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Organizations looking to implement and use operational BI can expect to face some hurdles. For one thing, they need to provide strong and flexible reporting. Companies dissatisfied with their initial deployments of operational BI say having to redo reporting based on misunderstanding of requirements is a key problem. Deployment delays, difficulties integrating multiple data sources and the inability to get complete views of key information are other drivers of dissatisfaction, he adds.
CIOs need to identify the causes of delays and address them, and develop a strategy for creating an information management platform that can integrate data sources.
An issue that often comes up is data quality. While this is largely related to database maintenance, it ties in to BI because these applications draw data from these resources. Data cleansing--ensuring that the data is free of inconsistencies-- is something organizations need to be diligent about.
Hillman has created a data management organization that's responsible for overseeing the integrity of the company's data, including data cleansing. "There are 70,000 [stock-keeping units] we manage on three legacy transaction systems, and making sure the data between those systems is in sync was a big challenge," Honerkamp says. But data cleansing is essential to getting the most out of BI, he says.
Papa Gino's made sure to have the IT department clean up data in its various information sources prior to using BI. Before joining the company, Valle had worked as a consultant and helped several clients implement BI. He says by far the biggest delays in implementing the technology stemmed from companies thinking they had clean data when in fact they did not.
Given the potential complexities of deploying BI throughout an organization, Valle recommends that CIOs bring in experts to help with the project. Papa Gino's hired a BI consulting firm to help with implementation. "We knew it was a sizable project, with all the programming and data points," Valle says. "It would have taken us two to three times longer [to complete] had we done it ourselves."
The biggest challenge for Hillman Group, ironically, has been getting business decision makers to take full advantage of the capabilities of BI and act on the information they're receiving."We continue to offer up new possibilities [through BI] and we're getting a little bit of push back from some executives," Honerkamp says. "They say there's so much [information] out there today they don't need more. They're not quite sure which information they should act on."
Another issue is potential overload of the BI applications. Too many frivolous queries can slow down systems, Honerkamp says. The company uses a maintenance program from Information Builders that enables Hillman to monitor the use of BI queries and alert managers when certain thresholds are reached, he says.
Despite these hurdles, organizations are finding that operational BI gives them more valuable insight into operations and performance than they've ever had.