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Business Intelligence Competency Centers - Book Review

1 September 2008
Dr. Moria Levy

The book "Business Intelligence Competency Centers" was authored by three SAS employees as part of the company's efforts to promote BI worldwide. The SAS company warmly welcomes readers. This book is not a theoretical work but a convenient guide, offering comprehensive support for anyone looking to establish Business Intelligence Competency Centers within their organization. It covers all necessary components, partners, and steps—except for the individual—required for the task. Recognizing that not every organization engaged in BI activities is ready to establish a BI center, the book also guides assessing readiness. It is well-organized and strongly recommended for those deliberating whether and how to proceed.


The book addresses the following aspects:

  • What is BICC, and why is it needed?

  • Current organizational status

  • BICC functions

  • BICC design

  • The human asset

  • Knowledge processes

  • Culture

  • Infrastructure

  • BICC establishment

  • Tips


Despite being authored by a commercial company selling a specific BI product suite, it is recommended for all BI teams in various organizations, regardless of the platform they implement. Chapters that may carry subjective viewpoints include a warning note within the summary. It's important to note that this summary only presents a glimpse, and the book contains many more details. As the wise saying goes, success lies in the details. Following this summary, we encourage readers to delve into the entire book. We hope you enjoy reading it.


What is BICC, and why is it needed?

The Business Intelligence Competency Center (BICC) is an integrated hub comprising individuals with business and computing backgrounds, working collaboratively to promote Business Intelligence (BI) within the organization. Gartner defines BICC as a cross-functional team with well-defined tasks, roles, responsibilities, and processes to support and foster the effective use of business intelligence across the organization. The aspiration behind establishing BI is to be a center of excellence in the field. The BICC provides a strategic and comprehensive solution for organizational BI, addressing both technological aspects and human, process, and cultural dimensions.


BICC addresses BI challenges in six key categories:

  • Data challenges are often the leading cause of BI application failures, primarily from collection and reclamation issues.

  • Technological challenges, mainly arising from departmental BI islands (pre-BICC establishment).

  • Process challenges centered around people, with proper treatment being crucial to success.

  • Strategic challenges, where achieving strategic thinking can be complex due to localized and departmentalized BI needs.

  • User challenges are rooted in the fact that users constitute a non-homogeneous group with diverse needs and skills.

  • Cultural challenges are identified as the primary factor for success, with a culture that encourages data-driven decision-making at its core.


Reasons to establish BICC include:

  • Preserving and utilizing existing technological investments.

  • Integrating and consolidating analytical and business processes.

  • Reducing overall risk in projects related to BI implementation.

  • Supporting business users with a comprehensive understanding of the data world.

  • Ensuring the organization shares BI-related knowledge (benefits, values, perceptions, technologies)


Critical considerations for establishing a significant BICC include:

  • A clear mandate and strategy.

  • Senior management support.

  • A team comprising both IT (Information Systems) and business representatives.


Current organizational status

The book, written in 2006, draws on various sources, including a comprehensive survey conducted in 2005 involving 220 companies active in Business Intelligence (BI). Notable findings about BI in general and Business Intelligence Competency Centers (BICC) in organizations include:

  • Larger organizations exhibit less enterprise BI and more departmental BI.

  • Management and senior managers remain the primary users of BI, with only 28% indicating organization-wide usage. Large organizations, however, show significantly higher usage by customers and suppliers.

  • BICC exists in 23% of organizations, with an additional 9% planning to establish BICC in the coming year. Nearly half of existing BICCs have been operational for more than two years.

  • BICC staff size: 55% of organizations have fewer than five people, and 24% have up to 10 people.

  • In most organizations (60%), the BICC serves fewer than 500 users.

  • In most organizations (64%), the BICC is a budgeted cost center, with units not paying for the service.

  • 36% of BICCs are managed by the organization's business management, not the finance division, while the information systems body manages 38%.

  • The most significant advantage of establishing BICC, according to respondents (74%), is increased BI usage. Additional reported benefits (by 40-50% of respondents) include increased satisfaction of business users, faster decision-making, and a better understanding of the value of BI.

  • Respondents expressed interest in annexing additional organizational functions to the BICC, with priorities ranging from knowledge management to technical consulting.

  • The success of established BICCs is predominantly measured by user satisfaction (67%).


Conclusions drawn include room for the utilization of business intelligence in organizations, quantitatively (more users) and qualitatively (more usage). The primary goal of BICC is to maximize utilization.


