Having been a Business Intelligence practitioner for the last 13 years, there has never been a more exciting time to practice this art, as organizations increasingly realize that a well implemented BI & Analytics system can provide great competitive advantage for them. This leads us to the question of – ‘What is a well implemented BI system?’ Let us follow the Q&A below.
Q: What is a well implemented BI system?
A: A well implemented BI system is one that is completely business focused.
Q: Well, that doesn’t make it any easier. How can we have BI that is completely business focused?
A: BI & Analytics becomes completely business focused when they have ‘business decisions’ as the cornerstone of their implementation. The starting point to build / re-engineer a BI system is to identify the business decisions taken by business stakeholders in their sphere of operations. Business decisions can be operational in nature (taken on a daily basis) and/or strategic (taken more infrequently but they tend to have a longer term impact). To reiterate, the starting point for BI is to catalog the business decisions taken by business stakeholders and collect the artifacts that are currently used to take those decisions.
Q: The starting point is fine – What are the other pieces?
A: The next step is to identify the metrics and key performance indicators that support decision making. In other words, any metric identified should be unambiguously correlated to the decision taken with the help of that metric and by whom. Next we need to identify the core datasets in the organization. Please refer to my earlier blog post titled ‘Thinking by Datasets’ on this subject.
Q: What about the operational systems in the landscape? Aren’t they important?
A: Once we have documented the relationship between Business Decisions to Metrics to Datasets, we need to focus on the transactional applications. The key focus items are:
- Inventory of all Transactional Applications
- Identify the business process catered by these applications
- Identify the datasets generated as part of each of business process
- Next step is to drill-down into individual entities that make up each of the datasets
- Once the Facts & Dimensions are identified from the entities, sketch out the classic ‘Bus Matrix’ which would form the basis for dimensional data modeling
Q: All this is good if we are building a BI system from scratch – How about existing BI systems?
A: For existing BI applications, the above mentioned process could be carried out as a health-check on the BI landscape. The bottomline is that every single report / dashboard / any other analytical component should have traceability into the metrics shown which should then link to the decisions taken by business users. BI & Analytics exist to help organizations take better business decisions and that defines its purpose & role in an enterprise IT landscape.
The answers mentioned above provide the high-level view of Hexaware’s approach to Business Intelligence projects. We have worked with many organizations across industries and a business focused analytical approach has provided good value for our customers.
Thanks for reading. Please do share your thoughts.