Why creating actionable information from your existing systems is so difficult

With all the easy to use business intelligence tools and technology we have today, why is it so difficult to create actionable information from the wealth of data in our organizations?

One needs to understand, at a high level, the systems we have built and how they got that way. Your core business systems have evolved over time, budget cycle by budget cycle with no eye towards the overall enterprise. Systems were built to support core business functions – Payroll/HR, General Ledger, Inventory, etc. They were transactional in nature; designed to meet the immediate requirements (e.g. cut payroll checks, track inventory, manage an assembly line, etc.) which did not include getting business intelligence out. Over time these systems became islands of data, popularly known as silos.

Add the fact that silos are structured differently and common data like product and customer is typically not standardized, answering questions across silos is difficult and labor intensive.

As these systems matured, the owners of each silo had departmental Business Intelligence needs. So as budget became available they added a data warehouse or data mart on top of their silo and created something like this.

The result is larger silos with larger sunk investment and still no ability to provide enterprise answers or actionable information. This approach worked for immediate departmental BI needs but if the business asks a question from data that resides in two or more of the silos, getting the answer usually involves a significant IT effort. By the time IT responds the business has gone onto a different question. The business analyst starts gluing spreadsheets together to provide some insight kicking off the next activity in the BI food chain – manual analytics.

One thought on “Why creating actionable information from your existing systems is so difficult

  1. This is so true! I have seen it happen at several large multi-national corporations. The only real solution is to start form scratch or invest heavily in a resource to combine all of the data.

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