Intelligent solution: Six tips for BI success – Canadian Government Executive

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May 7, 2012

Intelligent solution: Six tips for BI success

The need for better accountability has led Treasury Board to enforce a Management Resources and Results Structure (MRRS), which requires federal programs to report monthly on budgets and progress status at sub-sub activity levels.

Under pressure to meet this accountability challenge while dealing with a shrinking workforce, federal executives are seeking ways to gain reporting efficiency in terms of accuracy, time-to-delivery, flexibility, and usability. To achieve this, many are considering the implementation of a SAP business intelligence (BI) solution.

Stepping into BI is a major business transformation initiative. It will prove effective and sustainable providing the information consumers – Finance, HR, Operations – own the solution. From planning to knowledge transfer through to the actual phased BI solution implementation, here are a few hints on how to make a BI initiative a true success.

1. Ensure project buy-in
Before you launch a costly and highly visible BI project, make sure you have established a senior management steering committee and have a key process owner (sponsor) on-board. Your sponsor will guide the BI strategy according to the program’s key business drivers, demonstrate to senior managers how BI supports the program’s overall objectives, and actually gain their buy-in.

2. Establish a BI roadmap

BI implementations work best using a phased approach. Try identifying key business information requirements; prioritize areas that will have the highest impact; think of the end state to be reached. This will help you schedule which BI tools to implement first – including input planning, performance measurement, and balanced scorecards – and establish the type of skills to be gathered for each wave of implementation.

3. Build a governance structure
Keep your senior management steering committee and key process owners – sponsors from Finance, HR, Operations and/or IT – involved for the BI implementation phase. Bring them into the process of overseeing the BI project performance against cost, schedule, technical, and business process objectives. They will settle on how to staff adequately for each wave of implementation, deal with potential conflicting priorities and ultimately support continuous improvement.

4. Appoint internal experts
Be ready to appoint and empower the best available employees from all areas on a full-time basis, who will act as your internal project experts. They will define the detailed scope of each wave and pinpoint reporting requirements and key performance indicators.

Find a top caliber project lead with strong communication skills and business knowledge. In liaising between executives, consultants and the project team, he will make sure the project keeps within initial scope, despite any unbridled enthusiasm.

The subject matter experts will be the voice of the departments for all BI decision-making. They will perform user acceptance and sign-off, participate in user training and return to the business as “champions” of their subject area. The functional experts will map the business requirements, and participate to the design and ongoing data validations.

5. Leverage a proven methodology to architecture development

You should rely on a skilled team combining various specific expertise for the actual implementation of SAP. In order to build stable foundations, protect data integrity and optimize your data and systems, all decisions should be centralized to a BI architect, who will be responsible for a team of specialists in data modeling, report development and security.

Seek the expertise of BI consultants, as they are experienced in assessing critical success factors and have developed a proven methodology to building scalable environments that maximize BI content utilization and preserve data accuracy and integrity, while maintaining a unified business model.

6. Ensure user adoption with a ramp-up strategy

Ultimately, full adoption by users is the cornerstone to success. A well-devised change management and knowledge transfer scheme is critical. Make sure that users are trained at all levels of the organization.

Your internal project team should also be given the capacity to handle a major share of the continuous improvement projects once the implementation is done. Their training should allow them to sustain the needs of your users over time, and to realign the BI environment with the shift of your program strategic objectives.

Alain Dupont, CMA, is director of the SAP Practice, Federal Government and Public Sector for The Createch Group, and was responsible for overseeing a major SAP BI project implementation within the National Research Council (adupont@groupecreatech.com).

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