Recently, I happened to read a couple of books with the “Obvious” word in the title and thought of writing a post around some of those obvious things in BI that we all know but typically forget during the thick of action.

A small note on those 2 “Obvious” books that I read – The first one is a classic called “Obvious Adams: The Story of a Successful Business Man” written by Robert R. Updegraff in 1916 and the second being a more contemporary one by Eliyahu M. Goldratt titled “Isn’t it Obvious”. Though these books talk about very different business domains (Obvious Adams is on Advertising while Goldratt’s book is on Theory of Constraints as applied to the Retail industry), the central theme of these books is the fact that decision makers tend to overlook the basic principles when confronted with problems.

In my humble opinion, a simple, implementable, commonsensical approach based on fundamental principles is the need of the hour in many areas and Business Intelligence is no exception. Based on my experience, given below are some of those basic principles on Business Intelligence that the practitioner would dismiss as being too “obvious” (but hey, isn’t that the intent of this post!). Let’s roll…

1) Business & Business Stakeholders are the key to successful BI
2) BI should help in making decisions that support the business goals
3) BI systems should provide Hindsight, Insight and Foresight to optimize the business process
4) Quality of BI output and hence the quality of decisioning is directly dependent of the quality of data. Remember “Garbage In, Garbage Out”
5) Ensure that the business units agree on what the business really is. Educate the business about the business, if required.
6) Without strategic focus and executive sponsorship, BI projects are set for failure
7) Organizations are dynamic entities and hence ensure that BI systems can adapt to change
8 ) Enable & Empower the BI users (both operational and strategic)
9) Market the value of DW / BI platforms to the user community
10) Don’t boil the ocean – There is no perfect BI system. Try building a successful one instead
11) Always build the BI system with ‘detail data’. Summaries & Aggregations can follow the detail
12) Pick the technology based on Business Fitment not on Tool sophistication
13) Prototype and Visualize the end-state before embarking on major BI initiatives
14) Have the right team to sustain and grow the BI infrastructure
15) Be aware of latest developments and trends in BI

And so, here is my quick checklist on the fundamental principles around thinking, building and using BI in organizations. Please do share your thoughts. Thanks for reading!

Posted by Karthikeyan Sankaran
Comments (3)
February 7th, 2010

Comments (3)

Karthik - February 13th, 2010

Thanks Sathya. Thanks Illiyaz. @Sathya - Now that you say it, most of the items in the list are equally applicable for any IT/IS initiative. I had written a blog earlier relating BI & Six Sigma ( Would be great to get your thoughts on that. @Illiyaz - Connecting the dots on the BI canvas is my main intent and am happy that it is getting conveyed thro' the blog posts. Pls. do keep reading.

Sathya Madurantakam - February 10th, 2010

Karthik Great article. You have brought out very valid points, most of which are equally applicable for any IT/ IS initiative, not just BI. Strangely, some of these commonsensical things are also the ones that people find highly difficult to accomplish and hence are conveniently ignored. Goldratt says in Goal2, "Do not let bad situations naturally develop" and we can easily guess that is what ignoring these fundamental principles/ golden rules would lead to.

illiyaz mohammad (ex-hexawarian) - February 9th, 2010

Good one Karthik...some really really basic points .. reminds me of a post by subroto bagchi where he has explained about multiple intelligences, one of which was intelligence of synthesis or rather connecting the dots in a system...most of your points lead there..keep up the good work and it is really refreshing to occassionally go through your blog...

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