BICC functions

The recommended functions for coverage by the Business Intelligence Competency Center (BICC) include:

  1. Manage the BI Business Intelligence Program

    a. Main functions: Defining BI and AI strategy (analytical analysis), standards and pattern management, index building and control (KPIs), business consulting, BI project management, dedicated vertical specialties, service management, marketing the BICC in the organization, BI-related knowledge management, metadata management, BI permissions management, quality of information, service agreements vis-à-vis the units, collaboration with information systems (IT) at a superior level.

  2. Data Stewardship Economics

    a. Main functions: Responsibility for technical metadata, data standards, definitions, Data Governance, and Data Quality.

  3. Support

    a. Main functions: Second-level support (head level in helpdesk), user management.

  4. BI BI Delivery Projects

    a. Main functions: Front-end BI tools portal, development of BI-based solutions, testing, maintenance, and technical consulting.

  5. Data Acquisition

    a. Main functions: Data integration, data storage space development and improvement, data transfer scheduling, testing, technical consulting, and integrated processes.

  6. Advanced Analytics Advanced Analytics

    a. Main functions: Statistical analytical analysis, modeling, forecasting, optimization, data mining, research and experimentation, data preparation for analytical purposes.

  7. Training

    a. Main functions: Development and running of business and technical training, management of contracts with suppliers, licenses.

  8. Supplier Management Vendor Management

    a. Main functions: Product inspection, interface to the procurement and legal departments.


There are uncertainties about which functions can be outsourced. The book's authors argue that business activities or those related to business will be managed within the organization.


Additional functions that will likely be managed outside the BICC but in close interface include:

  • First-level support.

  • Information systems – infrastructure.

  • Technical change management (transition from testing to production).

  • DBA – Data Manager.


BICC design

The initial stage in Business Intelligence Competency Center (BICC) planning involves analyzing the current situation and future needs of BI within the organization. It is recommended to conduct such an analysis at various organizational levels, considering that needs are variable and depend on business development. Thus, this type of analysis is suggested to be repeated periodically. The assessment of organizational information involves consideration of four dimensions:

  1. Human Asset

    a. Skills and knowledge related to information.

    b. Training and data-based decision-making.

    c. Desire to achieve the organization's goals.

  2. Knowledge Processes

    a. Existing use of information for decision-making.

    b. The extent to which it is organized in uniform processes.

    c. Organizational governance and the place of information in sharing organizational knowledge.

    d. Processes for improving the quality and accuracy of information.

  3. Culture

    a. Results-oriented approach within the organization.

    b. Monitoring and control activities.

    c. Level of risk-taking.

    d. Rewarding and suppressing data-driven decision-making.

    e. Advanced, collaborative work environment.

    f. Managerial style, empowerment of the individual.

    g. Responses to changes and continuous business improvement.

  4. Infrastructure

    a. Hardware, software, network tools, and technologies for creating, managing, and implementing information systems.

    b. Collection of business and technical data.

    c. Integration of data from various sources.

    d. Maturity of architecture to BI.


When evaluating organizational maturity for BI activity and BICC, five levels of maturity can be defined:


Level 1: Operational-Operate

  • People: Detail.

  • Personal knowledge processes.

  • Culture: I.

  • Infrastructure: Unconnected systems.


Level 2: Consolidate-Consolidate

  • People: Functional groups.

  • Departmental Knowledge Processes.

  • Culture: Our Group vs. the Organization.

  • Infrastructure: Unconnected systems.


Level 3: Integration-Integration

  • People: The Organization.

  • Organizational Knowledge Processes.

  • Culture: The Rule.

  • Infrastructure: Enterprise Systems.


Level 4: Optimize and Optimize

  • People: The Organization.

  • Knowledge processes: Expanded organization.

  • Culture: Our Partners and Us.

  • Infrastructure: Expanded organizational systems.


Level 5: Innovative-Innovative

  • People: Dynamic Networks.

  • Knowledge Processes: Scenario Matrix.

  • Culture: Adaptive Groups.

  • Infrastructure: Systems that adapt themselves.


It is highly recommended to start by evaluating the organization's current position and plan how to proceed following the business vision, goals, prioritization, and supportive culture.


The human asset

The human asset plays a significant role in the success of Business Intelligence (BI) and Business Intelligence Competency Center (BICC). The BICC team functions as commentators, translating business issues for information systems (IT) needs and translating the results back to the business users who require the information.


