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Business & ICT Trends, Applied to Your Organisation

How agile was your budgeting and planning cycle?

Posted on December 13th, 2011 by TimClaes

How agile was your budgeting and planning process?

Or is it still ongoing? The last couple of months I visited many companies and most of them had the same complaint: “It is that ‘frustrating’ time of the year again, where we need to enter our budget for next year.”

Instead of enjoying this strategic exercise, most people get lost in the details and waist a lot of time. Too often I notice that the budgeting and planning exercise still happens in excel. People create formulas, add columns, remove lines and before you know it, you end up in a true excel hell. No security, no version control, no process flows… nothing.

On the other hand some companies work with ‘high-tech’ programs for their budgeting and planning process. Typically these systems are ‘over-engineered’: resulting into an unfriendly user interface, asking for too many parameters and not allowing any flexibility towards the end users.

That is where ‘Agile BI’ comes in the picture. You give the power to the business users, allowing for a ‘controlled’ flexibility. So that they have all the tools available at their fingertips to perform ‘self-service BI’. But at the same time – behind the scenes – you have a centralized controlled environment monitoring the different process flows, executing the complex calculations and providing the correct information towards the right people.

SAP BPC is such a solution, where the end-user can continue to fill in his/her budgeting and planning details in a familiar environment (= excel), but the files are synchronized with a central database where all the process/approval flows and security rights are set up: Bottom-up and Top-down flows; sales forecasts and operational forecasts; high-level simulations and detailed level simulations… you name it, it is possible.

So maybe you can start thinking about next year already… So that the budgeting and planning cycle becomes a strategic exercise again, instead of a frustrating period of time where people get lost in the details.


3 key roles in any BICC

Posted on May 27th, 2011 by TimClaes

Roles & responsibilities in a BICC


Due to your major interest in one of the previous blogposts “Setting up a BICC” and because of all your comments, let me go a bit more in detail in 3 key roles that should be present in any BICC (Business Intelligence Competence Center). Although it will sound evident what I’m going to tell you when setting up a BICC, in practice I see too many companies fail in accomplishing this. And this is typically for 1 simple reason, you continue to do what you have been doing in the past with the same people but under a different name, no matter what the competences and the skills are of these people. So if it was not working before, why would it be working this time? A very big mistake, in my opinion!

I’m not saying it is not possible to do this with the same people, but it will require a large change in their way of working. You need to be aware of that.

1. BI Program manager


The first critical role in the BICC is the BI Program manager.  The BI Program manager role has mainly two big functions: the first one is to manage the BICC itself. He must coordinate the work within the team acting as a bridge between all its members especially in the case of a virtual BICC. He must check that the procedures and standards defined within the BICC are properly used. He will also define the priorities of the projects (in close harmony with the governance body) and make sure of their alignment with the corporate strategy and the business requirements. Finally, he must define and measure the performance indicators of the BICC in order to be able to report the success of the BI strategy and the performance of the BICC.

 The second one is to insure the promotion and the positioning of the BICC within the organisation. He must promote the usage of the BICC and of the BI & CPM tools within the organization by convincing the high management and the different departments/divisions of the benefits they can get from it. He must also make sure that there is no BI, nor CPM initiative taken outside of the BICC. Finally, he will also negotiate the funding and the necessary service levels.

In order to do so this person should be a politically savvy person, understanding the ins and outs from the organization, both from a business point of view as from a supporting processes point of view.

 This role is part of the core roles, it might even be considered as thé key role which determines the success of the BICC initiative. His capacity to staff and to drive the people within the BICC but also his capacity to promote the usage of the BI & CPM tools within the organisation will determine the success of failure of the BICC.

2. Solution architect


The solution architect is the second critical role within the BICC. And typically he will act as the right hand of the BI Program manager, internally focused (=inside BICC), where the BI Program manager is mostly externally focused (=outside BICC). He will be in charge for the complete design of the corporate data warehouse and make sure that the technical setup of the implemented solutions are correct. He should have a very deep knowledge of the BI & CPM concepts and technologies used in order to advice the project team on any threat or issue that might undermine the success of the project. He will be in charge of the daily operational project management. (sometimes this is handed over to the BI Program manager, if time allows)

The solution architect will have to work with technical specialists in subject areas like data warehousing, data integration and BI & CPM tools. He needs to provide assistance to the overall team on technical matters and will coordinate the technical testing phases. The solution architect will also advise which technology (star schemas, cubes …) to use driven by the business requirements. Finally, the solution architect is accountable for the overall quality assurance of the architecture and its correct usage. Here the solution architect also needs to take into account the future BI roadmap.

3. Business Analyst


The role of the business analyst is to be the interface between the end customers of the BICC and the different services providers. His role is to collect the needs and requirements from the business units and to translate them into components to be implemented. His role is also to make sure that both business and IT understand each other meaning that the business understands and accepts the constraints of IT and in the opposite way that IT understands that the business might change so they need to be flexible and to build flexible solutions.

He will be responsible for the requirement analysis and will also work with source application owners to refine the business requirements. Finally he will assist in the user acceptance testing phases. (In comparison with a source application owner, a business analyst has insight across many areas, where as a source application owner typically has in-depth insight in one area only.) In order to do so the business analyst needs very good communication skills and should be able to facilitate workshops in a productive matter.

