I spent last weekend fishing with my father, brother and nephews. Since they live in Connecticut and I in Ohio – we decided to meet half way – somewhere in “The Alleghenies and Her Valleys” to quote the brochure. While I usually rely on my trusty Magellan GPS, I had given it to my oldest daughter to borrow as she was driving south where the weather is warm. So that left me driving through the mountains and her valleys around midnight. Driving through a small town on a small road, looking for a very small park proved more than a challenge. Since I have three daughters and one wife, I have learned to swallow my pride and ask directions. I did, but on my walk in to the “Sheetz” gas station, I was thinking they might give me that response…”Well, you can’t get there from here – you gotta go somewhere else, then loop back around to get there.” However, I received perfect directions! Thank you Mr. Sheetz!

But that got me thinking as I stumbled upon a poster from the TDWI folks that spoke about BI maturity and adoption. It was a few years old, but some things are so true. I was excited to see that old friend and took some time to write up my thoughts on the matter – as well as capture their context.

In case you are wondering how I am going to tie the first two paragraphs together, here goes. From my experience, when senior leadership learns of the value that BI can bring, they really want to ‘get this thing going’. They want to launch a large, comprehensive, enterprise-wide, based-on-the-new-tools, BI innovation that will hit home runs and win ball games. Well the problem is that you can’t get there from here. 🙂  There is a progression that must happen. Farmers can’t just throw seed on the ground and expect to make a profit – there is work to be done to prepare the soil correctly, then lots of care and feeding, praying for rain (but not too much rain) and then F  I  N  A  L  L  Y  –> the harvest!

TDWI states that “Most organizations go through six stages when evolving their BI environment from a cost-center operation to a strategic resource that drives the business and shapes the market.”

Using their framework, here is how I break it down…

1.     The Beginning (TDWI calls it ‘Prenatal’):  Since this is mostly financial, there are a medium amount of standards and not much flexibility. The control is dictated from finance or finance needs. Causal users account for most activity. Power users may make use of this type of information and leverage it into their own ‘shadow’ systems. The problem is that there is a large IT backlog for these reports. The problem here is the information gap – we get the information after the decision had to be made. This decision latency could contribute to the wrong direction as the data it is built on is often not fresh. However, at this stage, a general ‘awareness’ exists – there is at least the existence of the correct information. To get here, there is a larger initial investment and costs are high as economies of scale are not yet a reality.

  • Architecture: Management Reporting
  • Scope: System
  • Type of System: Financial
  • Analytics: Paper Report
  • User: All
  • BI Focus: What Happened?
  • Executive Perception: Cost Center

2.     Army of One (TDWI calls it ‘Infant’): Lots of flexibility and not any standards to speak of – other than what is negotiated from one user to another. People think local and resist any global initiatives. Causal users use decline, while power users step in to take advantage of this new information. Still, power users are reliant on IT to set the stage for their data and IT continues to struggle with a backlog of requests. As we extract the right data and manually assemble it to address business problems, there is an understanding of what factors are leading to what business results. Cost are somewhat low as analysts are using their own tools and working with certain data sets extracted by IT.

  • Architecture: Spreadmarts
  • Scope: Individual
  • Type of System: Executive
  • Analytics: Briefing Book
  • User: Analyst
  • BI Focus: What Will Happen?
  • Executive Perception: Inform Executive


3.     Working as a team (TDWI calls it ‘Child’): Flexibility is somewhat high, but at this point is waning as people within the department begin to work together. But still not many standards to speak of – other than what is negotiated from one user to another or driven from within the department. People still think/act from a local perspective and resist any global initiatives. Causal users use starts to trend up to take advantage of some individual benefits provided to them at the department level. Once the organization deploys data marts based on the emerging standards, the BI environment becomes a self service type, where the bottle neck that once existed within IT has been removed. At this stage, an understanding of why things have happened is occurring because knowledge workers are using analytical systems to extract data to their own needs and using that data to draw conclusions about business events. Costs begin to creep a small amount as some technology is purchased, but overall not a big factor.

