Business intelligence success depends on sponsor risks

Business sponsors are key to the success of business intelligence projects, according to analyst firm Gartner.

Business sponsors are key to the success of business intelligence projects, according to analyst firm Gartner.

Presenting at the Gartner Business Intelligence Summit in London, Gartner research director Mark Beyer urged chief information officers and IT directors to ensure they find a business sponsor to support business intelligence.

To make sure the sponsor is committed to the project, the sponsor's job, budget and reputation should be at risk if the business intelligence project is unsuccessful, he said. The sponsor should have the authority and influence to push through decisions that may go against the corporate IT standard.

Robert Randall, head of business enterprise solutions at DHL Exel's supply chain retail and fashion division, mirrored Gartner's recommendation. The logistics firm has been implementing a two-year business intelligence plan designed to link information from customer systems, with accounts and business divisions.

"The people element is critical. Business intelligence is a hard sell. It is difficult to achieve quantifiable business benefits. The only way to be successful is for the business to take ownership," he said.

Randall urged IT directors to start small, rather than try to build a large-scale business intelligence architecture, which may take three years to deliver any business benefits. At DHL, Randall took an agile approach to the business intelligence project, which avoided the development team making the mistake of running a project with no clear end goal. "We focused on small, bite-sized chunks [of the project]." The team comprised six staff, all with business backgrounds.


Key staff required for a business intelligence project 
  • Business sponsor, to drive the business case
  • System architect, with in-depth industry experience
  • Requirements business analyst, who has probably built a few data marts
  • Data modeller, with experience of formal data modelling tools
  • Source: Gartner

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