Blog | Apr 5, 2013

BI Best Practices Series (Part 2 of 6):  Think Big, Start Small ...

Kevin ORourke -TriCore Solutions LLCKevin ORourke

Best Practices in BI: Think Big, Start Small.  Ensuring a Successful BI / Big Data Project

Part 2 of 6: Business Intelligence Fundamentals

Why understanding organizational strategy is important? 

Before we begin, we want to establish some of our core beliefs with Business Intelligence (BI).  BI is not simply about the technology.  Business users throughout an organization must incorporate BI in day-to-day decision-making.

Process Controls thru governance must enforce standardized, accurate, timely and highly available BI platforms. 

A BI Solution must provide a balanced portfolio of products for every kind of business user.

Corporate Strategy   Kevin%27s Blog Part 2

We define BI as:

People, process, and technology required to turn data into information and information into knowledge and plans that drive effective business activity, gain business insight and achieve competitive advantage.

It is critical to align any BI objectives to the overall Corporate Strategy.

How Query Usage Profiles help to determine BI platform approach

A Query Usage Profile provides a simple way to view characteristics for information consumers within an organization.  Each role performed by one or more individuals will exhibit certain usage patterns or behaviors in the way they consume information.  Understanding these usage patterns provide insight to what kind of information architecture is best in supporting that organizations Data Architecture and also provides insight on appropriate BI component tools mix for consumers.  All BI platforms are solutions with several tools designed to perform services in several areas such as reporting authoring, ad hoc reporting, analytical reporting, report management, environment management, portals and dashboards.  A query usage profile can provide insight with regard to the appropriate BI tools mix. 

The diagram below depicts this concept.

 Usage profiles   Kevin%27s blog part 2


Why BI platforms provide so many tools options.

Every major BI platform comes with a toolbox of components optimized for certain types of reporting and analytics activities.  Consumers look at data in a myriad of ways.  BI Platform Vendors must achieve flexibility, product transparency and ease-of-use to ensure widespread BI adoption. 

The image to the right shows 4 strategic areas for reporting and analytics ranging from monitoring, reporting, historic analysis and predictive analysis. 

As Analytical Sophistication increases (left to right) data needs to be further prepared in order to achieve expected results.


Analytical sophistication directly coincides with the feasibility of leveraging data directly from the application database as a source, or requiring some kind of data warehouse solution.

Analytical Sophistication   Kevin's blog part 2


Departmental versus holistic view of organizational information

Many organizations look at a succession of BI Candidate projects from a departmental standpoint exclusively.  While it makes sense to focus on an organizational Business Unit or Business Process when scoping candidate BI Projects, it is critical to ensure BI consumers have a collection of measures to allow a full cause-and-effect relationship to those measures. 

Consider the following image:

 Daily Business Processes   Kevin%27s Blog part 2

Each business process is cyclical in nature.  Workflows established between business processes exhibit inputs, a process and outputs, generally following a somewhat linear progression within the organization.  This is shown in the top arrow within the diagram above. 

From an analytical perspective, information consumption is not as rigid, and will flow in multiple directions.  For example, the Manufacturing business unit needs to have an understanding of Sales Pipeline activities, Open Sales Orders, Product Costing, Quality and Defect Issues, Vendor performance and fulfillment.  Manufacturing cannot just focus on their own processes or Key Performance Indictors (performance measures) they own.  We need to demonstrate a true cause-and-effect relationship, not restricted to just measures we own.

Selecting BI Project Candidates thru Business Justification

Understanding the quantifiable and strategic benefits when prioritizing projects is a must to the process of prioritizing and selecting projects.  From a governance perspective, there must be processes in place to assess, define and monitor success when determining cost savings or ROI realized from projects.

BI platform support must therefore be a closed-loop process as depicted by the image to the right.

Business Justification is a method to evaluate likelihood and magnitude of quantifiable benefit from a project. 

Project Portfolio Management is the fundamental assessment and prioritization of several projects by committee.  Projects selected by committee must be monitored for success and compared to original benefits expectations in order to validate project selections made.    The process of monitoring for project success in itself promotes effective user adoption and continuous improvements within the BI platform itself, plus provides feedback by the committee group.

Thank you for reading Part 2 of our BI Best Practices Series Think Big, Start Small.  Please refer to the links below for other Parts in the series:

We hope you enjoy other topics in the series as follows:

Part 1 of 6: Introduction

Part 2 of 6: Business Intelligence Fundamentals

Part 3 of 6: Common Data Architectures Used Within BI Platforms

Part 4 of 6: Organizational Readiness

Part 5 of 6: BI Strategy Roadmaps

Part 6 of 6: Emerging Technologies