Where Should Business Intelligence Team Land on the Organizational Chart?


At the IBM Cognos User Group in Miami, I gave a presentation discussing how to increase executive engagement in Business Intelligence initiatives. During my presentation, we discussed how executives must understand that Business Intelligence (BI) is not just “an IT thing.” It’s an organizational thing.  It’s a strategic thing.  So, the question is, where should the business intelligence team land on the organizational chart?

Arguing the Case for Business Intelligence

I pondered the question, “Where should business intelligence land on the organizational chart?” for a significant amount of time.  Then the lawyer in me came out and I created valid arguments for the business intelligence team to report to IT, to marketing, to finance…  depending on the business initiatives, I could make every case.  But it’s when I took a step back asking the primary question, “Why do we need business intelligence?”, did that bring clarity.  The role of BI is to provide information that leads to making better business decisions.  Why do we need better business decisions?  So, we can achieve the strategic goals of the organization and grow the business. 

“Business Intelligence’s job is to provide data and analytics to execute what’s needed to achieve the strategic goals.”

The Business Intelligence Disconnect

For the last 5 years, I have been surveying BI professionals on whether they can clearly define the strategic goals of their organization. Did you know that less than 4% of BI professionals I surveyed can clearly define the strategic goals of their organization?   Yet it’s their job to deliver information to achieve those goals.  Does anyone else see the disconnect here?  It’s as if the executives are asking the BI team to run a marathon but they never tell them where the finish line is, then they get upset when the BI team doesn’t cross the finish line.  Could part of the problem be that the BI is hiding in IT and not getting access to the insight and information they need?

Rebranding Business Intelligence to Strategic Analytics

I think the real issue is that business intelligence is NOT an IT thing, it should be an organization initiative and priority coming from the top. It should impact every area of the organization.  So, why don’t more companies create a place at the adult table for a Chief Strategic Executive and move the business intelligence team to report up to the him/her?  I will go so far as to say we need to rebrand business intelligence to be called strategic analytics and allow it to encompass not just reporting, but predictive and prescriptive analytics.  Let’s move the talented BI professionals out of the back room and into a room connected to the boardroom. 

Strategic Analytics fka Business Intelligence is Game Changing!

Are you questioning if strategic analytics is really that important?  Maybe you are thinking that it’s a fad or maybe that it’s not really a long term competitive differentiator.  Could it be that business intelligence is like Six Sigma where it gives you quick wins if you are the first in your market but once your competitors implement it too, it’s no longer an advantage? 

The answer is NO!  Strategic Analytics/Business Intelligence, is a huge competitive differentiator and will be for a long time.  It’s not just companies that are the first to succeed at BI that win market share and increased profits.  The companies with the best data will win!  Yes, your unique data is golden! 

Hypothetically, let’s say you develop some advanced forecasting algorithms that allow you to accurately predict your numbers, eliminating waste and bottlenecks in supply.   You use the magical algorithm for a while and somehow your key competition get a hold of your secret sauce.  Will it level the playing field that they are now using your algorithm?   Will you now have equal insights into the market?   I argue no.  Just because your competitors have the same formula does not mean the competitive edge has been eliminated because for years you have been accumulating this treasure trove of data.  The algorithm won’t be magical without the data.  Yes, your competitors have data, but if your company and the executives are committed to truly being a data driven company, they will invest in protecting and growing one of your most valuable assets, the data! 

Data really is that important.  Why did IBM buy the Weather Channel?  Was it to know the weather?  No, it was for the data!  http://money.cnn.com/2015/10/28/technology/ibm-weather-channel/index.html


Good data that is leveraged properly is gold!  But as long as the business intelligence team is being kept in the backroom and not in the boardroom, companies will be challenged to find and mine their motherlode.

I realize my vision of companies truly making data and analytics strategic will not come overnight.  It will take huge organizational commitments from the top of the org chart and maybe even the board table to transform.  Additionally, the members of the business intelligence teams must know the business, speak the business, and think the business.  They will have to learn soft skills and be master facilitators and communicators, but the transformation could also transform industries. 

Should the Business Intelligence Team be in IT?

