Business Intelligence Project Failure: Plano Independent School District
When Plano Independent School District’s brand-new SAS business intelligence installation, designed to support simultaneous use by up to 4,000 teachers and administrators, went live for a user test, 90 school principals logged on at once and immediately crashed the entire system. The head of IT for the district called it “a fantastic, catastrophic failure.” What happened?
Turns out the SAS consultants and school district IT experts designed the system to meet the demands typical of those that would be placed upon your average corporate BI system – where the activity of most users amounts to simply running static reports and html pages, not accessing the actual business intelligence suite to work with the underlying data itself. The system designers for the school district didn’t consider in their system capacity planning the reality that the whole purpose of the project was to allow, at any given time, any number of teachers and staff to access and manipulate the live data and models directly in order to do customized analysis on individual students and classes so that problem areas could be identified and learning solutions created. Duh.
Ultimately, after six months of redesign and reprogramming, the corrected BI system was deployed, and teachers were able for the first time to quickly and easily analyze student performance, then design targeted solutions to address problem areas. During the first three years of implementation, test scores improved district-wide and administrators estimated that the number of failures on the district's state-wide assessment tests decreased by more than 10%.
Eventual positive results notwithstanding, the ROI that was finally realized by the school district after the system was redesigned with more robust user capacity will always have an irrecoverable offsetting liability on its balance sheet for the six months of productivity lost while...