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Business Intelligence Collaboration:
Best Practices, Part 4: The Technology Domain

online columnist John Onder     Column published in DMReview.com
August 18, 2005
 
  By John Onder

Planning the BI-C: Level One - Project

The Technology Domain

To continue on the themes of the last two months, we'll move forward with the approach to plan a business intelligence collaboration (BI-C) environment by expanding on the methodology to perform a readiness assessment an organization has to accept, plan, build and implement a BI-C.

We have covered the People and Process domains and this month we'll cover the Technology domain by continuing with the same example, at the project level: a DW/BI application that addresses a specific, internal business need based on the measuring, monitoring and controlling a process.

Figure 1: Four Domains of Business Intelligence Collaboration

As we discussed in earlier articles, the one key ingredient missing in most collaboration programs, and especially within a specialized area like the data warehouse/business intelligence area, is the capability to automate the overall BI-C program - common process workflows and knowledge repositories; and for BI projects integrating a BI-specific methodology of best practices, deliverable templates/examples, plans. While most organizations have knowledge repositories, work plan repositories, methodologies, development processes, etc., none are contained within the same integrated and automated platform. Collaboration can only work well when developers, analysts, project managers, program managers, strategic planners and business sponsors are all working with and using the same data, processes and information to plan, build and deploy BI applications. The capability to automate sharing and interaction is a necessity.

The Technology Domain is driven by the other domain's requirements like most applications - top down based on people, process and information needs. Yet the Technology Domain is a little different for BI-C programs since no off-the-shelf technology exists aimed directly at the problem. This poses a risky problem to solve for those responsible for the plan/build/delivery of BI-C programs. With no one solution on the market, typically a development team will pick a collaboration "development" environment and make due with patching together of framework of loosely couple BI-C components. This can work in some cases, but usually without some very astute planning and design work by the development team, the business is left with a non-integrated, hard to navigate application.

In this article, we hope to help the reader ask the right questions around the Technology Domain to ensure they can build a true automated, collaborative business intelligence environment.

Readiness Assessment: BI-C Level One - Project

Domain - Technology

 

System Infrastructure

The system objectives to automate the BI-C capability must be aligned with the business objectives with the system architecture supporting the BI-C business goals. At the same time the system architecture must be flexible to meet future needs and growth.

 

  • Are there any current collaboration tools in use of vendor alliances with tool providers? Software for development, management or program oversight?
  • Is there a tool selection process?
  • Are there any current contracts?
  • What tool support is available if a relationship exists?
  • Security capability and needs?
  • If vendor alliances exist or have they been identified and will be used for the BI-C?

Hardware, DBMS, Software...

  • If so, which ones are they?
  • If so, does your IT staff have experience with them?
  • Any major development efforts, process re-engineering or business directives occurring that will use, support and/or feed the BI-C?

 

 

Data - Structured and Unstructured

Data as it relates to the BI-C comes from every source within an organization. Traditional structured data kept in logically organization computer and paper files to unstructured date such as a screen shot of a BI application design. The need to understand the sources and how one is to integrate data for a BI-C poses a unique challenge and very important to a successful BI-C program.

  • Which data sources and entities will the system require initially and long term? Please provide a description of all known system data sources for the BI-C.
  • Which systems data will be included as sources to the BI-C with subject area and platform?
  • How large from a data perspective do you anticipate the first phase and ongoing phases of the BI-C to be?
  • Have models been developed to store the data?
  • Has an overall data architecture been defined for the BI-C?
  • How much volume is estimated, initially and ongoing?
  • How often will the data be acquired per source? 
  • Whose responsibility will it be to fix bad data?

 

External or Outsourced Services

With potentially many of the sources and services needed for a BI-C provided by an external entity, this section provides a brief checklist.

  • Portal and/or collaboration provider and administrator
  • User and application training
  • Help desk
  • Service level agreements
  • Usage and ROA tracking

 

Next month we'll finish the domain readiness assessment with the Information Domain. Beyond next month we'll begin a detailed deconstruction of all components and discussion of how best to automate a BI-C.

...............................................................................

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

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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