Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

The Top 5 BI Projects That Never Pay Off (What’s Your BI ROI? – Part 2)


Part 1 of our BI ROI series examined key questions to consider when evaluating the potential ROI of a new business intelligence project. As a company that's implemented our solutions thousands of times and gone through just as many ROI justifications, we've come to think of ourselves as experts in this area…and not just with regard to what pays off, but also what doesn't. And never will. Below are the top 5 BI projects that never actually produce a tangible financial return on investment. That doesn't mean you shouldn’t tackle them ever – in fact, you may be forced to at some point. Read on:

    1. 'Rip and replace' your business intelligence platform.
      Replacing your existing platform as quickly as the wind changes poses a tremendous strain on resources to get to the exact place to where you are today. Don't switch platforms just for the sake of switching. Your new BI project or platform should address a pressing issue or solve a problem. You may hear complaints like "the interface is too difficult" or "it takes too long to run reports" and think that a platform switch is the answer, but there are other investments you can make – like implementing a different front-end, or trying overnight batch processing – that will relieve your pains without costing a fortune (and taking years off your life).
    2. Regulatory/ legal requirements for reporting.
      Reporting standards, such as Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and HIPPA for example, are mandatory regulatory requirements. A solution that helps make compliance more convenient is nice to have, but in reality these regulatory reports can be summed up as the cost of doing business. If you're forced to implement BI to meet reporting requirements, you're unfortunately just going to have to suck it up – this rarely pays off financially.
    3. Platform upgrade.
      Truth be told, some platform upgrades are necessary because they may enable you to access information faster, visualize your data better, or provide functionality that you really need. However, like unnecessary platform replacements, I don't recommend upgrading just for the sake of upgrading. A platform upgrade introduces various risks to your system and may require you to purchase more hardware or software in order to work with your data. For example, your new install may not play well with other software. This means that previously integrated systems may be interrupted by this new install. Another possibility is that your new solution may not be supported on  old hardware. Your new software may require a specific processor, thus introducing additional expenses to your budget.
    4. Cosmetic facelifts and technology for technology's sake.
      Understandably, a visually appealing solution entices you to work with the reports and may increase adoption at your organization. But ultimately, whether the graph sweeps or ticks, whether the animations are simple or very elaborate, the information is still the same. Visual appeal is not a good justification for a BI project.
    5. Multi-year BI/data warehouse deployments.
      If you find yourself in a five-year data warehousing or BI deployment project and there's no end in sight, you've probably bitten off more than you can chew. Given the significant resource investment that is put into a multi-year implementation, how can you ever justify this investment? If it's too late and you've given in to scope creep, it may be possible to cut your losses now and implement an affordable solution that's quick to deploy and fills in the gaps. It may seem like a band-aid, but sometimes it's about making the best of things. Honestly, arcplan is called in many times when companies have deployed another solution (like SAP) and after 2 years, there's no light at the end of the tunnel. So there is hope for your project, but it might require another (small) investment.

If you've managed to avoid these top 5 unrewarding projects, you deserve a pat on the back. But if you are involved in one of these projects, it may not be practical to come to a screeching halt. My advice is to take stock of the situation, see if it's salvageable, and present a justification for phased delivery that can prove ROI…eventually.

I'll wrap up this series on business intelligence ROI with part 3, which will outline the methodology for calculating your project's actual return on investment. Stay tuned!

Dwight deVera

About Dwight deVera

I'm Senior VP responsible for Solutions Delivery at arcplan in North America. I also present on a lot of arcplan webinars, so you can sign up to hear me - the events listing on our website is located here: You can also follow me on Twitter: @dwightdevera.