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Archive for September, 2009

BI is not just reports!

Posted by Brad Greene on September 9, 2009

Does it feel like sometimes the BI team does nothing more than deliver reports, updates to reports and more variations on the same reports? I have a hunch that is the case more often than a lot of us would like to admit. The promise of BI is always big when making the initial investment in software and hardware. That juicy suite of tools and studios are demonstrated as a tightly integrated whole capable of pumping out solutions that will turn your business into a well oiled machine. Executive management is sold if even half of it turns out to be true. But, initially at least, efforts almost always focus on reports, operational in most cases.

It’s understandable. These are the low hanging fruit. The data is easily captured and delivered to a data mart and the reports themselves are well defined and heavily used. A nice quick win to leverage a big investment. Everyone wins. However, what happens next is key I think because this is where organizations have to fight to hang on to their original vision. That quick initial win feed on itself but not always in a good way. You are now going to get more and more requests to build operational reports. Your demand is going to grow exponentially. Along with it comes production support burdens that are not trivial. You will be supporting a growing user base that is dependent on a system that must be operational during peak business periods. Unless you have planned for this burden you will find your team now consumed and converted to an operational reporting development and support team! And that brings me back to my opening sentence. It’s now going to be very hard to go back to management and ask for more resources to deliver on the original big picture solution they were so excited about.

It’s the proverbial slippery slope. I think what has to happen is more BI leaders have to resist that urge to shine by delivering on operational reporting and push harder towards engaging on projects that deliver complete package solutions. That means finding projects that can use a wider range of components. One that has an analytical piece, a simple dashboard, some basic event notification based on business process and maybe some scheduled report delivery element. Obviously this will vary based on the tools you have to work with. The idea is to look for projects that will exercise the full suite and deliver a solution to a real business problem from end to end. That is where you will be contributing the most to the company’s success. Letting your BI team get stuck in the rut of operational reporting is a failure to deliver on the promise of BI.

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