  • Architecture: Data Marts
  • Scope: Departmental
  • Type of System: Analytical
  • Analytics: Interactive Report
  • User: Knowledge Worker
  • BI Focus: Why Did It Happen?
  • Executive Perception: Empowers Workers


4.     Thinking bigger (TDWI calls it ‘Teenager’): Flexibility starts to fade as division wide standards arise. People see the need to work together and are driven by common divisional goals. Here there is an atmosphere of negotiation and consolidation as these standards are built out. Now causal user use is on the rise, as the wide standards lead to increased reliability on the data available within the BI ‘system’. Power users use remains flat; but their ideas are rolled back in to divisional solutions; they are seen as subject matter experts and are often tapped to provide leadership and direction for their domain.  The focus here is customized delivery at the divisional level; dashboards, scorecards, report cards and the like.  At this stage, managers are making use of the divisional wide dashboards and are given real time information that is actionable – what is happening right now.  Costs are rising as we work within the division to develop standards and customized delivery.

  • Architecture: Data Warehouse
  • Scope: Division
  • Type of System: Monitoring
  • Analytics: Dashboard
  • User: Manager
  • BI Focus: What Is Happening?
  • Executive Perception: Monitor Processes


5.     Mature (TDWI calls it ‘Adult’): Standards are formed at the enterprise level. Governance groups are now formal processes with the proper structure and sponsorship. Senior level support is solid. Although flexibility takes a dip at first as the organization learns, flexibility then trends up as efficiencies and learnings are gained. Truly people are planning globally to act local at this stage. At this stage, executives are also onboard as the mature BI environment serves to align all players within the organization.  The causal users use the system to help them understand what they should be working on and how their efforts affect the organization as a whole. The delivery mode transitions from a divisional perspective to the enterprise but is also balanced; balanced or cascading scorecards are the focus of the organization and serves as the single point of truth to answer the questions about our goals and progress towards them.  At this stage, executives are using the BI environment as a communication tool to both align the organization on goals and objectives as well as communicate the results and current situations. These pivotal points are balanced all the way through the organization and are socialized in a manner that is equal to business strategy. The balanced or cascading scorecards open up alternative decisions as all indicators that lead to a ‘score’ are actionable. Costs rise again because of the enterprise level investment and collaboration, but the value should increase dramatically.

  • Architecture: Enterprise Data Warehouse
  • Scope: Enterprise
  • Type of System: Strategic
  • Analytics: Cascading Scorecards
  • User: Executive
  • BI Focus: What Should We Do?
  • Executive Perception: Drive The Business


6.     Harvesting Relationships or Partnerships (TDWI calls it ‘Sage’): Leveraging the mature BI environment  by opening up that business service to clients is the last stage. Here standards and control continue to be formed, but originates from client relationships. Flexibility is also harvested as new ideas, thoughts, concepts are embraced by the mature BI environment. At this stage, our BI environment can now be thought of as a BI Utility for our customers; helping them to solve their business problems by making use of the organization’s rich and focused information in the form of customer focused solutions deployed to help build or bind relationships, thus increasing the value proposition to them by the organization. At this stage, the BI Utility becomes a needed part within the customer’s infrastructure (whether it be for a single customer’s need for specific and unique information or for a company with complex business processes). Costs take a dip, the data/information infrastructure is in place and the capital expenditure has been amortized. Tools already exist to develop rich applications.  The value increases exceedingly abundantly here, as a very narrow scoped application brings a deep penetration of partnership.

  • Architecture: Analytical Services
  • Scope: Inter-Enterprise
  • Type of System: Business Service
  • Analytics: Embedded BI
  • User: Customer
  • BI Focus: What Can We Offer?
  • Executive Perception: Drive The Market


Now that you know… Where do you see your organization? How can you actualize the next stage? What are some value statements that you can take to senior leadership? What business problems can you address? What type of socialization strategy will work best? Where should you invest and what will the return look like? Who can you trust to help you get there from here without shortcutting the maturity journey – proper growth is built on a series of solid foundations. These sucesses are the underpinnings of the needed BI elements; Trust, Vision, Focus, Value, Momentum…repeat.

Happy Maturing!


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