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The Cornerstone Solution® ‘101’

 

The Cornerstone Solution® ‘101’

At BI System Builders (BISB), our expertise is in helping businesses, small, medium and larger enterprises to get the greatest value from their data by identifying the right business intelligence tools and data warehousing solution for that organisation.  This document introduces the way we work with our clients to achieve this, and sets out the BISB methodology and approach – the Cornerstone Solution® – at a high level.

 

What is the question that most organisations want our help to answer?

Market environments are changing faster than ever – especially with BREXIT, and at BISB we understand that organisations need to manage data in a timely way that helps produce results.  Today’s senior business leaders need metrics, insights and performance indicators that really help to inform decision-making.  We find our customers often ask “how do we join up our different types of data so we can really know what’s happening in our organisation right now?”

 

How do we get to the answer?

To provide the best answer to this question, BISB has developed the Cornerstone Solution® – a rigorous process where we work hand in hand with customers to really explore their needs and to help them to an end position where they can actually get this intelligence.  Harnessed in the right way, business intelligence can be the key to unlocking how an organisation is performing. (You might see us refer to this approach in other documents as a vendor and technology agnostic framework.)

We find that using this tried and tested methodology is a really effective way of understanding current reality, and of cutting through to what is (and isn’t) needed now and in the future.  We can then build solid recommendations and deliver robust solutions (systems, tools and data warehousing) based on actual business priorities.

 

The Cornerstone Solution® explained

The Cornerstone Solution® is a way of lifting the lid on an organisation’s existing data management today and its future requirements, and then moving through the logical steps required to get to a working solution.  It’s a fully integrated and thorough end-to-end process and is ideal for ‘green field’ projects.  Its modular approach also makes it directly applicable to existing data warehouses and business intelligence solutions that require updating and improving.  We know that by laying a strong cornerstone in a structure, you can build out from it to get a solid, robust house – and we believe it’s exactly the same with business intelligence.

 

The Cornerstone Solution® has four key elements to the process and within these there are a number of sub-systems or modules.  These comprise:

  1. Strategic Requirements System – At this stage we take a look at the long term business intelligence vision for an organisation; so what do they need and across what timescales. We ask what must the solution look like? What’s the Corporate strategy it needs to support? Is there anything else that the solution will need to fit with?  We identify and understand who are the senior stakeholders (along with their wants and concerns), so that the context and requirements for the work are really understood.

 

  1. Solution Architecture System – Once the first element is complete, it’s possible to move onto looking at the architectural solution that’s needed (the recommendations for what is to be put in place). This is a comprehensive piece of work which includes seven key modules. (If you’re short on time, take a look at sections on Business Architecture, Data Architecture and Service Architecture.)

 

One of the most important things is to get under the skin of the business; what are its objectives, capability and the existing ways of working (the Business Architecture work).  Understanding what this means we can ensure the solution is really focused on moving the organisation forward.

 

We look at what data exists and what information is being managed today and how (Information Architecture).  What are the data flows, how is data captured and who owns it?  Is data managed internally or externally and how should this be approached? Where and show should this data be optimally stored? With this knowledge, it’s possible to look at what applications might be best to provide what’s needed in the future and how these will need to work together (the Application Architecture)It’s then a clear next step to look at what IT Infrastructure (Infrastructure Architecture) is needed to support these applications and how it will be made ‘fail safe’.

 

Through Data Architecture, we get to the heart of what’s really needed in terms of data warehousing, specifically what drives data requirements and how the data itself should be managed.  We use Business Event Analysis Modelling (BEAM) for this and it involves some detailed workshops.  This is a really useful opportunity to get stakeholders to engage in to the future by stating how things work and need to work.

 

All the modules of the Architecture must work effectively together such as the data models and the BI tools set (this work is Integration Architecture).

 

However ultimately, all this work needs to deliver a service to internal customers, and it’s essential that their needs are addressed – so what will they need? What service level agreements does the organisation require to make use of the data? (For example what time is the data wanted and how frequently?)  How will upgrades and back-ups be managed so that minimum disruption is caused?  How the essential platforms and systems are to be supported in the future.  (This work is Service Architecture and it’s fundamental that the final business intelligence solution delivers this.)

 

Some of the information needed here may already exist in an organisation. In other cases we’ll need to carry out interviews and workshops with key stakeholders.

