BI maturity in action“BI Maturity” – what is it, and why should you care? For the most part, the term has increasingly been used by organizations hoping to identify and recognize where and to what extent effective use of business intelligence (BI) has been achieved.

Typically, most consider that maturity of enterprise BI capability and success go hand-in-hand. Just think of the vision of market domination through serious application of BI that is laid out by Thomas Davenport and Jeanne Harris in their 2007 book, Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning.

Many forms of the BI maturity curve have appeared over the last decade as they have been created and variously reinterpreted by industry analysts and vendors alike. Some are more widely referenced than others. Yet, today there’s still no singular and definitive version by which corporations measure themselves against and set their BI strategy upon.

However, it is commonly agreed upon that there are various distinct states of maturity that can be both aspirational and inspirational for many. These allow organizations to determine where they are today vs. where they would like to be in the future in terms of their use of business intelligence. And that’s really the critical issue here – that wherever you are in any one of these states of maturity, you’re able to:

  • Identify your best-practices based use of BI
  • Identify the level of competence that you’ve achieved around those best practices
  • Ultimately, build upon these analytical “hygienes” to drive a higher state of maturity and better application of BI, over the long term

Are you BI mature?

Actually, in working with many corporations, we often find that identifying current state maturity is relatively straightforward. Whether you subscribe to the existence of three, four, five, or more states of maturity, there are relatively clear characteristics that help to identify where you are in that progression from one to the next.

Those characteristics typically fall into a number of categories, including information analytics, governance, standards, processes, and architectural maturity. These are combined with the litmus test of whether standards and processes exist, whether they are uniform in nature, and whether they have service-level agreements for the type and availability of a BI capability within the organization or have many BI silos in place for each part of the business.

Armed with an understanding of each of these categories and the associated attributes in their differing states, it’s possible to say whether you’re in an us-and-them data-centric dystopia or you’re living the dream of an enterprise information culture with all eyes looking skyward to the panacea of actionable insights.

How to achieve BI maturity

Do you have a solid business intelligence or analytics strategy in place today? Before you reach for the architecture slide, I have to tell you that you won’t find it there. Much about advancing maturity is dependent upon having a very clear understanding of where you are today, where you ultimately want to be longer term, what the gap between those two states looks like, and what your strategy is for closing that gap.

All too often the assumption is that to drive maturity you must acquire more or different technology. Without a doubt, there are continuous technological advances to keep us all on our toes. But advancing maturity relies on the old consulting adage that says a successful project consists of an equal and balanced focus on people, process, and technology.

And more often than not, the single biggest identifier of an organization that will move to a higher state of maturity is the establishment of a BI center of competence, a center of excellence, or a community of practice (as it can also be called, at points).

Each one of those organizational terms refers to the fact that an organization has a clearly understood and shared vision of the value that BI maturity represents, and that the entire organization is marching towards its goal of achieving that value.

I’d like to hear your thoughts and experiences on driving BI maturity, how you plan to if you’re just starting out, or how you’ve achieved a higher state already.