Let me guess: your BI strategy consists of ONE architecture slide

Let me guess: of course you have thoroughly thought about your business intelligence strategy and have it available …. On ONE slide …! Your strategy to execution, business needs, governance model, BI objectives and needs, information categories, components and architecture, sponsorships, measurement, training, support and metadata management … they all fit on your magical one-slider …. Let me smile

This is not an argument about the importance of a solid BI Strategy; there has been written plenty about it. This is about how you can start with one in a few clearly outlined steps. They guide you to a rock solid base for your BI Strategy with limited investment in terms of time and effort. I am speaking in terms of days; not weeks or months! Let us create your BI Strategy Foundation here, based on 4 simple steps I have applied many times with customers. This is how I do it:

The BI strategy foundation I help customers with, is based on 4 key steps:

  • Current BI Needs Baseline Analysis

  • BI Strategy & Execution Baseline

  • Gap Analysis

  • Compose your BI Strategy Foundation


Step 1 is about creating a baseline for the BI needs in your organization. The objective of this step is to create a high-level insight on the business intelligence needs by Line of Business (LOB), and their expected impact on the company’s performance management. To gather the required information, I have interviews of around 1hr with representative decision takers per LOB (i.e. HR, finance, sales, purchasing) discussing what they need to optimize their LOB’s performance. After the interviews, I create an overview with:

  • Business Challenge and Degree of priority/pain on scale 0-10

  • Business Impact and Degree of impact on scale 0-10

Example sales LOB:

Business Challenge: Our Sales reporting is not holistic. We need to quickly see overall sales performance and to identify differences in performance in specific teams, per location, or by individual sales reps. Degree of priority: 8

Business Impact: This will help us easily increase revenues, immediately identify competitive inroads, and give us the ability to quickly and appropriately reward our outstanding teams/individuals. Degree of impact: 7

Per LOB I typically end up with 10-20 business challenges and business impact statements. I use a simple spreadsheet to log my challenges and impact together with their individual scorings. Visualization tools like SAP Lumira easily allow me to share detailed insights on the BI Needs baseline with my customers. If you for example use scatter-chart with degree of pain versus degree of impact, one easily spot the key domains that require focus.

2. BI Strategy & Execution baseline

I now assess the existing customer’s business intelligence strategy, their components definition, their completeness of execution and business impact. More in detail, The BI Strategy and Execution Baseline includes five catego­ries of strategy components, each of which is examined through the three steps — Existence, Execution and Impact:

  1. ​Objectives: This describes the extent to which the history, key reasons and objectives for the BI Strategy have been documented and to what extent the objectives have been executed. Degree of documentation definition on scale 0-10

  2. BI Needs: This describes the extent to which the business needs and the future state have been defined and executed, in terms of the business requirements and corresponding KPIs. Degree of KPI definitions on scale 0-10

  3. Business Case: This describes the extent to which the benefits of implement­ing the BI strategy have been articulated and quantified. Degree of articulation on scale 0-10

  4. Information and Technology: This addresses the types of information that are, and/or will be captured, and the technology that is or will be put in place to meet the BI needs. One of the methods I use is the BI Component selection tool

  5. Organization and Implementation: This describes to what extent the organization is ready to implement the BI Strategy and is on track to execute. Degree of execution readiness on scale 0-10

This step requires a bit more effort than step 1; my experience is to allocate some 2-3 days to get a fair insight. I log everything again using a spreadsheet with the above mentioned domains each rated.

Remember that we create a foundation for a BI strategy, and not a detailed strategy execution plan. Detailed strategy plans require steps 2b, 2d and 2e to be further explored. Our foundation is the perfect framework to do so.

Note that by all means I keep the registration of the above steps simple and with a single rating degree on 0-10 for each existence, execution and impact. If properly done, one can very easily generate a visualized insight in the execution baseline like a radar chart with the 3 metrics

3. Gap analysis

You already guessed; the gap analysis in this 3rd step is basically the delta between the two first steps. The objective is to prioritize the gaps, and document the benefits of addressing them. The Gap Analysis prioritizes the insights giving the customer a clear understanding of where to focus their BI efforts. It also provides an understanding the value of addressing unmet business needs, which is crucial input to the custom­er’s investment decisions. Here are additional questions the gap analysis will help answer for my customer:

  • Which gaps will drive the biggest benefit for our enterprise?

  • What BI needs are causing the most disruption – and the highest business pain for decision makers?

  • How can or should identified gaps be prioritized for the maximum enterprise impact?

Again I use a very simple spreadsheet to document the individual gaps and their scores. For the score I reuse the degrees from the previous steps. Below a version of the outputs that has been detailed a bit more.

4. Compose your bi strategy foundation

Finally I create a recommended capabilities map to resolve the business pains from step 1. I use the outcome of the previous 3 steps and visualize them in clearly digestible overviews and infographics. Basically I leverage them to recommend on:

  • Strategy recommendations

  • Descriptions of the solution and value of closing the gaps caused by the pains/needs.

  • BI Category and Solution Description – what are the business intelligence solutions required for addressing this pain?

If you have rated your degrees consistently, radar and scatter maps quite clearly indicate where the most important needs are, what the current and future capabilities to address those needs are, and – as a result – what the prioritized gaps are.

The above approach works very well for me and especially my customers. Having used it now for several occasions I found that it:

  1. Easy to use: especially a consistent use of rating the degrees helps to visualize the customer’s situation

  2. Results in actionable insights immediately: the prioritized gap analysis can be actioned upon immediately

  3. Takes reasonable time efforts – most of the time I completed the full exercise in less than 5 days

  4. Can be used iteratively: one can perfectly apply this approach on departmental level and later enlarge the scope to cross-departmental or corporate level

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