 

  1. Control System – Delivering complex projects on time, to quality and to budget is essential for every organisation. To achieve this we use a rigorous project planning and governance framework.  It’s tailored to fit with the needs of each organisation so that interdependencies and risks are all handled in the right way.  Our customers can be confident about how the project is being managed, what it’s costing and on the progress being made.  An experienced project manager is in place to manage the project delivery.

 

  1. Delivery System – This is where the planning comes together and actual products are created; source data is mapped to target data (raw or legacy data to new style data targets), data models and databases are built, software is installed and the required analytics, reports and dashboards are created. The project is carefully brought to life and released into production through the live environments in a way that works for each organisation.

 

Programmes run in an ongoing review process to ensure that learnings are continually captured, documented and handed over to the customer with appropriate training and orientation.

 

As you might imagine carrying out this work is a sizeable task, but the methodical approach of the Cornerstone Solution® has been shown to work across larger enterprises with complex operations.  Backed up by the ‘know how’ of the BISB team, this really is a logical way to make sure the resulting business intelligence solution delivers what’s needed.

 

Focusing on the bottom line

By using an established methodology where we’ve already developed templates, tools and plans, we can swiftly customise to fit each project.  This saves our customers cost as we’re not ‘re-inventing the wheel’.  Overall, using the Cornerstone Solution® lowers the total cost of ownership for customers.  Once new systems are in place costly legacy systems can be decommissioned.

 

Why choose BISB and the Cornerstone Solution®?  

  • With the Cornerstone Solution®, we provide a complete end-to-end integrated business intelligence solution, meaning we have a holistic approach that ensures all the appropriate areas are covered.
  • Our ways of working are tried and tested and have been used to contribute heavily to successful business intelligence solutions for organisations such as Vision Express, NFU Mutual and the VW Group UK.
  • We’re not tied to one specific technology or application provider – one size does not fit all and we will identify the system that’s right for you.
  • As a niche business intelligence consultancy we’re able to draw on the right skills, expertise and knowledge without our customers needing to pay for large consultancy overheads.
  • We’re interested in building a long term relationship with our customers, where we help to build your capability in managing your own data and business i
  • We expect high standards of ourselves and we believe our customers can see this in the results they experience.

 

To find out more about the Cornerstone Solution®, please contact BI System Builders, on +44 (0)1926 623111 or take a look at our website at www.bisystembuilders.com.

 

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Cornerstone Solution® Q & A

BI System Builders

We are asked many questions relating to the BI System Builders Cornerstone Solutions® and here are the answers to some of them.

 

What is a Cornerstone Solution®?

A Cornerstone Solution® is an End to End best practice framework for Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing. It has been developed by BI System Builders Ltd. It has two key components. The first is comprehensive Solution Architecture and the second is a delivery model that incorporates detailed project planning. It is designed to facilitate a set of Business Intelligence services to be brought together in a BI methodology that results in measurable deliverables, mitigating risk, and maximising project success. It can be thought of as a strategic framework for BI Architecture and Delivery.

 

Is it just for SAP BW systems or can it be used on other platforms?

A Cornerstone Solution® is vendor agnostic. It is not reliant upon any specific technology and is fully configurable.  BI System Builders have expertise with SAP BusinessObjects and its connectivity into SAP BW and performance and historically, have partnered with the vendor SAP. However, SAP BusinessObjects is a technology, a BI Platform, BI tools and Data Integration capabilities. A Cornerstone Solution® is not tied to a specific platform such as Netweaver, a data integration tool, or any software vendor for that matter.

 

Is your method only relevant for SAP BusinessObjects technology, we want to use a different BI software vendor?

A Cornerstone Solution® is not software vendor specific. A Cornerstone Solution® is a generic end to end Business Intelligence framework rather than a SAP BusinessObjects method. It exists to deliver world class Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing solutions. We have referred to SAP BusinessObjects frequently because it’s a powerful BI platform and it’s also historically where a lot of our core technical expertise lies. However, if SAP BusinessObjects was not the technology of choice it would not matter, a Cornerstone Solution® could and has been applied to other technologies\vendors.

 

Is a Cornerstone Solution® applicable to Big Data?

Yes, a Cornerstone Solution® includes thinking about data governance, data quality and data integration as well as architecture, process and analytics. It would be no problem to incorporate capabilities such as learning models into the Cornerstone Solution® framework and massive amounts of data require more governance not less.

 

When Russell Beech was employed by BusinessObjects he co-authored a white paper entitled ‘The Rules of Engagement’, is a Cornerstone Solution® not just a re-hash of that?