The following are the functionaries in the BICC team, listed from the most important to the least important, according to the sub-teams to which they are associated:

  1. BICC Manager: BI Program

  2. Business Analyst: The BI Program

  3. Chief Data Officer: Data Economy

  4. Technical Advisor: Technical Support

  5. Project Manager: BI Program

  6. BI Specialist: The BI Program

  7. Data Warehouse Architect: The Data Economy

  8. Assistant Administrator: BI Program

  9. BICC Knowledge Officer: BI Program

  10. Internal Communication: The BI Program

  11. Application Planner/Developer: BI Projects

  12. Data Warehouse Consultant: Data Procurement

  13. License Administrator: Contract Management

  14. Statistician/Data Miner: Advanced Analytical Analysis

  15. Training Consultant: Training


The book details the primary roles of each of the above. When an organization seeks to establish a BICC, it must examine a potential team while considering the following aspects:

  • Personal and interpersonal skills.

  • Project management capabilities.

  • Leadership and management qualities.

  • Business and industrial understanding.

  • Proficiency in BI.

  • Planning and conducting training.


Additionally, the book describes the main external functionaries, mainly during the establishment stage. Here's the list, alongside the source that can satisfy the functionary:

  1. BICC Consultant: Software Vendor, Management Consulting Compan

  2. Contact Person: Software Vendor

  3. Business Consultant: Software Supplier, Management Consulting Firm

  4. Change Management Consultant: Management Consulting Company


Every newly established BICC must carefully consider the functions to be included, select the appropriate functionaries, assess the skills of the potential team and individuals suitable for the team, and accordingly acquire resources, analyze training needs, and guide the necessary actions.


Knowledge processes

Each Business Intelligence Competency Center (BICC) must define knowledge processes to facilitate a comprehensive view of the organization's breadth and length while adhering to uniform laws and standards. These processes should be based on governance, external standards, and organizational best practices. While sample processes are not provided, the following outlines the types of processes required and the key issues each should address. Building organizational processes can be challenging, given the pre-existing departmental knowledge processes that vary across departments. The main processes for each sub-team are detailed below, with additional information available in the book:

  1. The BI Program:

    a. Define global standards from a business perspective.

    b. Implement knowledge-sharing and dissemination processes.

    c. Collect and respond to feedback.

    d. Internal BICC processes (strategy, KPIs, change management, etc.).

  2. Data Economics:

    a. Make decisions on uniform and orderly documentation of settings and devices.

    b. Implement processes to ensure data accuracy.

  3. Support:

    a. Establish a support system and activity processes.

    b. Define interfaces for information systems (IT) and suppliers.

    c. Define interfaces to business units.

  4. BI Projects:

    a. Operational processes (maintenance, change requests, project management).

    b. Implement BI solutions for business units.

  5. Data Acquisition:

    a. Perform data extraction.

    b. Carry out data transfer.

  6. Advanced Analytical Analysis:

    a. Define requirements.

    b. Conduct data preparation and validation.

    c. Engage in research and knowledge sharing.

  7. Training:

    a. Conduct situation assessment and analysis.

    b. Plan training

    c. Facilitate training and knowledge transfer.

  8. Supplier Management:

    a. Manage the relationship with suppliers.

    b. Manage licenses.

    c. Handle requests for new information and manage bids and tenders.


Culture

Various topics related to the cultural aspects of the Business Intelligence Competency Center (BICC) are discussed:

  1. BICC Organizational Structure:

    a. Two alternatives for the structure: a centralized organizational group (preferred) or a virtual BICC with team members in various business departments. If the virtual alternative is chosen, sponsorship by a senior management member, preferably the CIO or COO, is essential.

  2. BICC Budgeting:

    a. Three alternatives: a budgeted unit, billing per business unit based on usage, or billing a unit subscription. In the long run, the third alternative is preferable for management, but it avoids the inconvenience associated with immediate and direct payment for every action.

  3. Measuring BICC Performance:

    a. When establishing a BICC, defining relevant business metrics is recommended. Care should be taken not to define metrics that are challenging to examine in practice. Examples of metrics include accuracy, compatibility, efficiency, IT performance, and maintenance. Business metrics can also be set, such as increasing BI users, speeding up decision-making processes, and reducing software costs.

  4. Knowledge Management:

    a. The book emphasizes the importance of knowledge management as a supporting tool for BI. Various knowledge management activities are listed to preserve and share knowledge, focusing on activities conducted at SAS.

  5. Change Management:

    a. Change management is a significant part of the cultural activities of the knowledge management team. Establishing a BICC changes strategy, structure, cultural and operational environments, technologies, systems, processes, etc. Change is challenging due to organizational obstacles and individual/group resistance. The book presents a method based on the Kurt Lewin model, emphasizing proactive activity at strategic and operational levels rather than merely responding to change through a consultant.


