The Business Analytics Program

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Create a program that is right for your organization's maturity and culture.


Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from the book 5 Keys to Business Analytics Program Success (MC Press, October 2012).

Many organizations overestimate the ease by which a formal Business Analytics Program is put in place. They may not recognize the breadth of impact the program will have on the organization. It is often believed that the hard decisions are over once you choose a technology. The technology in itself has been identified at times as the easier part of the equation. It's the people, processes, and culture of the organization that can often present continual challenges.


Like the strategy that goes before it, the Business Analytics Program needs to constantly maintain and adapt its various components. A few analytic experts sitting in a line-of-business (LOB) department using a flashy new tool don't equate to a successful Business Analytics Program. Nor does an IT team with a data warehouse. Quite the contrary. A Business Analytics Program singlehandedly run by a few members of an IT team is likely to experience many political roadblocks. While a program has to start somewhere, it is also premature for an organization just dipping its toes into analytic technologies to explain to the executive team a vision of a complex Business Analytics Program with cross-departmental collaboration, and dedicated resources with technology standards, without internal proof points on how it has made an initial difference. This is why a vision that includes change and maturity over time is necessary.


In the next several chapters, we discuss the five essential elements—or keys—that we believe need make up a successful Business Analytics Program (Figure 2). And we share some practical advice you can start using today as you create a program that is right for your organization's maturity and culture.


112612Tracy 5135 5 Keys Fig-02


These essential elements include:


1. Strategy: Creating a strategy once doesn't mean you have completed the task. A strategy will change over time, and it requires ongoing focus and attention. While strategy is the driving force of a Business Analytics Program, it often can be undefined in terms of ownership. The importance of this element of the initiative merits increased focus because there is rarely a central coordinating body and the initiative may consist of many owners. In the Strategy chapter (Chapter 1), we discuss practical examples of core elements of managing a changing strategy, such as:

  • Stakeholder assessment and identification
  • Assessment of strategy
  • Business alignment
  • Prioritization and roadmap
  • Metrics framework and measurement
  • Strategy development and change


2. Value: Understanding and documenting the success and business cases will increase the value of the overall Business Analytics Program; however, this is often the first area to suffer neglect when the team is busy with the day-to-day tactics. Building a value portfolio, defining outcomes and targets, and measuring success often falls behind other priorities—causing difficulty when teams want to go back for additional resource investment. In the Value chapter (Chapter 2), we discuss:

  • Business case
  • Value portfolio—including IT efficiency, business efficiency, and business effectiveness
  • BI metrics and feedback


3. People: A Business Analytics Program involves a wide range of people throughout the organization, and ensuring the right ones are on board and having an organization to support this will increase your success. We agree that the people element of the program is where you will face risk of derailment if this element is not managed well. In the People chapter (Chapter 3), we discuss a few areas of focus that will increase your success and discuss some of the challenges you can avoid, including:

  • Organizational design—the Center of Excellent
  • Skills, talent, and roles
  • Relationship management, communication, and evangelism
  • Executive support management


4. Process: A Business Analytics Program needs to implement processes, policies, and guidelines that will help assist the team's success. However, it can easily become bogged down with process—and agility will suffer. Process needs to be implemented, monitored, and continually evaluated to ensure you can grow yet maintain an Agile Business Analytics Program. In the Process chapter (Chapter 4), we discuss:

  • License and standards management
  • Support
  • Education and adoption
  • Requirements gathering
  • Governance—strategy, data, change, IT, and platforms
  • Process design
  • Proven practice sharing
  • Advise and consult framework


5. Technology: Technology is, of course, the backbone of the entire program—but technology should follow and not lead the program. Understanding the business need behind the technology implementation—and the technology selection—is required to ensure the technology can meet the needs of the business. At the same time, because innovation is rapid today, users may not know the "art of the possible." A balance between the two must be recognized. In the Technology chapter (Chapter 5), we discuss:

  • Choosing capabilities that fit the business needs
  • Introducing a platform of standards
  • Information Management and governance
  • Encouraging adoption with the right architecture, performance, and scalability
  • Continual innovation


Across each of our organizations, these five key areas were consistently identified as elements that require focus in order to increase the success of a Business Analytics Program. Each of our organizations matured in these areas as our Business Analytics Programs grew, most often beginning as a fairly small group of like-minded analytic champions—in some cases virtual with a common vision, working together—and gradually putting in processes to develop a robust multi-discipline program that crossed departments and gained momentum over time.


