The confluence of BI and change management

y =x^3 + 2x^2 - x + 1

The tag-line of this blog brings together business intelligence and cultural transformation. While one driver for this is that I have led BI projects that had explicit goals of cultural transformation, I think that there is a deeper connection to be explored here.

In other articles (notably “Can You Really Manage What You Measure?” by Neil Raden and Actionable Information), I discuss my experience that BI only adds value if:

  1. The information it provides answers pertinent business questions, and
  2. The answers to these questions lead to people taking action.

This means that any successful BI implementation has to consider such messy and difficult things as changing how people behave. This is where the link with change management arises.

Now of course you can argue that change management is an indispensible discipline for any business project (my strong opinion is that any IT project is a type of business project) and this is clearly true. However the parameters within which a new transaction processing system has to operate are different. Here if a person does not use the system, then work does not get done. Either it is impossible to carry out your job without the system (maybe only the system generates the necessary documentation), or not using the system to record transactions is a breech in compliance (keeping paper copies in your drawer).

BI systems are not like this. People chose to use them because they judge that they either make their business life easier, or they help to improve their decision-making (hopefully both). If someone doesn’t want to use a BI system, then they won’t and can probably get on with other parts of their job. The reason that change management is even more important in BI projects is that the element of compliance (or even coercion) is absent. If you want people to use the system and behave differently as a result, then you need to think about how best to influence them in these directions.

I have written elsewhere about the importance of marketing, education and follow-up in these areas. It also is important to explicitly recognise that a BI practitioner needs to be fully engaged in change management if they are to be successful.

A final thought also worth considering is that, as the BI industry matures and focus turns more to making it work in a business context than the latest flashy dashboard technology, it is likely that one of the things that will differentiate the best users of BI is how well they manage the necessary and desirable change that it drives.

πυρὸς θάνατος ἀέρι γένεσις, καὶ ἀέρος θάνατος ὕδατι γένεσις

 

11 thoughts on “The confluence of BI and change management

  1. Having worked for many years as a consumer of systems output information, and also within the Business Intelligence Software Business with SAP & Business Objects, I agree with what you’re saying regarding change management being a companion in the wake of BI implementation.

    Proven business models, analysis, queries, cubes, universes,…whatever you want to call them, when implemented require the appropriate, cleansed source data, as well as processes which homogenize the information, so as to report clean and navigable information. Many implementors of BI Systems will admit that a successful implementation of BI has as a related byproduct, the tendency to require ORDER to improve in all underlying source systems, thereby also bringing about change.

    A very important distinction needs to be drawn between what is INFORMATION, versus what is INTELLIGENCE. Information is input which an intelligent “Mind” or “Processor” interprets, and defines ACTIONS that need to be executed in order to complete the circle of action vs. reaction, or detection vs. prevention, or inspection vs. expectation.

    Most “BI” companies go so far as to make information “Actionable” leaving it basically up to the HUMAN FACTOR to resolve, therefore the Change Management requirement. Making the “ACTION” part of the Software Solution by incorporation business rules associated with the business process is the CHANGE that needs to be managed.

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