You hear me talk alot about business intelligence as a solution not a tool here in this blog. And in fact I am more than just an advocate of BI and demonstrating the value of BI to business, but I live and breathe it every day! To me, it seems that a successful business intelligence solution, implementation project or pilot, must, must, must utilize best practices, standards, common practices and leverage key learnings more so than most other IT ventures. Notice that I did not mention BI products or tools here! I am speaking of implementing your BI for return on your BI investment, to embed business intelligence into the fabric and rythm of your business so that your entire organization makes better decisions.

Ok, enough of that. I am biased, no doubt. But my past history in IT and software companies was not always BI. So I feel I am on pretty solid ground when I say that the sort of business intelligence projects that I am speaking of here will need a center of excellence (COE). And I am referring to my old concept of end-to-end BI (please read through my prior postings for more on that) which would include data integration, data quality, data management, reporting, KPIs, workflow and data visualization. That is a TON of data movement, data presentation and data governance all coming together in the end to empower your business to make excellent decisions.

A center of excellence (COE) is there to provide the guidance, standards, best practice and learnings to use while implementing these projects. In our group out of Microsoft Services where we work on vertical BI solutions for industries (which we call Microsoft Enterprise Cube or MEC). We have internal COE groups for BI and BPM and there are also good articles out there on MSDN, DM Review and BI Review which I recommend you search for BI COE. I am an absolute advocate of our internal groups at Microsoft, our partners and our customers. One of my favorite activites, in fact, is spending time to review, discuss and debate approaches to business intelligence implementations, scalability and lessons learned. An interesting approach that we are taking is to try and bake that knowledge base into MEC so that our customers can see the fruits of the labor somewhat tacitly in the form of very well designed and developed reports, KPIs, data models and ETL as well as explicitly in white papers, guide books and training.

I won't have the time here today to get into the different approaches to setting up an internal COE. Certainly those references I listed above are good places to begin your search. You'll have to remind me to speak about this more here or if you run into me at one of our events. As always, I would greatly enjoy speaking about the experiences or ideas around business intelligence center of excellence. Or you can reach out to me via email (makrom@microsoft.com) or speak with your Microsoft local rep about Microsoft BI best practice consulting and MEC. Being able to build up a go-to group with this sort of knowledge will save you enormously on these projects. In fact, measure your COE operational cost savings on your BI projects by reducing your internal project overhead or buffers by leveraging the COE.