Posted on

The Role of the BI Architect

The Role of the BI Architect

The BI Architect must understand the BI vision and strategy and cause both to come to reality through the end to end BI system. The BI Architect achieves this through fastidious planning and designing pre-implementation, troubleshooting and mentoring during implementation, and governing and evangelising post implementation.

The most effective BI Architects know how to formulate Solution Architecture. They are able to hook together several different architectural disciplines to develop the solution. They will understand Business Architecture: Unless the organisation’s business processes and business requirements are understood how can a BI solution framework be proposed? They must of course be experienced with Data Architecture: Data is at the core of Business Intelligence and the best BI Architects will be experienced data modelers. Hand in hand with experience in data modeling BI Architects must also understand Information Architecture: The sources that the data will come from, it’s journey through the organisation, and how it will be consumed and by who. Experience with Application Architecture is critical for the full understanding of the selection of the BI platform, ETL software, BI tools etc. The most effective BI Architects will know how to size the BI/DW system, understand licensing and pricing and work closely with Infrastructure Architects to understand any required integration and procure the relevant hardware, web application servers, load balancers etc. Finally SLA’s should be considered within the Service Architecture: When must data be available by and how quickly must software execute etc.?

To enable all these things to happen successfully the BI Architect must have a clear understanding of the business process areas as well as a high technical level of expertise in the full BI platform. The BI Architect should have knowledge of the potential BI tools, knowing what they can do, how they integrate with other components and their current development road map. Understanding the development road map enables the BI System to be as future-proof as possible and the BI Architect to advise on the future as well as the now. Poorly informed decisions made today can prove very costly tomorrow. This thorough understanding of the BI tools and components, along with BI processes enables the BI Architect to deliver a BI system that constitutes best practice and exhibits high performance.

When powerful Business Intelligence tools such as SAP BusinessObjects are implemented there must exist the BI function of BI governance. Once the BI System has been developed the best place for governance to be rolled out is through a core BICC and the BI Architect should be central to this activity. For example, consider Self-service BI. When a user interacts with the BI System the user is not simply executing a piece of code within a single application such as Microsoft Excel; several different applications will be interacting together across functional areas. These applications are interdependent and so called ‘stress points’ will occur. In Self-service BI hundreds and even thousands of users can hit the BI System simultaneously.  If governance is not applied to these ‘stress points’ they may become ‘breakpoints’. The BI Architect should be familiar with these ‘stress points’ and in practising End to End BI apply governance to ensure that they do become breakpoints.

Not least required is the ability to evangelise the end user community through clear articulation of the BI processes and demonstrations of the benefits of the selected BI tools. In order to gain end user adoption of the BI System it is paramount to give the very best impression of the BI tool set to the end users. End users need to perceive that they are getting more benefits with the new tools than they previously had. New tools may lead to different ways of working and improved process, this in itself requires some change management. The knowledge and skills of the BI Architect make for an effective evangelist. An internal marketing campaign may be designed to ensure that positive communications about the benefits of the BI system are being transmitted and not lost or watered down in the change adoption process.

Posted on

BI For Midsize & Smaller Companies

Advanced Analytics

Business Intelligence software, once the exclusive realm of the billion dollar multi-nationals, is changing. The biggest and best Business Intelligence software providers have realised that small companies grow to midsize companies, and midsize companies grow to large companies and in making this journey there is a real business need for Business Intelligence software. However, developing organisations don’t start with a million dollar IT budget. So when you look across the table at your potential BI solution suppliers make sure that they really can help you gain the maximum return on your investment.

To achieve Business Intelligence you will need to install a version of Business Intelligence software such as SAP BusinessObjects. SAP BusinessObjects provides a mid-market Business Intelligence platform known as SAP BusinessObjects Edge BI. This is a fully featured BI platform that delivers many benefits to small and midsize companies at an affordable price. The BI platform also allows numerous SAP BusinessObjects tools to be plugged in. Tools such as Web Intelligence for ad hoc queries, Crystal Reports for heavy duty reports such as legal and financial documents, and Crystal Xcelsius to provide interactive dashboarding for managers and executives.

Of course there is more to a BI system than just installing software and if the implementation is expertly planned it can lead to a Total Cost of Ownership Reduction.  Having realised cost efficiencies it’s important that your solution should be as future-proof as possible so as to minimise the risk of escalating costs when you want to grow and expand your BI system. Critically for companies that are growing like yours you need to implement a scalable BI solution. A scalable solution is one that grows with you horizontally and vertically.

Horizontal scaling allows organisations to add different business process areas to their solution. For example, you may have decided that sales and marketing is the area in which you will first start to utilise Business Intelligence. You implement BI and increase sales, you have a bigger budget, now you want to add supply chain, finance, HR… A horizontally scalable solution will allow this growth whilst minimising the ubiquitous risk of creating BI stove pipes.

A vertical scaling solution on the other hand allows you to roll up your data into summary metrics such as KPIs and present them on dashboards. It will also allow you to drill down as deep as you need to go in to the detail and analyze the individual data values. You need both horizontal and vertical scaling.

We refer to our end to end BI methodology as our Cornerstone Solutions®.

Start your project on the right foot. Use our Contact Page if you would like to open discussion with us on Business Intelligence, our approach and the scalable solutions that we offer.

Posted on

Basic BI Terminology

The following definitions are as used by BI System Builders. They are provided to help those new to Business Intelligence to quickly gain a grip of common BI terminology. They are not dictionary definitions and the reader is encouraged to find out more from whitepapers and text books etc.

ADWD

An acronym for Agile Data Warehouse Design. It is a methodology enabling star schemas to be delivered in an agile manner. The concept has been innovated and developed by Lawrence Corr and Jim Stagnitto.

