Adm. Painter: What’s his plan?
Jack Ryan: His plan?
Adm. Painter: The Russians don’t take a dump, son, without a plan.

This article on “10 signs your enterprise might not have a BI strategy” was all over “tweetspace” yesterday, and for good reason – it’s down to earth, concise, insightful, and thought-provoking.

Do YOU have a plan, like the Russians of Clancyville?  And how does that plan change with PowerPivot?

Here’s the list and my comments on each from a PowerPivot perspective.  Remember, these are just my opinions – they are not the official MS party line.  (They are better, haha).

And my opinions are subject to change – meaning if you offer an opinion that I like better than mine, I’m happy to adopt it as if it had been mine all along 😛

1) Your end users keep pointing to IT as the source of most BI problems

I hear this a lot, even though it isn’t fair in many cases – see 3), below.  The perception is that IT is often where you go to get told “no, we can’t.”

PowerPivot is aimed squarely at allowing the more-numerous business users to share the load with IT – making the business units happier, better-informed, and agile, while IT can focus more attention on the back-end, BI-enabling investments like the data warehouse.

2) Your business executives view BI as another cost center

This certainly contributes to 1), above, don’t you think?  And I suspect that 1) also contributes to 2).  Nice cycle of negative reinforcement there.  Let’s start unwinding it shall we?  Even better, let’s creative a positive cycle of reinforcement.  I suddenly feel like John Lennon.

3) IT staff keep asking end users for report requirements

I assume the author means “IT should be so closely aligned with the end users that they read their minds” or perhaps “there should be an advisory panel of power users from the business unit advising IT at all times.”

Both are good practices – especially mindreading, that’s hot stuff.  But the fact is, there will always be FAR more demand than supply when it comes to reports and analysis, as long as IT is viewed as the only supplier.  Again, one of the driving forces behind the development of PowerPivot.

4) Your BI is supported by IT help desk

Unless it’s a server that’s down, etc., of course.  I think the author means that most BI “service requests” are actually requests for brand new services (sometimes in disguise), and these cannot be serviced by a general-purpose helpdesk, nor can the BI specialists in IT keep their finger on the pulse of the business needs if all that user feedback is going through a filter.

PowerPivot brings much of the report/analysis “supply” much closer to the end consumers – all feedback loops get tighter that way, so no IT requests are required at all in many cases (helpdesk or otherwise).  And those requests that DO flow back to IT can do so through a smaller number of jointly-invested power users.

5) You can’t tell the difference between BI and Performance Management

I’d say this was the question I got the most at the SharePoint conference:  “Wow, PowerPivot sure produces dashboard-style views in a hurry, when do I use this versus PerformancePoint?”

I’ve been getting that kind of question for years, just with different products.  But for once I had an answer I believed in – PerformancePoint is a great example of centralized, premeditated IT-backed BI (ok, Performance Management).  The metrics by which you decide whether your business is performing well – I kinda don’t think you’re going to trust that to a power user.  Centrally defined and centrally delivered.

And of course, BI is a tool for improving performance.  If you’re just measuring, well, there isn’t a lot of intelligence going on is there?

6) You can’t measure your BI usage

No measurement means no customer feedback, and that’s pretty much the death of most anything.  PowerPivot hits this from two sides:  by giving you built-in instrumentation of ALL published reports, and again, by bringing the suppliers closer to the consumers, which brings the benefit of organic, tightly-looped feedback.

7) You can’t measure your BI ROI

When I saw this one, my reaction was basically, “Ah, SWEET!  This guy Boris has been so insightful thus far, I can’t WAIT to read his approach to measuring ROI.”

…and then, the answer to that was behind the Forrester premium content wall.  See, I told you, this Boris guy – VERY wise indeed 🙂

8) You think your BI strategy is the same as your DW strategy

Yeah.  DW (data warehousing) enables BI.  That remains true, perhaps even more than before, in a PowerPivot environment.

9) You don’t have a plan to develop, hire, retain and grow BI staff

Boris was padding his list here 🙂  I can pretty much say “if you don’t have a plan to develop, hire, retain and grow people for X, you are going to suck, in epic fashion, at X.”  But even though it might be obvious, I do think it bears repeating.  So Boris gets a pass here 🙂

10) (My personal favorite) You actually don’t know if your enterprise has a BI strategy!

That was Boris’ favorite, not mine.  I suspect it was his favorite because it was the tenth one 🙂