It would be remiss of me not to discuss if the business intelligence team should remain part of the IT department, where I see it most often.  Typically, the BI team consist of highly skilled technical talent that understand the data and are experts in Cognos, Tableau, Qlik or other BI solutions.  However, it’s been my experience that business intelligence professionals are often challenged to fully understand the business.  Despite their efforts, they find it difficult to get time with executives and subject matter experts to discuss the business and their needs.  Admittedly, many IT professionals could do a better job of working to understand the business and challenges of the functional area. For BI to be game changing, to identify opportunity and treats early, it must do more than just present the data in reports. Companies need to evolve to not only report on historical data but forecast the future and leverage predictive and prescriptive analytics.  Despite wanting to rebrand business intelligence to “Strategic Analytics,” it currently is called “BUSINESS” intelligence and not “Data” intelligence or technical intelligence. Understand the business is essential. 

IT Identity Crisis

Another challenge with BI landing under IT on the org chart is that in many organizations, the IT department has an identity crisis.  For years, IT has been viewed more as a bottleneck than a strategic partner within the organization.  A reason for this may be that IT often speaks the language of geek a lot better than the language of business.  I don’t have time to cover the huge communication gap between technologists and the business users in this document, but it is as if they speak two different languages.  For business intelligence to provide the strategic insights it’s capable of providing, the team must breakdown the communication barriers and become fluent in both tech and business.  The BI team must be respected and be leaders that can facilitate discovery and education of analytics to the functional areas without coming across as condescending.  Superior BI team members are what I call socialized nerds.  But, let’s face it, IT often has a reputation issue within the organization. Until CIO’s are able to transform IT to be seen as team players and strategic partners by the business, the business intelligence professionals that are under the IT department may be hurt by the reputation of IT.  This is unfortunate for all but most importantly, significantly impacts the speed and success of the organization to find their data motherlode. 

As single spark can ignite a prairie fire– Chinese Proverb

Just the Beginning.

In the future, I will share my ideas on how to start the transformation process within your organization.  Make sure you are in our Analytics Coaching Club to receive the latest information.  Register for free at http://lodestarsolutions.mykajabi.com/store/5cre9Xx8

When your company is ready to start strategizing and creating a Business Intelligence Roadmap, contact me as Services@lodestarsolutions.com.

June 26, 2018

Heather L. Cole

Whats New in IBM Cognos Analytics Release 11


I have been asked many many times about portal pages in Cognos Analytics. It was a small but important feature in Cognos BI 10 that was not available in Cognos Analytics. Well, the wait is OVER! With IBM Cognos Analytics release 11, your old portal pages are now available!  All in all, this is a small release but includes some very popular requests from the user community. To add in your requests for enhancements click here.

IBM Cognos Analytics Release 11
IBM Cognos Analytics Release 11

New in IBM Cognos Analytics Release 11

  • Custom Shapes in Maps for Dashboards and Reports - you now have the ability to add in custom polygons through a map box integration.  Here is a link to a great blog from IBM that details the steps to create the custom shapes.  Custom polygon shapes blog
  • Portal Pages - you are now able to migrate your portal pages from Cognos 10.x  in the IBM Cognos Analytics Release 11. Click here for a great instructional blog from IBM.  
  • Increase Dashboard Performance - data caching is now available in the dashboard properties. This option is only available for framework packages as of now.  It is expected to be available for data models in a future release.  Check out this great blog on data caching for Cognos Analytics. 
  • Limit Modification of Report Details - In short, the portal visibility defines a set of rules that determine what content is available to the end users.  Now with IBM Cognos Analytics Release 11 the visibility rules are global and a restart of services is no longer needed. Here is a good read on this process in this IBM Blog - Portal Visibility Filter
What Does this Mean?

I've talked to a lot of you about portal pages and how that was a game stopper to upgrading to Cognos Analytics.  Now that they are available, it is the right time to upgrade.  Support for Cognos BI 10.2.2 expired in April of 2018.  If you are current on support this is a free upgrade plus any cost associated with a technical consultant completing the upgrade. In many cases, this can be completed in less than 40 hours and for less money than you are thinking.  Contact us at services@lodestarsolutions.com to get help with your upgrade. 

7 Practical Ways To Improve BI User Adoption

Heather Cole, President of Lodestar Solutions, was interviewed on her insight in to ways to improve BI user adoption.  Below is the article:

Business Intelligence is booming. In 2013, businesses spent $14 Billion on Business Intelligence software. By 2018, analysts predict that number will balloon to $114 Billion.

Why are we seeing such massive growth?

It goes hand-in-hand with the growth of data. It’s estimated that the world’s data is doubling every two years. With this data explosion, more businesses are turning to BI tools. These BI tools help them make sense of this data, and turn it into a competitive advantage.

The only problem: BI user adoption rates remain flat. A recent study puts BI adoption among employees at 22%.