This is why program maturity is central to this book—each of our organizations went through it, and we discovered that there were several things we did in common that helped our organizations succeed:

  • Small steps: Taking small steps, instead of "boiling the ocean," and creating a series of successes that continually drove trust and interest in the program
  • Communication and collaboration: Open communication and collaboration to drive far-reaching teams together in a vision
  • Agility and openness: Remaining agile and open to change, and discussing and debating needs and requirements
  • Self-service: Ensuring self-service and access instead of being gatekeepers to information or holding up business requirements


In the following chapters, we share our view of these elements that we believe are the most critical components you need to consider for your program as you rise through the maturity levels—with a goal to help others create a successful Business Analytics Program on their own. Each organization is different—and may manage these elements differently—but they are a group of elements that need to be considered throughout the lifecycle of your Business Analytics Program.


Tracy Harris is Senior Manager, Business Analytics Excellence, at IBM. She is responsible for chairing the BA Excellence Advisory Board and managing the Business Analytics Excellence Program and Champion initiative at IBM. These programs are designed to help organizations achieve success, business value, and excellence in their BA and performance management initiatives and are defined through the sharing of best practices, research, and guidance from industry leaders and subject-matter experts. Tracy has worked with Fortune 500 organizations and government organizations around the globe to gather and research best practices in achieving excellence, and she shares this research through workshops and speaking engagements worldwide on the topic.

John Boyer is Director, Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing, RCG Global Services. Previously, he led software development and enablement of custom BI software for The Nielsen Company. At Nielsen, John was a key member of the BI COE, where he managed the BI Advisory Team that oversaw adoption, enablement, and internal consulting for all things BI. Before joining Nielsen, John spent several years as a BI architect and trusted advisor at IBM. After graduating from medical school, his aptitude, passion, and bedside manner took him first to a healthcare clinic, where he rose to Director of Finance and Information Systems. John has spent the past 17 years consulting in software development, business analytics, and data warehousing. He is past-chair of the Illinois Cognos User Group. As an IBM Information Champion, he has been invited to speak and conduct workshops at a number of national events, including Information on Demand, Cognos Forum, Cognos User Groups, and the Composite Software annual conference.

Bill Frank is Manager, ITGF BI Practice, at Johnson & Johnson. He has more than 25 years of experience in information technology. Bill is a Project Management Professional (PMP) and a Certified Business Intelligence Professional (CBIP). He has held positions of varying responsibility in the DSS/BI space at major companies, including AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner AOL, and Johnson & Johnson. At J&J, Bill has played key roles in the development of BI solutions, technology selection and standardization, organizational models, proven practices, and evangelizing BI across the enterprise. Bill is a founding member of the J&J BI Community of Practice and leads this 200+ member internal group focused on leverage, communication, and sharing practices and strategies.Bill played critical roles in efforts at J&J that led to the creation of the IBM Cognos Enterprise Agreement, Shared BI Environments, and an Enterprise DW strategy. These initiatives are key to supporting J&J’s standardization, rationalization, and consolidation efforts. Currently, Bill is developing strategies for the Enterprise DW at J&J with a focus on a CPM solution for the Office of Finance. He is a member of the IBM BI Excellence Advisory Board. Bill lives in New Jersey and has four children. His interests include playing guitar, golf, and cooking.

Brian Green is Manager of Business Intelligence and Performance Management at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. He has more than 30 years of information management and system development experience in the insurance industry, with expertise in process improvement and organizational development to align delivery of solutions with business strategy. Brian is also working with local business and academic leaders to build an Information Management and Business Analytics curriculum with the goal of developing the Business Intelligence leaders of tomorrow.

Kay Van De Vanter is the enterprise BI architect for The Boeing Company, with more than 12 years of experience in IT and business intelligence areas. For the past several years, she has led Boeing’s Business Intelligence Competency Center team and has worked with several other key information management teams to drive the standardization and alignment of BI initiatives at Boeing. Kay has also collaborated with industry BI professionals, user groups, and teams to help drive innovation and quality in the BI tools used by Boeing. She is currently partnering with others to develop an enterprise BI and technology strategy in support of Boeing’s business goals. Kay is a member of IBM’s BI Excellence Advisory Board and BI Customer Advisory Board, co-chair of the Seattle Cognos User Group as well as other external groups focused on BI technologies and best practices.

MC Press books written by Tracy Harris available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

5 Keys to Business Analytics Program Success 5 Keys to Business Analytics Program Success
Uncover five key aspects behind the success of some of the top business analytics programs in the industry.
List Price $17.95

Now On Sale

Business Intelligence Strategy Business Intelligence Strategy
Learn earn proven practices for preparing a BI strategy that will help you achieve excellence.
List Price $14.95

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