Doing BI Right: Why you need a proper business intelligence methodology

We have often faced situations where people thought that the mere fact of having a Business Intelligence tool and qualified consultants were enough to guarantee a successful BI implementation. However without a good BI methodology it can be difficult to meet deadlines, satisfy all the users and stay within budget, even with the best of intentions.

In this post I will briefly talk about some aspects of a methodology that we have implemented with some of our customers.

Distinction between power and normal business users

Accuracy of the reports is key to people who want to ensure that they are making the right decisions. Therefore it is important to always have a group of power users who can work on difficult reports and are able to understand how the data is modeled. These people usually work on predefined reports as well as difficult ad-hoc analysis.

Normal business users usually work on personal and ad-hoc reporting. They want to get their questions answered very quickly, but for that they need to have very good and simple universes. For example, most of these types of users are not comfortable working with universes that have contexts.

Implementation of a good business gathering scenario

From our experience, gathering business requirements properly leads to the correct delivery of complex analysis to the business.  We have had the best results when the requirements gathering process has been:

  • centralized: the business should always think of a single point of access for business requirements gathering. If this is not centralized, the process can be hard to define.
  • recurring: it should also recur regularly as a proper business gathering process is never finished. We have usually set recurring meetings (weekly, twice per week) where some people from the reporting team meet their business sponsors and agree on the next actions to take.

Implementation of a good lifecycle and version control tool

When working with large enterprise customers (with many developers) it is always good practice to implement a version control tool as well as a workflow in order to promote content from development environments to production.

With version control tools the developers can share, lock and control their versions so everything is kept under control. This is especially important in large environments.

It is also important to have a criteria list of points that the reports should meet before they are promoted to production. This way, we make sure that whatever is in production has been properly tested and confirmed (the criteria can refer to query performance, layout format, etc.)

There are many third party applications that offer the version control as well as the lifecycle management functionalities.

Distinction between personal and public areas

BusinessObjects already makes the distinction between personal and public folders.  This point goes together with the previous point. We have always implemented the lifecycle processes under the public area so this basically becomes a read only area in production.

By doing this we achieve the following:

  • Users can be confident about all that is under the public folders as that content meet the proper criteria before it has been promoted to production
  • Public folders are cleaned
  • Public folders are tidy

If you are about to undertake a new BI project, especially one in a large customer environment, I hope the tips above will be useful to your team as you build your own best practice BI methodology. If you have any ideas to add or any feedback about my suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment below.