Cindi Howson on Best Practices for BI Success

By Ellie Fields October 19, 2011

David Dunham posts this from Las Vegas during Tableau Customer Conference 2011:

Cindi Howson is the founder of BI Scorecard and a thought leader in business intelligence. She's been a Tableau user since 2007.

Her best practices for BI are are drawn from the industry. As a preface, she said about BI: "I don't think it's always fast and always easy. There are politics and technical challenges that happen behind the scenes."

Cindi's best practices:

  1. Measure success: 5% of BI initiatives were failures in 2011! Business people rate success higher than IT people.

    The ultimate measure of success: what have you done to improve the business performance? Operational Efficiency is the #1 measure. Very few people do a ROI. "I think everyone should be doing an ROI." But how much credit do you give to BI? It's a precise number with imprecise inputs. At the least, come up with anecdotes.

  2. Understand and exploit the LOFT effect: Luck, Opportunity, Frustration, Threat. You should look for opportunities and pain points so you can exploit this proactively.
  3. Garner executive support: CEO and COO are most effective. CIO is least effective. Demonstrate continuous success to the executive sponsors. Recognize the power of iPad with executives.
  4. Ensure a solid data foundation. A BI application is only as good as the underlying data. Data is nothing without a powerful BI tool. You can never assume that all the data is in one place in a data warehouse — Tableau’s data blending feature is one of the more significant improvements in Tableau recently.
  5. Balance enterprise vs departmental BI (who controls what). Decentralize security administration (who gets to see what).
  6. Foster the IT-Business partnership. IT and business do have different Meyers-Briggs profiles. A hybrid person can help. You may need to cross-train to get this person. Also, realize that IT is not incented to take risks.
  7. Relevance: BI should be proactive, don't just wait for people to ask for reports. Seattle Children's took IT people into the Operating Room to see how information could help there.
  8. Choose the right tools for right users (with appropriate self service). Ad hoc query tools are typically the most successful.