Five Pillars for Creating a Business Intelligence Culture in an Organization

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Being a consultant has been both a very rewarding and a painful experience.  Rewarding because I saw my clients happy faces after successful projects and painful because I never really became part of any team, let alone becoming a part of the organization. The positive side of all this experience is that I saw both the best and the worst side of many organization cultures because whether we like it or not, every organization (big or small) on this planet has a culture – a mix of attitudes, habits, practices that expresses the organization’s collective self-image and expectations. A company’s culture is key in making an average team outstanding OR destroying a great team.

In my personal experience (and probably a lot of you out there, who have been in consultants in the BI industry for much longer than I have been) a great company culture is based on these five pillars:


  5. TRUST

Any organization that has a strong company culture that is based on at least three of these five pillars, chances of a BI implementation being fully adopted and embraced are much higher, providing tremendous value to the organization. Let’s take a look at each one of the pillars and find out what makes each one them important.


Humans are social creations and we love to be included, we love the sense of belonging, being part of the collective activities, big or small. If we think that we are mature professional adults and we don’t care about being excluded, we are kidding ourselves. Exclusion leads to isolation and isolation leads to closed individuals who start building their own little fiefdoms of relative safety and perceived trust. This causes the famous “US versus THEM” feeling in the organization.

KEY – Encourage the culture of INCLUSION, remove the “US versus THEM” and transform it into a competitive attitude by turning it outwards. The “US” should be the ORGANIZATION, and the “THEM” should be the COMPETITORS.  Business Intelligence – both during the iterative implementation phase and later in operational phase can help bring this transformation.


Communication and Collaboration are vital to success in the current fiercely competitive business environment. This fundamental understanding has led to the rapid growth of a software like SharePoint – which is based on the COMMUNICATION and COLLABORATION pillar. SharePoint is an extremely successful product and extending its strengths into Business Intelligence is a natural progression. In fact the growth and adoption of SharePoint is a perfect fit for a new concept – Human Business Intelligence.

KEY – When ready-to-use BI information is made available on a collaborative environment, users throughout the organization have a new potential advantage: to speak the same language, to progress at the same speed in understanding and learning about their organization, its goals, it’s competition and its performance.


United we stand and divided we fall” summarizes the ownership pillar in one small sentence. Set the organizational goals clearly and make sure that everyone is working towards achieving them.  Such ownership can provide a powerful advantage and holding people accountable for carrying their portion of the load can help create a feeling of unity.

KEYSELF–SERVICE BI capabilities for everyone. Giving people the correct tools to do their job and then allowing them the opportunity to take ownership of their tasks are critical components of business and business intelligence.


Acknowledge and reward accomplishments” is what the Recognition pillar all about. Different organizations do it differently and the success of this pillar depends on how it’s done.  Using an open communication platform like SharePoint could help remove politics, the feeling of exclusion and brown nosing from the recognition equation. When all the discussions, wiki pages, blog entries etc. are all available to everyone then nobody would feel that they are not recognized for their contributions.

KEYGive everyone an opportunity to contribute. Recognize the people who help their peers the most as start performers instead of the people who have perfected the art of telling the managers what they want to hear. Reward the right ATTITUDE and PERFORMANCE.


This pillar is about reducing “find a scapegoat” or “cover my ass” attitude and encouraging “make decisions” and “learn from mistakes” attitude. I can guarantee that everyone out there has been prey to this one sometime or another in their careers. You find the people who claimed to be on your side blaming you for things that went wrong. This damages the organization’s culture.

KEY – Organizational leadership plays a significant role here. Discourage distrustful behavior. Reward people who take the responsibility for the blame instead of finding scapegoats to save their face. Encourage transparency and get the truth out in the open.

A successful Business Intelligence strategy requires a strong company culture. A well done, thoughtfully implemented and carefully evangelized BI implementation can encourage the growth of a strong, collaborative and more unified company culture.

I must admit that in my current organization we are doing fairly well on all the above mentioned pillars. A little better on a few than the others. We are far from having a unified solution and culture but I am certain we’ll get there in the near future. I am not surprised that I am excited to get to work every day.

So what’s been your experience with your clients or in your current organization? Anything that these pillars do not cover? Do you have any success or failure stories? As usual I would love to hear your thoughts.

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