Realign the BICC to Drive Strategic Business Value

For more than two decades, organizations have tried to drive adoption of tools and data analysis best practices through a centralized “brain trust” of business intelligence (BI) skills and strategy. Often called the BI Competency Center (BICC), this group implements BI tools and solutions, trains users on their use, and guides and supports the user community to leverage BI to drive business value through new data insights. Although the BICC model has aided many organizations in generating value from BI (and our data shows BICCs are quick to claim themselves successful in doing so), the nature of data-related initiatives and an intensified need to show direct business value cause many data leaders to rethink this approach.

Our data show that a large percentage of BICCs report into IT. Such BICCs are often vehicles for management and control functions focused on data management, tool portfolio management, and a variety of integration tasks. BICCs by and large retain a focus on the more technical aspects of BI, without enough direct connection to strategic business outcomes or clear visibility to business leaders. As an interesting geographical counterpoint, more BICCs in Asia report to non-IT business management, and also report high levels of direct impact on business outcomes. Data leaders should note this and observe that business value from BI correlates to the degree of alignment with business functions, not IT.

Many BICCs report high levels of success on their own internal metrics (such as increase in number of BI users or levels of data quality). Although these metrics can help BICCs stay on track and refine the mechanics of management and control of data and tools, they do not express value in a way that business leaders actually care about. This is because these metrics are out of context and disconnected from the specific business outcomes those leaders try to drive.

To make their BICCs truly strategic and recognized as adding business value, data leaders need to expand and redirect their metrics to show quantified impact against business leaders’ key goals. Although management and control functions are foundational, doing so will allow BICCs to also be key strategic and project planning institutions. This is further suggested by the experiences we observe from Asia, where many BICCs track impact on external and business outcome-focused metrics.

Once data leaders evaluate their current BICC reporting structure and metrics with an eye toward increased alignment with business leaders and strategic business outcomes, they can determine the best actions to optimize BICC value. For most organizations, opportunities exist to fine-tune their BICC budgets—changing investment levels and considering the effectiveness of current funding approaches. For example, some BICCs are funded out of the IT budget and provide their services to the business “for free.” Others use a chargeback mechanism, based on project costs, degree of utilization of BICC resources, or a flat amount equally distributed across all business functions.

Many organizations express an increasing urgency to overhaul their BICC organizational and reporting structures (possibly distributing the resources out into business functions for better alignment). This rising trend is driven by more business functions and leaders desiring to build their own teams of BI resources to more quickly and effectively deploy value-added solutions optimized for their specific processes and strategic goals.

Regardless of the types of changes data leaders seek to make to their BICCs, the goal should be to tune resources and capabilities so they are optimally applied in the business model to achieve strategic objectives. This goal also represents an opportunity to re-energize and refocus the BICC, raising its visibility with business leaders and gaining credibility for the BICC as a strategic organization, not a technical “IT” one. As such, deciding on a plan of attack for refining the BICC, including specific actions and priorities, is key.

With a solid plan in mind, data leaders and their teams can prepare for a BICC “relaunch,” introducing the most-important changes first. Critically, this should focus on the most important enterprise investments and highest-priority business outcomes. We clearly observe a trend toward more distributed BICC approaches, where resources move closer to key business processes that drive those outcomes. Aligned with the overall trend of BI being viewed less as an “IT issue,” such organizational changes allow better visibility, increased functional responsibility, and proliferation of BI-related skills into business functions and away from IT.

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