Creating A Business Intelligence Competency Centre (BICC) – When should it happen?

As ever there are lots of buzzwords floating around in the Data/Information Management arena; Big Data, Predictive Analytics, BI Competency Centre and more. But are these “buzzwords” really relevant?  Or is it just wrapping? It has to be said I’m not a fan. It is surely more important to understand what you need in order to manage your data and information better than it is to give it a fancy title? However, whilst subscribing to the opinion that the name doesn’t matter, the process and the benefits of some can certainly have an impact on your business.

BICC (Business Intelligence Competency Centres) is a particular favourite… The very name evokes a vision of maturity, experience and ability, implying that an organisation needs to be advanced in its use of BI tools, possibly extending capabilities beyond pure play BI to incorporate Performance Management too. Yet, if one takes a step back and considers the structure of a BICC, is it really something that requires maturity?

BI Competency Centres are almost always found in larger organisations, where BI (reporting and analytics) have been in use for many years. Yet, the very foundations of these competency centres, lends itself to being born much earlier in the Data Management Strategy.

Think of a growing organisation, managed by an MD with 2 or 3 staff members…. The processes put in place then allow for growth and globalisation, not for remaining as a small tight knit team. How much harder is it to redefine your strategy when the organisation is mature and “set in its ways”?

Considering a competency centre at an early stage, can only enhance understanding, business buy in, performance and ultimately results. A BICC, is traditionally made up of those individuals that “own” the BI solution, data architects, programmers etc. In other words IT departments. Surely, if one is to deliver competency across an organisation, then more than one faction should be involved? Does IT have sufficient resource, business process and requirements knowledge, information on how the data is being used/viewed throughout the business? Unlikely.

Putting a competency centre in place at the start of the Data Management Strategy process allows organisations to properly design and execute the strategy and more importantly deliver to the business requirements. Involve data analysts, business process owners, data architects, developers etc. Think about the areas of Data Management that you want to incorporate such as data sources, data governance, quality, integration, reports, analytics, budgeting and forecasting, visualisation and understand what each business unit needs from these individual areas. This will not only provide a solid foundation on which to execute the strategy but also improve the chances of the business case being accepted. Investment in a data management programme ranks as one of the most difficult things to achieve. Senior managers don’t really understand how or why data management assists them.

Several champions (from the BICC) across the business can influence these decision makers on a daily basis. Understanding the value of an integrated approach will make the change management process easier too. Aligning data management with visual, interactive BI tools will bring the process to life, rather than just being viewed as a laborious painful process that involves lots of data, spreadsheets, checking, repetition etc… One can even utilise BI tools to highlight some of the data issues that exist, once again making the potential adoption of a Data Strategy much more interesting and relevant.

But the thought of a BICC can be very daunting to the newly initiated. Don’t be intimidated by terminology, or blinded by analysts and consultants that can get into too much detail, or focus too heavily on the technical aspects. It is important to remember that in Data Management all things are equal, process, technology and people and that without each of the other parts, none of these will deliver a successful BICC, or data management solution as a stand alone entity.

External advice and resources can also be a useful tool, exhibitions, consultants, even other organisations that have implemented a BICC can all provide useful information, pitfalls and the benefits of creating a BICC.