Business Intelligence: Think Outside the Box by Turning it Inside-Out


I just read a clever tip on the Lifehacker website on how to easily reuse sturdy electronic device boxes for shipping or storage: turn the box inside out.  Many electronic device boxes use no glue or tape at all, making the process very easy.  You end up with a like-new, “fresh” box ready for easy labeling for shipping, storage use, etc.

In fact, a shipping box company has taken the inside-out box idea further with a reusable box design that turns inside out, by enabling easy removal and reattachment one of the glued box edges.

This tip suggested to me a business metaphor: Think outside the box by turning it inside-out! After all, that’s one thing that takes place when implementing a business intelligence system: data and insights previously not visible become available for many, if not all, people in the organization to see.  That can be regarded as a boon or a liability depending on one’s perspective.  Indeed, a significant hindrance to business intelligence acceptance is the perceived loss of control over the data, and therefore perceived risk of judgment and  reprisal, of one’s department, region, product line, etc.  In her book Successful Business Intelligence, Cindi Howson quoted a senior executive who said, “Some departments don’t like [their] data being exposed…others may see they are not doing a good job…” (p. 159).

Maureen Clary wrote an excellent article for the BeyeNETWORK on proactively addressing people problems that might derail a business intelligence initiative.

Personal issues are usually the drivers behind resistance. Concerns about job security, visibility, competition, personal risk, inadequate skills and fear of failure can create a reaction to change. The resistance to change is almost always caused by personal/individual concerns. Business intelligence leaders must be central to understanding and mitigating the individual resistance related to these organizational changes…Research shows that people problems are the most commonly cited reason for project failures. Experience indicates that people problems are also a dilemma for the changes associated with business intelligence initiatives.

Maureen Clary proposes the use of the ADKAR model to successfully manage the “people dimension of change” a business intelligence system will bring.  I encourage you to read the article for a solid overview of the ADKAR model and its utilization within a BI project.  I will cite here the “D”  of ADKAR – Desire – which appears to me to be the most important of the five change model elements for a BI project:

Desire or motivation refers to the way an organization’s system of rewards and punishments either encourages or discourages behaviors…Motivation is important at both an individual level and to overall organizational success. Rewards and recognition can help compensate for the inherent uncertainty associated with any type of complex change, including business intelligence…Rewards should be structured so that individuals benefit when the organization is successful and the organization benefits when the individual is successful. Otherwise, neither the organization nor the individuals will be aligned toward achieving the results.

Successfully aligning of individual interests with overall organizational interests will require senior management to openly embrace a new culture of data-informed decision making that unabashedly “confronts the brutal facts” of the organization (as Cindi Howson quotes Jim Collins’ Good to Great), and does so even-handedly across the organization. No sacred cows!  Plus, the fear of “killing the messenger” must be taken off the table.  In other words, managers and workers must have the confidence to call attention to business problems identified by BI data (even in their own areas of responsibility).

By openly embracing and cultivating such a new business culture, the organization can experience a like-new, “fresh” start with its new business intelligence system, successfully “turning the box inside out.”



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s