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Business Intelligence Collaboration:
Best Practices

online columnist John Onder     Column published in DMReview.com
May 19, 2005
  By John Onder

More often than not when the terms collaboration and business intelligence are used together, they are thought of in concept and practice to address only a segment of business intelligence collaboration (BI-C) capability. A complete BI-C program consists of multiple, interconnecting levels of application. At any level, great value can be derived from BI-C, but as the concept is broadend for uses beyond the traditional functions, the value return increases exponentially.

For the sake of simplicity, let's focus on the three prime areas: project, enterprise and extended enterprise. You can make a case for other layers of application: department, regional ... depending on the organization, but for the vast majority of needs in the BI world, we can use these three to discuss our thesis.

BI-C Level One - Project

Typically when a BI program is planned and executed within an organization, it is thought of only in the context of the project - the base level of BI-C. Most of us making a living in BI do our daily work in the BI-C project level. We build the project plan, develop the requirements, design the application, build, test, train and deploy. At the project level, usually we are tackling a specific, internal business need based on measuring, monitoring and controlling a process, for example, sales.

BI-C Level Two - Enterprise

When you move beyond a single business-need focus, you begin to cross into the second level of BI-C, the enterprise. Think of the enterprise BI-C level as expanding the project world to measure, monitor and control a business operation, for example, product development. Within the enterprise BI-C level, many of the same components are used as in the project level, but are enhanced with other tools and technologies to connect disparate groups or people, processes, technology and information key to the success of the program.

At the enterprise BI-C level, two primary outcomes occur. The first is the leveraging of the BI knowledgebase and the second is the use of BI-C to enable the measurement, monitoring and controlling of an enterprise process. The first essentially takes the BI-C project level and expands it to overlap with other BI projects thus leveraging the knowledge, skills, tools, technologies and methods developed in one or many BI projects for use across the enterprise. The second outcome is achieved by using BI-C to assist in planning and management of a business operation. Most business functions cut across departmental boundaries and, hence, cross-functional data is required to make sure the operation meets its targets.

BI-C Level Three - Extended Enterprise

When BI-C is employed in the extended enterprise level, it is used much like the second outcome of the enterprise level, but it reaches beyond the organizational walls to suppliers, customers and partners. A common, high-value example is the supply chain. Some form of BI-C is absolutely required to make certain that all parties involved are meeting their service levels. Attributes of the project level are also utilized to implement the underlying application to measure, monitor and control the supply chain.

Benefits of BI-C at all levels are the same: better communication, standardized processes and methods, standardized information formats and data of the knowledgebase, faster development/cycle times on an automated, open technology platform. All are focused on getting an activity, task, project, process or business capability completed faster, better and cheaper.

I've found that too often organizations do not realize the potential available to them by combining their current investments in BI and collaboration. Likely this is because, what they should combine is often seen as unrelated, is just unknown to exist or considered to be unrelated because no one has ever combined the knowledge captured by the sales group's development of a sales metrics data mart within their product development project. Yes, someone in the organization may use the data mart for current product sales information, but a significant opportunity is missed when the knowledge created and captured during the development and the implementation of the data mart is not used in the daily work involved in product development. The unknown opportunities are easier to quantify and occur very often within large, geographically dispersed organizations. These opportunities are BI projects that have similar business goals and objectives executed completely independent of each other.

How does an organization begin to implement, run and manage a multilevel BI-C program? In last month's article we listed the categories of components in a BI-C environment. The components by themselves have very little value. The components when integrated in an automated workspace are the key to a productive BI-C. And, the components when integrated at the multiple levels detailed above create a real competitive advantage.

The first step in the implementation of a BI-C program is to assess your maturity level of acceptance, identify areas of opportunity and need for BI-C and inventory current BI-C components already in place. In next month's article we will begin to dig into the process to plan, build and implement a BI-C in your organization.


For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Business Intelligence (BI).

John Onder, a partner in Chicago Business Intelligence Group (CBIG), has extensive experience in all facets of providing information technology services, business reengineering, system assessment and planning services. He has in-depth expertise in business planning and practical implementation of business intelligence and data warehouse applications across many industries. CBIG is a full service, vendor-independent DW/BI consultancy staffed by senior level professionals. Onder can be reached at john.onder@chicagobigroup.com or (773) 477-8783.

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