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Article Blog General August 2, 2011 4 minute read

Business Intelligence Center of Excellence (BI CoE)

A good decision,  made in the absence of knowledge,  is merely a lucky one. The biggest change facing corporations is the explosion of data and tools. The opportunity is in helping different business units  and functions capture, analyze and manage all that data and disparate technology tools/platforms.

The “Raw Data -> Aggregated Data ->  Contextual Intelligence -> Analytical  Insights -> Decisions” is a differentiating  causal chain separating winners from the  rest today.  Bringing consistency,  repeatability, reuse and process to this  information supply chain requires  discipline.

As companies have become more global and complex – and simultaneously more integrated – the need for cross-collaboration and more leverage of available resources via a shared services model has become a priority.

That is the reason why best-in-class firms are implementing BI Center of Excellence (CoE) (also called BI Shared Services or BI Competency Centers) for better leverage of investments in people, process and tools/applications.

Defining a BI CoE

A BI CoE is a cross-functional shared services structure for supporting the effective implementation of BI, Performance Management, Information Management and Analytics across an organization.  The objective of establishing BI CoE’s is to create economies of scale by pooling and sharing expertise, people, process and tools/applications rather than letting it become dedicated (or trapped) in departmental, Line of Business (LoB) or functional silos.

The BI CoE defines the structure — roles, responsibilities and processes – and resource mix – onshore or offshore, analysts to administrators — that enable the better execution of enterprise wide projects (especially in global, multi-LoB or matrix organization models). The shared services model is becoming pretty common in public and private sector IT for a variety of apps and infrastructure programs – centralized e-mail; data centers, SAP CoE, Oracle CoE etc.

The concept of a BI CoE is not new. As early as 2001, Gartner wrote that companies need a BI Competency Center approach (BICC) to develop and focus resources to be successful. Since then, the BICC concept has evolved through various implementations.

What does a BI CoE Actually do?

A BI CoE has responsibility for the program and portfolio governance, projects, vendor management, practices, software, architecture, infrastructure, and software licenses. It is responsible for building and executing the plans, priorities, infrastructure, and competencies that different groups need.

A well structured BI CoE drives various enterprise-wide data integration initiatives, including data warehousing, data migration, data consolidation, data synchronization, and data quality, as well as the establishment of data hubs, data services, cross-enterprise data exchange, and integration competency centers.

There are a variety of roles within a BI CoE – Executive Sponsors, BI Leadership, Program and Project managers, Business Analysts, Architects, Administrators, Developers, Data Stewards, Data Modelers, and Data warehouse analysts.

A BI CoE’s influence transcends that of a typical business unit implementation, playing a crucial central role in creating the framework for Service Level Agreements (SLA), business change management and strategic roadmaps. The BI CoE via the PMO, ensures that information and best practices are disseminated and shared through the entire organization so that everyone can benefit from successes and failures.

The BI CoE also plays an important change management role facilitating interaction among the various geographies, cultures and units within the organization. Knowledge transfer, enhancement of analytic skills, coaching and training are central to the mandate of the BI CoE.

BI CoE – Managing the Project Lifecycle

A key aspect of the BI CoE is to manage and make critical decisions  along the end-to-end lifecycle of the project. This is not easy to do in a large corporation with multiple stakeholders.


Creating the Business Case for BI CoE

BI and analytics investments are skyrocketing as companies come out of recession.  To manage these investments a BI CoE structure makes sense.  The business case drivers include:

  • Operational efficiency —More-effective support and use of information. More-relevant, accurate, consistent and timely information.
  • Strategic transformation —Use information to transform enterprise performance.
  • Lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) — More-efficient use of technology. Remove technical and operational obstacles and redundancies.

Despite the drivers, the best-practice companies undertake BI CoE models after a few successful implementations of BI at various departments and business units.  The business case is to ensure the following:

  • Make sure BI investments are closely tied to enterprise strategy (Cost Savings, Cost Avoidance, Risk Avoidance, and Better Reporting)
  • Make sure BI Infrastructure, Platforms, Tools, Applications and People investments are coordinated
  • Make sure there is singular focus and direct accountability for BI, analytics and performance management programs.

The time of BI CoE has come.  “Data -> Intelligence -> Insights -> Decisions” is a core causal chain in business execution. The previous execution of BI was about recording transactions in large data warehouses with rather simple front-end analytics. Today, the BI applications are about users extracting, manipulating, and analyzing the data on demand so they can create insights and make better decisions.

Contact us if you want to discuss more detailed models for a business case for BI CoE. In other blog postings we are going to examine different aspects of a solid business cases.


Further Reading

1) In Support of Business Intelligence for a white paper on how BI CoE for Suppport can improve the effectiveness of a BI Implementation.

2) BI CoE smart ROI Calculator to estimate the Return on Investment from a BI CoE Implementation and identify the difference between BI as a tool implementation and COE as a solution to get the highest productivity, cost savings and best decision-making.

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