As professionals working in the business intelligence (BI) and data warehousing field, if we’re not posing questions of our data warehouse, we’re asking ourselves questions–especially about how to do our job better or maximize the value of our warehouse.
Here are three common questions and help in answering them.
1. How can I run my BI program so that it maximizes value for the organization?
Recognize that the BI initiative is uniquely positioned to guide your internal users to particularly beneficial outcomes.
Did you just read the word “market”? You sure did. It is time to broaden our vision and realize that consumers are unique. They all have different needs, perspectives, and expectations about the products or services we offer them. Remember to craft your BI products and services to each consumer or user sector so they can best interpret and leverage them for the greatest impact.
Segment the users. Speak briefly with your consumers and you will recognize broad user categories. Document the requirements you receive from the users and apply the proper segmentation labels. It is perfectly acceptable to create as many segment labels as you need–this helps with the requirements analysis.
It is also important to understand the decision process end users will go through. Realize that the typical decision process starts with problem recognition. This is the most important step. Work with your consumers to clarify the problem. Understand that they will conduct a search, then evaluate alternatives, before making a final choice. Finally, the outcomes or end results must be closely tied to the problem.
2. How do I align objectives for my team with our corporate strategy?
Leverage your competitive advantage by aligning your target objectives with your corporate and segment strategies. Target your requirements analysis to streamline your process and make it responsive and repeatable. Make sure your requirements analysis accounts for cost, quality, time, and flexibility to maximize the potential impact.
- Cost: Categorizing your cost requirements into lowest- to highest-hanging fruits enables you to deliver cost-effective projects. Better yet, cross-reference the low-hanging fruit with the greatest impact potential or urgency to market: your “best bang for the buck” factor. The goal is to keep costs low within a target range. First, target the requirements that align with your BI architecture. Minimize expenses by tabling the requirements that necessitate a capital investment. Educate your business users about the why, when, and what (that is, what product) they should expect during the next release.
- Quality: The general size of the consumer segment dictates the quality of the product. For a fairly large number of consumers, the focus should be on consistent quality. Make the user interface intuitive and easy to use. If you are building a product for a smaller consumer segment, such as power users, focus on performance quality.
- Time: Always consider time. What’s the delivery speed for a particular release? Will we be able to deliver on time? What’s our development speed (how quickly can we deliver an analytical platform)? What is the risk of a project overrun? The old adage applies: “Under commit, over deliver.”
- Flexibility: This is often ignored by BI teams. When delivering BI projects, always look at the customization required. This impacts the cost and time measures. Also look for variety and volume flexibility. Remember to combine reports/analysis when possible. Typically, the more diverse the data sources, the longer it will take to extract, transform, and consume the data.
3. How do I reach more business users and how do I keep them all happy?
Product/Project Design and Delivery
Once you complete the market analysis and prioritize key measures, you are ready to design, analyze, and develop the product. After each project cycle, do not forget to measure the compatibility of your program to the functional area (i.e., finance, accounting, HR) strategies. Make sure the various departmental/segmented users understand how the BI program is moving in step with their strategies.
Combining the assessment of your current capabilities with the product/project design and delivery features forms the feedback loop. Make sure to update the current capabilities and document the required and planned capabilities in conjunction with market analysis and competitive priorities. Your understanding of your capabilities should be scalable up and down your user groups and your organization’s strategic initiative. Review this feedback loop periodically to find ways to tweak and enhance your process for effectiveness and repeatability.
Mangesh Mharolkar [[email protected]] has worked for over 17 years with information systems and currently heads the BI practice at XTIVIA, Inc. He has worked in various roles for client firms of all sizes, including Fortune 500 companies, building industry-leading data warehousing and BI solutions. He practices a very hands-on, practical approach to both strategic and tactical decision making with BI initiatives.
This article was originally published in TDWI FlashPoint, April 4, 2013. Republished with permission. Visit tdwi.org for more information.