arcplan Names Five Key Factors for Successful BI Projects

Consider your BI projects from all angles to achieve simplicity, flexibility and sustainable success

Wayne, PA, USA / Langenfeld, Germany – April 24, 2013 – Business Intelligence (BI) is an indispensable part of daily operations for most companies today. Current figures could hardly be clearer: according to Gartner, global BI spending will rise to $13.8 billion this year and $17.1 billion by 2016. The advantages of BI solutions are obvious – from better strategic decisions to improvements in financial performance – but still only 24% of companies surveyed by BI Scorecard in 2012 called their BI deployments "very successful." Despite what this statistic might imply, investing in business intelligence has decisive advantages in these times of economic turmoil and market volatility, so international BI solution provider arcplan reviewed its customers' most impactful BI projects and identified five key factors for deploying BI projects with long-term success. 

These factors go beyond the solution-deployment advice you typically see from vendors – steps like "define what success is," "find an executive sponsor," and "go with an incremental approach." While these are critical as well, the factors laid out below embrace five different segments of the project: the IT infrastructure, the data, the BI solution itself, the users, and corporate governance.

1. Link your various (clean) source systems
It's normal for companies to have many information systems in place, from inventory management and ordering programs to ERP and CRM solutions, which may all run on different hardware platforms. The result is a heterogeneous and fragmented IT landscape, and it is often unavoidable. If you cannot reduce the number of systems in place, then ensure that all primary data sources have accurate data whose definition has been agreed upon organization-wide. In addition, be sure your business intelligence solution can serve as an umbrella over all of the systems that need to be linked. BI applications that connect to numerous systems are crucial to the success of projects in heterogeneous environments. 

2. Choose your data wisely and compile it intelligently
The flood of data in business is steadily rising. Big data is not just an oft-cited buzzword, but also a key factor when it comes to economic success in highly competitive markets. Distinguishing between relevant and irrelevant data is becoming increasingly difficult given the constant growth of information sources. For this reason, businesses often store more data than necessary to avoid overlooking, and eventually irretrievably losing, potentially relevant information. For BI solutions to use these massive data volumes, data modeling must come into play – how your BI system understands your raw business data so it can answer business questions. This step defines data elements as well as their structures and the relationships between them. The problem many companies run into is the huge potential for errors when it comes to these large amounts of data and their interdependence in the data models. The more complex the data models get, the more the potential for error. In and of themselves, BI solutions are often not in a position to distinguish between important and unimportant information. However, if big data needs to be analyzed at your organization, you should employ a system that can process large amounts of data and put it into a logical and easily usable context. Especially for self-service analytics by a broader user base, this is a must. 

3. Select an adaptable solution
Volatile markets and ever shorter time-to-market cycles – for example, markedly shorter product lifecycles in the automotive industry – mean that BI and analytical applications must constantly be adapted to a changing business climate or they fail to achieve their primary mission, whether that is a shift to fact-based decision-making, reduction in costs, revenue growth, or time savings. As the needs of your organization change, more users want to adopt BI, and deadlines and budgets get tighter, it becomes even more important to choose a BI solution that can grow and change with you. The central building blocks of this kind of solution are flexibility, adaptability, and robustness. An integrated platform with easily deployed modules keeps time, costs, and other project pressures to a minimum – elements that often determine how project success is perceived. 

4. Empower more business users
Until recently, BI solutions were reserved principally for management. Today self-service BI is a trend for a reason: business users are clamoring for the ability to analyze data themselves without IT interference and information availability on the go. These demands require that BI solutions provide a vast array of capabilities, from personalized dashboards to ad-hoc reporting to mobile BI, and be easy to learn and use or you risk low system adoption. If there is high user acceptance across various departments, the chances of the project's success increase.

5. Corporate governance and sustainability 
The rules for reporting in effect today are getting stricter and require transparency in all business areas. Companies must store and communicate information that proves they are in compliance with the applicable governmental regulations. For instance, public companies must divulge profits, losses and other key financial and operational metrics in quarterly reports. And even private and governmental organizations are increasing their level of openness with the help of BI. Solutions that deliver dashboards to monitor performance, reports that are easy to generate, and drill-down to discover root-causes of performance issues translate into success that lasts and is easy to prove every quarter in terms of compliance, time savings, and transparency.

"Companies expect business intelligence to provide detailed analyses and what-if scenarios. But merely implementing a BI solution isn't enough," said Achim Röhe, Vice President of Professional Services at arcplan. "In order for your BI to be 'sustainably successful' in a way that constantly delivers concrete benefits, you have to consider these five factors. As we've seen over more than 3,000 implementations, BI projects that are considered from these angles from the beginning enjoy a high success rate – impressive adoption, real ROI, and true business benefits."

About arcplan
arcplan is a leader in innovative Business Intelligence, Dashboard, Corporate Performance and Planning software solutions for desktop and mobile use.  Since 1993, arcplan has enabled more than 3,200 customers worldwide to leverage their existing infrastructure for better decision making. Empowering all users to connect and collaborate with relevant information is crucial for improving business performance. With arcplan – it simply works.

arcplan's flagship product arcplan Enterprise® was rated the #1 3rd party tool for SAP BW, Oracle Essbase, and IBM Cognos TM1 in The BI Survey 12 (2012).

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