Query: Can Chasing a Hot Technology Distort Your BI Vision?
Answer: Social Data! Mobile Data! Big Data! Let’s face it: It’s easy to get excited about today’s new Business Intelligence (BI) technologies.
So when government executives start reading and hearing about a new technology or tool they often gloss over the critical step of determining exactly how this new technology will help them achieve their agency’s business objectives, and jump right to “reverse engineering” a vision and/or requirements to fit the technology’s capabilities.
Technology Cannot Drive Vision. Period.
Qlarion recently met with a prospective government client that seemed determined to use Hadoop for a major Business Intelligence initiative. Why? Because they thought they needed a “Big Data” solution, and they heard that Hadoop is what you use for “Big Data.”
But as we began to ask about the agency’s business requirements and overall objectives for the program, we found that very little thought had been put into those critical foundational steps. Once we helped them think through their business requirements, they could see that, in fact, they did not need a “Big Data” solution like Hadoop at all. They found they could leverage the technology and tools they already had in place to achieve their desired business results, thereby saving the organization money and time.
Buying a new technology because it’s exciting is like deciding to buy a BMW convertible because you fell in love with your neighbor’s model; but if you had considered your requirements–four children, frequent road trips, $25,000 budget—what you really needed was a 3-year old minivan.
Why Does Technology Often Trump Process?
The promise of new technology as a path to solving problems is exciting. A framework like Hadoop becomes synonymous with Big Data in the media, at conferences and in peer discussions. This is a good thing.
But it can cause a groundswell of pressure in the executive ranks of government to ask, “Why aren’t we using Hadoop?” or “Are we looking into Hadoop?” Understandably these top-down forces can quickly influence priorities and choices.
Agencies also tend to gravitate towards technology because it is something tangible—and given the typical time pressures and resource constraints, selecting a technology early in the process can imply making rapid progress towards the end deliverable.
Capabilities are Not the Same as Requirements
It’s fine to become interested in a new technology platform or tool based on word of mouth or positive press coverage.
However, if you haven’t already established and vetted a strong set of business objectives and clear, detailed requirements, there is no way for you to properly assess whether the list of capabilities offered by a particular software platform will meet your needs.
This is why Qlarion always begins government BI engagements—as well as initial consultations—with the same, proven process:
- Confirming the program’s objectives and how they map to the agency’s overall mission.
- Outlining specific requirements—and the process for gathering them, as opposed to guesstimating in a vacuum.
- A thorough exploration of technology and implementation options—software, platforms (i.e. Cloud vs.traditional), integration points, etc.
(See the full list of considerations in our BI Quotient Assessment checklist.)
Reverse engineering the vision or mission of your BI program based on a new technology can cost government agencies months or even years of wasted time and hundreds of thousands–and in some cases up to millions–of precious budget dollars.
While starting with proven processes that include setting vision, mission and requirements may not be as exciting as discussing the latest technologies, Qlarion’s experience demonstrates time and again that they are the right starting point for any successful government BI initiative.