In other words, businesses are investing in BI solutions more than ever before. Yet, users still aren’t using the solutions. That’s a problem.

What’s the solution? How can you improve BI user adoption? Today, let’s focus on fixing that problem. Here are a few ways to improve BI user adoption:

Improve BI user adoption

Read the rest of the article including Heather Cole's tip at this link:

Integrating Cognos Planning & BI – Dimension for Publish

Choosing the dimension for publish is one of the most critical steps in the Integrating Cognos Planning & BI process. In addition, the Generate Framework Model admin extension will model the dimension chosen for publish as the fact table. More simply put, the dimension chosen for publish will be your measure dimension.

Typically, you’ll find candidates for the dimension for publish contain items by which the business tracks or measures performance. These items are often numeric and can be aggregated across other regular dimensions. For example, a common reporting requirement is the creation of a Profit and Loss type report where dimensions could include:

• Time (year, month, day, etc)
• Version (Budget, Actual, Forecast etc.)
• Summary Expenses (Revenue and Expense detail)
• Contract Type (Current Year Signed vs. Ongoing business)
• Organizational Hierarchy (typically this is our Elist and cannot be used as the dimension for publish).

In this scenario, the Summary Expense dimension contains fact information that is numeric and can be aggregated across the other dimensions. Therefore it is an excellent candidate for the dimension for publish. However, depending on what type of reporting you are looking to accomplish, other dimensions for publish could make sense as well.

Using the same scenario above, let’s say you wanted to preserve the hierarchy from your Summary Expense dimension for use in reporting. Typically, this would be found in a drill down scenario where users can navigate the revenue account hierarchy to see what revenue accounts contribute to a total revenue number. You would likely choose a different dimension for publish in this scenario to preserve the Summary Expense hierarchy (remember, the measure dimension will not have a hierarchy). I would say Version or Contract Type could be candidates for the dimension for publish; however, it really depends on what type of reporting requirements you are working with.

Clear as mud ehh? I’ve found that looking at my reporting requirements and sketching out how I’m going to construct each report in report studio helps bring the appropriate dimension for publish to the surface. It’s a quick exercise that will help you lay out the components of the report and what type of structure will work best for you!

Integrating Cognos Planning & BI – Reporting Applications

Integrating Cognos Planning & BI – Reporting Applications

It is always important to consider any Business Intelligence requirements during the design of planning applications to ensure planned information is structured in such a way that it can be leveraged in Cognos BI. Anyone who has ever used planned information as a source for reporting will attest. That being said, it is not always possible to create a planning application that is both Planning and BI friendly. As a result, we have pioneered the concept of reporting applications which help bridge the gap between Planning and BI Requirements. I like to think of it as a mini data mart masked as a Cognos Planning application.

The basic idea is that reporting applications are a standalone planning application that leverages existing planning applications to structure data in a more easy to use form for Cognos BI. It is an application that is not published to the web and is NOT built with the Contributor end user in mind (they will never see it). It’s truly a planning application whose sole purpose is to enable a more seamless integration with Cognos BI.

There could be a variety of valid factors that cause your planning applications to be constructed in a fashion that isn’t necessarily conducive to BI.
Some may include:

  • Contributor user requirements dictate organizational or account hierarchies that differ from reporting requirements.
  • Cube and application size require the introduction of feeder cubes that undermine the end reporting requirements.
  • Reporting requirements have specs that are not easily achieved with the various BI studios.

Reporting applications can help in many of these areas to get your CPM solution over the proverbial ‘hump.’ You can leverage native planning functionality to build from and mold your operational applications into a reporting application that contains all the necessary components to satisfy otherwise difficult to obtain BI requirements.

For example,
XYZ Corporation has reporting requirements impacted by a combination of the issues listed above. One of which is a report requirement to calculate variance between planned versions (Budget and Actual) using a different variance calculations (Budget – Actual or Actual – Budget) depending on account type (Revenue / Expense).

Unfortunately, the logic required to determine an expense vs revenue account and apply the appropriate variance calculation is a daunting task with Report Studio. It would have involved the use of multiple crosstabs which ultimately would have led to a sloppy presentation of the information. As a result, Variances was calculated inside of the reporting application using add and subtract links (and other native planning functionality). It was added to the Versions D-List and was ultimately passed to BI pre-calculated eliminating the design issue.

Again, this is one example of the use of a planning reporting applications. The reality is that reporting applications can be designed in a variety of ways to help you achieve that full CPM solution.