key factor when progressing a successful BI implementation
The University of Glasgow discovered as part of their project that at times BI needs to move away from rigid coding frames and manage less structured textual data and subjective assessments. This requires a more sophisticated and sensitive user population than is often the case with transaction processing applications and must be handled sensitively.
Similarly by letting their users tailor their reports, the University of Bedfordshire achieved a greater degree of involvement from the users which in turn promoted further progress.
6. When attempting radical innovation make sure that there is a fallback position so in the event of difficulties progress can still be made
When considering the use of innovative visualisations the University of Huddersfield was also prudent enough to have a fallback strategy, so that in the event of the 3D visualisations not being suitable the project could still deliver useful outputs and the University could still continue to make progress.
7. Engaged and informed executive sponsors are vital for progress
Several projects including the universities of Bolton and Central Lancashire noted that without the sponsorship of a senior member of staff who understood the issues involved it is very difficult for an organisation to successfully progress along the stages of implementation. A member of senior management is well placed to break down barriers to progress and facilitate uptake of BI systems and principals across the organisation.