IT Projects Vs. BI Projects: 2 Key Differences to Know

We don’t have to tell you, a solid IT department is paramount in business. It ensures that systems and technology run smoothly, enabling productivity and providing technological support when needed. Business intelligence (BI) projects typically fall under IT’s domain, along with their own department-specific projects. On the surface level, “IT project” and “BI project” may seem like interchangeable terms, however this is not the case. While these projects do often overlap, there are two major differences between BI projects and IT projects.  

What Separates These Two Kinds of Projects?

1. Project Stakeholders Differ 

Because BI outcomes inform business operations and procedures, it is key that business professionals be involved in these projects alongside IT professionals. This differs from IT projects, that for the most part involve exclusively IT professionals due to the project’s highly technical nature.

Business intelligence platforms are designed so that business professionals can complete daily business tasks taking a data-first perspective with relatively little involvement from IT. Before this can happen successfully, a company must invest time in data literacy courses. Data literacy ensures that business executives and employees understand how to make use of the platform, interpret the data in question, and apply insights to business operations. This empowers business professionals to become self-sufficient data users,  and gives IT departments more time to dedicate to larger projects requiring advanced technological skills. 

2. IT projects can be defined ahead of time while BI projects often can’t

Projects of any kind should ALWAYS have clear goals set ahead of time to guide stakeholders. However, it can be difficult to quantify BI project results. Take, for example, a company that has identified an issue locating inventory across warehouses. An inventory report would help solve this problem, but instead of running the report once and producing a single outcome, the report will run numerous times, continuously updating end users. In this way BI projects are continuous, they do not always result in a single end-point.

The ongoing nature of BI projects can cause them to become even more difficult to outline ahead of time. As one Harvard Business Review article describes:

“Big data and other analytics projects are more akin to scientific research and clinical trials than to IT initiatives. They typically start with sensing problems or potential opportunities, which may initially just be somebody’s hunch. They then often move on to develop theories about the existence of a particular outcome or effect, generate hypotheses, identify relevant data, and conduct experiments. In short, they are opportunities for discovery.”

 While more difficult, it remains important to demonstrate to superiors the overall company benefit of BI projects. Consider a company that wants to begin a BI project to learn how to improve marketing campaigns. The project aims to uncover factors that lead to successful campaigns, times of day or year that content reaches the greatest number of the target demographic, etc. While the exact outcome is unknown, the purpose of the project is still clear: to learn from past marketing techniques to improve future campaigns and propagate informed decision-making.

On the other hand, IT projects produce a single, defined outcome. Department managers can clearly identify what the outcome of their project will be and plan accordingly. For example, IT departments are often charged with maintaining the company website. If site maintenance must be performed,  IT creates a plan to update the website, notifies the company of predicted website downtime, and checks that the updates look and operate as intended. Before beginning any site maintenance, IT knows what the outcome will be and how the site will look. There is a clear beginning, middle, and end to each IT project. 

IT projects are just that: projects with a definitive conclusion! Their main purpose is to maintain the current systems, update software and technology, and provide tech support to an enterprise. Business professionals are rarely involved in IT projects because of their technical nature. IT projects have clear steps leading to the accomplishment of a particular task. These may vary in length of time, but there is always a clear conclusion. 

Did you know that VanData works with your IT department to supplement the work they already perform? If your company is looking for extra help with data migrations, app development, implementing a new BI platform, or any other projects, we’re here to help! Message us and set up a free consultation!

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