Ad Hoc Analysis

The capability for any user including a non-technical business user to be able to ask a business question by manipulating a report or creating a query against the database at will without the need for IT assistance.

Agile

This is a delivery and developer methodology. It is designed to be light (documentation) and fast, hence Agile. There is a common belief that by reducing the delivery time the delivery costs are also reduced. Several sources of information exist for this on the internet.

Analyst

A person that analyses data in-depth in a report. This is often to identify over performing and underperforming business areas. They frequently use drill down, drill up and drill across techniques.

BCNF

An acronym for Boyce/Codd Normal Form. This is third normal form according to Boyce and Codd.

BEAM

This is an acronym for Business Event Analysis and Modelling. It is the method/ framework used in Agile Data Warehouse Design to gather requirements within a business process area and model accordingly.

Benchmark

A quality standard that has been set within an industry o standard for r an organisation. Usually also attempting to promote best practice techniques.

BICC

An acronym for Business Intelligence Competency Centre.

Business Intelligence

This is the activity of taking data from source systems and turning it into valuable information for business users. One of the earliest and best books on the subject is e-Business Intelligence written by Bernard Liautaud the founder of the BI vendor Business Objects.

Business Intelligence Competency Centre

The Business Intelligence Competency Centre is also known as a BICC. A BICC may come in several flavours from a simple reporting service centre to a strategic unit designed to implement various Business Intelligence functions from reporting to data warehousing and process to governance.

CIF

An acronym for Corporate Information Factory.

Corporate Information Factory

Design theory and principles for an Enterprise Data Warehouse as explained by Bill Inmon.

Data Warehousing

In a nutshell this is creating a central database, extracting data from source systems, and then cleaning and loading the data in to the database. The database is designed in such a way that business users can then access the data to answer their business questions

Dimensional Modelling

This is the discipline of modelling database tables using fact and dimension tables. Degrees of denormalization. The most prolific writer and thought leader on the subject is Ralph Kimball

EDW

An acronym for Enterprise Data Warehouse

End to End BI

A Business Intelligence philosophy or methodology that considers all parts of the Business Intelligence System from requirement gathering through to source system data analysis.

End User

A user that consumes reports often a Business User but also known as an Information Consumer. End Users tend to be analysts and/ or decision makers but there are other types of End Users such as Key Users, Power Users and Super Users.

End User Requirements

These are the requirements of the Business Users. Often End User Requirements present themselves as series of business questions that must be answered through Business Intelligence, report specifications, and required functionality.

Enterprise Data Warehouse

This is a single database or set of databases that allow all of an organisation’s data to be stored in a central repository ideally in relationship to each other. The utopia is to realise a single version of the truth. There are opposing philosophies regarding the structure and nature of the enterprise data warehouse.

ETL

An acronym for the Extract, Transform and Load process. This refers to extracting data from the source system, transforming (cleaning and manipulating etc.) the data and then loading the data into the data warehouse.

Extended Start Join Schema

An Extended Start Join Schema is very similar to a Star Join Schema. The difference is that as well as a dimension table joining to a fact table, a dimension table also joins to related dimension tables. This practice is commonly known as snow flaking. It is the technique used in SAP’s Business Information Warehouse.

Information Consumer

As the name suggests an Information Consumer consumes the information from Business Intelligence reports, usually for decision making purposes. The name is often used interchangeably with Business User and End User.

KPI An acronym for Key Performance Indicator. These are key indicators to the health of the business. They should not be confused with measures and metrics which will proliferate through the organisation.

MDX

An acronym for Multi Dimensional eXpressions.

MS SQLServer

The data warehouse platform from Microsoft.

Multi Dimensional eXpressions

Also known as MDX, the Multi Dimensional eXpressions language allows users to control and query OLAP cubes.

ODS

An acronym for Operational Data Store.

OLAP

An acronym for Online Analytical Processing.

On the Fly Query

The ability to create a new query against the database without the need for intervention from IT.

RAG

An acronym for Red Amber Green. These are usually icons placed on a dashboard or balanced scorecard. The colour of them will change according to criteria set by the business. Typically Green is on or above target, Amber is approaching target, and Red is below target (according to a set tolerance).

RUP

An acronym for the Rational Unification Process.

SAP Netweaver Business Information Warehouse

The Enterprise Data Warehouse and Business Intelligence solution from SAP. The Business Intelligence solution has been greatly augmented through the acquisition of and integration with BusinessObjects.

Self-Service BI

The activity of end users being self-sufficient in supplying themselves with Business Intelligence reports and/ or queries without having to rely on IT.

Semantic Layer
This is another name for the SAP BusinessObjects universe. It is so called because of its function to generate Structured Query Language or Multi Dimensional eXpressions.

Single Version of the Truth

One single central data warehouse containing quality assured data that is delivered accurately through Business Intelligence reports. The opposite of this is numerous databases resulting in Business Users getting conflicting answers and results to the same question.

SQL

An acronym for Structured Query Language.

Star Join Schema

This is another name for a dimensional model. A dimensional model is often likened to a star because it will tend to have a central fact table surrounded by several dimension tables. When presented in a logical model or universe it resembles a star shape.

Structured Query Language

Structured Query Language also known as SQL is a language developed specifically to communicate with databases. SQL standardisation is governed by the ANSI standards committee.

Trusted BI

The concept refers to the fact that the data in Business Intelligence reports can be trusted. To this end it is often discussed along with the concept of the Single Version of the Truth and data lineage. Programs such as Metadata Manager enable users to gain visibility in to data lineage to understand what actions have been performed upon the data from source system to reporting.