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Business Intelligence Collaboration:
Best Practices, Part 5: The Information Domain

online columnist John Onder     Column published in DMReview.com
September 15, 2005
  By John Onder

Planning the BI-C: Level One - Project

The Information Domain

This is the fifth in this series of planning a business intelligence-collaboration project. Access the previous installments:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

This month we will complete our mini-series on the process to plan a business intelligence collaboration (BI-C) environment via a methodology to perform a readiness assessment.

We have covered the People, Process and Technology domains, and this month we'll conclude by addressing the Information 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

The Information domain is contains "what" is shared. Information is the fuel that makes a BI-C program run; and over time it can become a highly valuable asset to an organization. Years ago when performing an assessment of a automotive manufacturer's data warehouse environment, it became very clear to all of us involved in the project that the problems plaguing the organization in getting projects completed on time, budget and meeting the business goals had nothing to do with the selected DW/BI technologies, methods and project staff, but it had everything to do with leveraging their investment in these areas across organizational boundaries. They had vast repositories of information in the building, planning and implementing a DW/BI program that the company had invested millions in that were available to a new project planning and development team if they only knew it existed.

This organization had (at last count) more than 120 significant BI applications in production and many more in the planning and development stages during our assessment. Yet, the sharing and leveraging of methods, designs, plans, experience ... only occurred at an individual, one-off level or via companywide e-mail asking if anyone had done something similar. This infrequently was successful, and we discovered during our assessment that often large sources of information, which could have been very valuable to a project, went undiscovered and unused. There was simply no formal process or automated toolset to assist the management, planning and development teams to direct the DW/BI development program with a consistent methodology and store the Information assets of the project for future use.

The last sentence above contains a critical success factor in developing a successful BI-C - the capability to automatically capture and store project Information derived from the use of a consistent methodology. If everyone in the organization is collecting and documenting requirements, models, designs, release plans ... in differing ways, in different repositories, with differing attributes and deliverable templates, it makes the process of sharing Information cumbersome; and you'll find yourself reinventing the wheel over and over again. A common complaint among project teams is that routine project processes consume so much time they take away from the project team's ability to lend focused, critical thought to the important tasks during a DW/BI project.

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

Readiness Assessment: BI-C Level One - Project

Domain - Information

Information Needs

Capturing the Information needs of the audience (business and technical) is essential to a BI-C. This activity will uncover what needs to be stored in the BI-C, how to model it and how to make it accessible to the end users.

What information will be needed in order to fulfill the needs of the users?

  • Project planning
  • Analysis - interviews, requirements, source data analysis ...
  • Design - models, mapping ...
  • Development - code
  • Testing - test plans, bug/fix cycles, UAT plan ...
  • Training
  • Deployment
  • Maintenance
  • Organization and team
  • Governance ...

How would access to this information improve your organization's performance, your team, your department?

Will there be a need to incorporate other, external information in order to accomplish the objectives of the BI-C?

Information Timeliness

Identifying the timeliness of the Information will drive the technical requirements needed to support the objectives of the BI-C.

  • How timely will this information be needed?
  • Will this information be needed at various times of the day, week, month, quarter?
  • Will there be formal milestones and checkpoints in the development process when Information is automatically loaded into the BI-C and communicated to the BI-C users?

Information Use and Automation

Understanding the typical activities that users of the BI-C will perform with the Information captured will drive the design of the automated BI-C environment.

  • How will the Information be leveraged, shared, augmented and possibly improved by the end users?
  • When a best-practice Information asset is developed, how will this be communicated to the BI-C end users?
  • Is there appropriate security around Information types to ensure only the right level of users have add, edit, read-only or are denied access?
  • How will Information types that are tightly coupled (Interviews>Requirements>Design ...) be associated so that a user can easily follow an audit trail of analysis and decision making?
  • If external sources of Information are imported into the automated BI-C environment, how will they be integrated with the overall BI-C Information for seamless understanding by the users?
  • Does the BI-C enable a logical workflow based on a best practice methodology to make sure all the users are working from the same process blueprint; and is the methodology consistent to ensure usability of the Information across the enterprise?
  • How should the user interface to the BI-C be constructed to make it easy for a wide range of users to use?
  • At what level and how many functions should be contained within each release of the build of the BI-C to meet the high priority BI-C?

Next month we'll shift gears and partners of mine at the Chicago Business Intelligence Group, Don Arendarczyk, Chris Ford and John Harmann, will begin a series of articles on automating the planning, building and development of a DW/BI project. They'll each examine how imbedding a project methodology within a BI-C software environment can automate many the tasks we all perform in developing a DW/BI application and form the basis for a business intelligence collaboration program.


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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