In his role of representative of the business in the BICC day to day matters, the business analyst is also a core role within the BICC.


Topic of the week – Shift from BI to Performance Management (3rd article)

You probably all know what I’m talking about. All kinds of reports are running around in your organization, each telling their own version of the truth, typically based on different sets of interpreted data, conflicting with one another.

 The existing reports are never exactly what you need. It takes too long to get the necessary information back, and you start creating your own reports & dashboards in excel, throwing away all the prebuilt figures by your organization.

 Further it seems that there are also many conflicting interests within the organization when talking about the specific BI needs. Outspoken conflicts you often hear about are the financial reporting requirements from the CFO versus the operational reporting requirements from the COO for instance.

You can draw a few conclusions out of the above:

1.  Reports are a very important instrument within your organization; otherwise not so many people would be involved. So far so good. But do you have any idea how many people are ‘wasting’ their time in getting all the information together manually in your organization? (or semi-automatic, otherwise you don’t feel addressed, but for me this is manually) You would be surprised!

2.  All the tactical initiatives that were taken in the past – typically driven by a department or by a manager – are lacking a strategic umbrella and therefore are very difficult to link to each other. It’s like comparing apples to oranges. You are simply starting from different data definitions and all the rest is frustration. On the other hand the C-level KPIs and dashboards are not taken forward to the different departments, and remain silo’s at top level management.

So how should you deal with this? What helps for me is actively making use of the information triangle. Not just talking about it during conversations with your colleagues, but actively trying to plot all the requests and requirements from the people into the BI triangle, so also including all the Corporate Performance management needs (or better said: the financial requirements and budgeting, planning & forecasting requirements).

BI Triangle

This way you can easily visualize the focus areas per person in your organisation. And people understand better the focus areas of other persons in the organisation, limiting the conflicts to a minimum. And last but not least you also find the blanc spots, so you can start prioritizing properly in setting up dashboards, balanced scorecards, alerts, … and all the other goodies people think about. Really, you should try it, you will be amazed by the result!


Setting up a BICC

Posted on April 26th, 2011 by TimClaes

Topic of the week – Shift from BI to Performance management (2nd article: Setting up a BICC)

One of the top priorities you need to highlight in your list of to do’s, when setting up a strategic framework for BI, is getting the right, enterprise-wide organisation structure in place, with a clearly defined set of rules and responsibilities, reporting directly to C-level management. This is often called a BICC – Business Intelligence Competence Center.

This is easier said then done as you typically will have one of the following 2 scenarios that will take place at your organisation:

  1. The business is in the driver seat of the BI initiatives and too many business people are included in the BICC, resulting into data governance issues, scalability issues, performance issues, …
  2. ICT is in the driver seat and too many ICT experts are included in the BICC, leadings towards high maintenance costs, long development cycles, many end user restrictions, …


Needless to point out that both scenarios will fail and that the truth lays in the middle. You simply need a good mix of business people and ICT experts to make it work.  I often use the following figure as a discussion instrument. It helps the customer to structure their thoughts and will assist you in various debates on how the BICC should look like. In the end you are talking about people and that is always a sensitive topic, no matter where you are positioned in the organisation.

Setting up the BICC

It sounds obvious, but the objectives of the BICC should be transparant, clear and communicated throughout the organisation. Only then it will be possible to define the services (or functions) offered by the BICC. At this stage it is as important to also define what will not be serviced by the BICC, so that no misunderstandings exist right from the start. Typical services that should be looked at are:

  • Data governance and data stewardship
  • Information delivery
  • Data acquisition
  • Support (1st line, 2nd line & 3rd line)
  • Training
  • BI Program management
  • Vendor management


Each of these topics need to be described in detail, including the roles and responsibilities, without adding any names at this moment in time. Once the roles and responsibilities are defined, the competences of each profile can be completed and the discussion can start which roles are absolutely necessary within the physical BICC structure and which roles can be positioned virtually and/or temporary. At this moment in time you should also draw all the possible communication flows between the BICC and the rest of your organisation and the frequency of these flows (ad hoc, weekly, monthly, …)

Only now the discussion about people should start, beginning with the amount of people we need, to fulfill the necessary competences, and  making an inventory of the available people. In my experience you will always need to foresee a transition period and a structured training plan to get the right people in place. Good people are always occupied. Depending on the role sometimes the attitude is more important than the skills.

And last but not least an iterative governance mechanism should be put in place to periodically review the staffing and the performance of the BICC,  to be able to adjust flexibly to the always changing needs of your organisation.


Shift from BI to Performance Management

Posted on April 25th, 2011 by TimClaes

Topic of the week – Shift from Business Intelligence towards Performance Management

Or… how to evolve from multiple tactical initiatives towards a strategic approach?

Business Intelligence remains one of the top priorities for many CEO and CIO. Nevertheless BI still does not deliver the expected results, as it has failed after many years of investment and implementation to become pervasive amongst business users. Gartner estimates that no more than 20% of business users actually use BI proactively.

Organizations face challenges in several areas and the need arises for a strategic framework. This framework exists out of 4 strategic pillars – the information pillar, the strategy pillar, the organisation pillar and the architecture pillar.

The upcoming days I will go in more detail on each one of them and provide tips & trics on how to apply them to your organisation.


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