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Analysis

Whitby Partners - maximising the value from your investment in BI
David Norris By: David Norris, Practice Leader - Analytics, Bloor Research
Published: 13th February 2007
Copyright Bloor Research © 2007
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One of the biggest constraints to companies achieving their corporate goals is the lack of access that most management have to the information that is of most vital importance to them. In most organisations access to data is no problem, we produce mountains of reports, but clear insightful intelligence is a rare beast. In the absence of facts, clearly presented, in a timely fashion, business leaders are left with little option but to continue with the “guess and go” approaches that have been their mainstay for years. With the pace and complexity of business accelerating the chances of intuition driving successful strategies into the future becomes ever more “hit and miss”, with the chances for a spectacular miss becoming ever more likely. The answer to all of this from 99% of the IT industry is to go for more of the same, but super-sized, with yet more layers of technology being added to the nexus that is the corporate infrastructure. But it is not just a technology issue; it is also one of culture. Managers need to be helped to use facts to make better decisions.

I believe that fact-based decision-making is one of the keys to profitability in the modern economy. Finding the balance between technology and culture is not easy, and actually changing a culture is often harder still. Above all, people need to understand the need to take the journey and then be helped whilst on it. It is therefore refreshing to find that an organisation is taking an approach firmly rooted in this belief and has built a robust and credible approach to helping people get to the goal securely and with minimal pain. Whitby Partners have developed a proven structured approach. Their approach provides a visual and comprehensive mapping, showing where current investment in BI stands, how it compares to where the client want to be, and how it benchmarks against what is perceived as best practise. In essence it uses a fact-based approach to appraising the ability of their clients to deliver fact-based approaches!

Using experience gained through working with some of the major providers and users of the core BI technologies over many years, the Whitby Partners approach identifies the keys to achieving consistent success at both a business and a technical level. Their “BI Exploitation Best Practice” approach is based on building a series of visual models that map how the parties on both the supply and the demand side perceive BI in an organisation. The perception maps reflect on how the balance is struck between factors such as technology, process, and governance. One of the most exciting aspects of the Whitby approach is that it is rooted in ensuring that each solution is tailored to the specific experiences and needs of the enterprise, and is not a one size fits all approach. Having undertaken the Best Practice evaluation, clients are able to answer many questions that today most people cannot address, but are vital, for instance "How much do we spend on BI?", What ROI do we derive?", "Are we delivering best value?", and "Who is accountable for the BI asset?" Having these answers enables an enterprise to set about building the culture, and the infrastructure that will deliver an effective fact-based decision-making process. It is important to understand that simply spending on technology on its own has little correlation to achieving best practice. Indeed the customers that score highest on the Whitby BI Benchmarks are typically not those with the most sophisticated BI, but those with the best targeted and supported BI.

Using their approach Whitby can undertake work in support of building a BI vision that aligns with the strategic vision of the enterprise, they can undertake health checks, they can review the way that BI is governed, they can undertake ROI reviews, build business cases, and coach people through all aspects of improving the way that BI is used to achieve an effective fact-based decision-making approach to doing business.

The Whitby BI Balanced Investment Model looks at how investments are actually being used within the business and checks that the balance between technology investment and business usage is a sensible one. They use a simple, visual analogy, based on a golf course, checking to see if you are on the fairway heading for the green or have sliced into the rough of having become too focussed on technology, or have hooked to the other side through not investing enough on technology in support of business usage and expectation.

You would think such ability would be on offer from any experienced BI vendor, but it is my experience that such ability is very difficult to find. Indeed, it now seems that too many consultants have a barely hidden agenda to sell you something beyond their expertise; be that yet more technology, or that most common of IT reactions, when they really think that what exists today is almost beyond repair, to outsource it to some remote part of the globe, so that by decreasing the cost you will not look at the intrinsic lack of utility and value on offer. Which, of course, is another aspect that the BI Exploitation Best Practice model can address, "Should you outsource your BI or keep it in-house", with the answer being based on individual need, and not an agenda to sell more technology, or out-sourcing services.

The Whitby approach is based on internal and external benchmarks measuring achievement across 13 components, only 4 of which are technology-centric, the remaining 9 being business focussed. The process is proven and those who have undertaken the evaluation are convinced of its far-reaching ability to produce long lasting and positive impact. Having spoken to Whitby Customers in the Finance, Retail and CPG sectors I am struck by the passion that those who have taken the journey feel. I am also struck by their conviction that the journey has had such a profound positive impact that they are reluctant to let their competitors know how they achieved it!

Like all of the best things, when exposed to what Whitby are offering it is not rocket science but is the application of experience and common sense delivered with remarkable clarity and insight. It is a business-orientated service that will benefit both the business and IT. I can think of very few organisations I have been involved with, in both the commercial and government sectors, who would not benefit greatly from this approach. Better intelligence (the facts and the usage of those facts in decision making) can be shown to lead to demonstrably better business decisions. As we develop a fact based decision making culture into an enterprise it becomes possible to enable many more parts of the business with far greater intelligence, be that the call centre, the supply chain, the logistics system and so forth, enabling a significant transformation of the business. I am struck by the remarkable return that should be possible from an investment in the services of Whitby Partners, and would heartily recommend everyone to look seriously at what they offer.

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