Infrastructure

BICC should cater to diverse target audiences with varying needs, skills, and preferred information channels. The technological nature of this chapter, written by a software provider (SAS), necessitates a qualification of the recommendations. The authors may lean toward strategies embedded in the company's products. Critical points for each BICC sub-team include:

  • BI Plan: Choose an infrastructure that aligns with and supports the strategy, allowing for gradual development. An open and upgradeable infrastructure is crucial.

  • Data Economics: Success in accuracy and data quality is paramount. A good technology framework encompassing sources facilitates efficient operation.

  • Support: Primarily focused on the ease of use of end-user software, influencing the level of help needed.

  • BI Projects: Project professionals seek various tools to meet diverse needs arising from varied requirements.

  • Data Acquisition: A supporting infrastructure should facilitate periodic data retrieval and transfer without requiring significant effort for setup or changes.

  • Advanced Analytical Analysis: Recommend modules that integrate into the organization's overall BI environment rather than standalone tools.

  • Training: Suggest building modular training programs tailored to specific abilities, acknowledging users' unique needs and interests.

  • Supplier Management: Prefer a supplier offering a complete solution (suite) for all required BI components, irrespective of existing tools from different providers during BICC setup.


Criteria for Tools:

  1. Interface with operational information systems environments.

  2. Metadata management capability integrating with activity, ensuring transparency and maximum tracking.

  3. Availability of ready-made templates/frameworks for the industry or department relevant to the organization's activities

  4. Openness and adherence to recognized standards.

  5. Upgradeability for future needs; Extensibility for gradual and intentional implementation.

  6. Ability to integrate diverse information sources.

  7. Data quality management capability.

  8. A variety of tools, including advanced analytical tools.


An additional recommendation: "Think big, but start small." (Detailed criteria are available in the book.)


BICC establishment

The entire book delves into aspects of establishing BICC. However, here is a step-by-step guide for practical BICC setup:

  1. Initiation Phase:

    a. Conduct an organizational orientation examination to determine BICC's feasibility and alignment with goals. If not feasible, defer the issue.

    b. Assess gaps between the existing BI strategy and the desired strategy.

  2. Planning Phase:

    a. Plan a comprehensive examination of all issues requiring clarification before commencing activities (conducted through workshops).

    b. Develop a business plan for BICC.

    c. Appoint the initial officials of the BICC.

    d. Prepare a change management plan.

  3. Implementation Phase:

    a. Execute the appointment of officials.

    b. Implement the change management plan.

    c. Establish a documentation system for knowledge processes and metrics.

    d. Define measurement processes.

    e. Prepare a work environment.

    f. Pilot detection BI launch.

  4. Operations Phase:

    a. Regularly measure Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and report to management.

    b. Collaborate with suppliers.

    c. Manage BI projects.

    d. Provide support.


The book contains detailed explanations and recommendations on selecting software vendors and their features. Final recommendations include clarity on goals, management commitment, staff allocation, and communication with all relevant sponsors.


Tips

Even though everything has been written and said before, let's revisit the crucial elements to ensure when establishing and operating a BICC:

  1. BI Vision:

    a. Clearly articulate a BI vision.

    b. Ensure management's belief and commitment to becoming a partner in information-based decision-making.

  2. Organizational Alignment:

    a. Strengthen the relationship between the organizational business aspect and information systems (IT).

  3. Process-Oriented Approach:

    a. Recognize that BICC is not a project; it is an ongoing process.

  4. Vision and Goals:

    a. Maintain a clear vision and establish concrete goals throughout the entire journey.

  5. Integration of BI Activities:

    a. Integrate all BI activities in the organization with a unified projection where feasible.

  6. Change Management:

    a. Develop an effective change management plan.

    b. Involve as many people as possible in the program, starting early.

  7. Value Demonstration:

    a. Continuously illustrate the value derived from the BICC.

  8. Comprehensive Infrastructure:

    a. Provide a broad infrastructure with a variety of solutions.

    b. Offer in-depth solutions, enabling different levels of depth.

  9. Multidimensional Approach:

    a. Adopt a multidimensional approach encompassing people, processes, and a culture that supports data-driven decision-making.


Remember, information stands as one of the most vital assets in organizations. Maximize its benefits by investing in infrastructure, people, and processes. Establish a supportive and efficient BI system at the enterprise level.

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