No, a Cornerstone Solution® is much more than anything that the ‘Rules of Engagement’ could attain to. The ‘Rules of Engagement’ was written specifically to help Professional Services (BusinessObjects field consultants) implement the BusinessObjects Analytical Applications successfully on large scale deployments. It was based on experience of troubleshooting complex implementations in large organisations but a Cornerstone Solution® is much more. A Cornerstone Solution® is a complete End to End BI strategic framework that includes architecture, process and governance. The philosophy is essentially to architect and to plan so as to avoid problems rather than to let them grow to the point where troubleshooting is necessary.

 

Does a Cornerstone Solution® include ETL?

Yes it’s designed to deliver an End to End BI solution and data integration is a critical component. The Cornerstone Solution® considers everything from business analysis and requirements to source system data. Intrinsic to the solution is the ETL system itself.

 

Why do you say that Business Analytics are the end game of a Cornerstone Solution®?

A Cornerstone Solution® will help your BI project run smoothly. However, it can do far more than that. The full purpose of the Cornerstone Solution® is to use BI to help an organisation grow, increase profitability, gain competitive advantage, and increase efficiency and effectiveness. Business Analytics provide key information to business users helping them to achieve their purpose. A Cornerstone Solution® actually starts with corporate strategy and objectives. It is the cognizance of these that drives the BI Architectural decisions. Raw data has relatively low value unless it can be turned into usable information. The BIDW architecture must fully support this and the information is usually consumed through some form of analytic.

 

Where did the term ‘BI Breakpoints’ come from?

A career as a BusinessObjects consultant often leads to facing challenges. As consultants become more senior and experienced they are invited to troubleshoot the harder problems. We have seen many of these harder problems. The term was coined by us to describe the problems or failures in the BI system. These failures can include everything from physical components such as faulty software installs to activities such as ineffective requirements gathering leading to data models that are not fit for purpose. Understanding BI Breakpoints and pre-empting where they are likely to occur is core to implementing a Cornerstone Solution®.

 

If it’s a delivery methodology why do you say that BI strategy is also a component?

A Cornerstone Solution® has a defined framework. The application of some of the Business Intelligence services within the framework leads directly to tangible deliverables e.g. developing ETL code. The development of code is a tactical manoeuvre within the big picture.  However, the framework itself is part of a still bigger picture, that of BI strategy. Formulating the BI strategy is critical to getting the tactics right for successful delivery. So a Cornerstone Solution® is a strategic BI framework rather than just a delivery method alone.

 

How is the Cornerstone Solution® different to what other BI companies do?

Perhaps other companies do exactly what we do? It’s possible. But it seems evident that many BI projects get into trouble. If a Cornerstone Solution® framework was being applied we believe that there would be less project difficulties.

 

What do you mean by ‘Cornerstone’ and why do you say that it’s a solution?

A cornerstone is the stone that forms the base of a corner of a building that joins two walls. It is the first stone to be laid down and on which everything else is built. The cornerstone in a successful Business Intelligence system/solution is the Business Intelligence framework. In a Cornerstone Solution® everything is built out from this framework.  Solutions are ‘acts’ or ‘ways’ to answer problems. Cornerstone Solutions® are a framework facilitating a set of Business Intelligence services to be applied to help the organisation solve its business problems through best use of its Business Intelligence system.

 

How is a Cornerstone Solution® different to just program or project management?

A Cornerstone Solution® includes comprehensive project management and a good project manager is critical. However a Cornerstone Solution® includes BI strategy, a defined framework, and predefined matrixes, templates, and artefacts. The customer may often provide the program management with our support.

 

If you write about Cornerstone Solutions® other consultancies will just steal your ideas?

It’s often said that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. We put many helpful things on our website at bisystembuilders.com and are fully aware of what we are doing. We like to give things away and will publish more and more. But reading about something and talking about something does not necessarily imply the knowhow of how to actually do it. The name Cornerstone Solution® is a registered trademark.

 

Can the Cornerstone Solution® work for a small company?

Yes, absolutely yes, and cost effectively too. A Cornerstone Solution® is scalable. It includes everything required for a big undertaking but some components are superfluous to small projects. The Cornerstone Solution® is designed in a modular fashion enabling us to strip out unnecessary components but leave the End to End BI view intact. Smaller companies only pay for what they need; they do not pay for unnecessary ‘nice to haves’.

 

Can BI System Builders help us with small parts of our BI project or do you only do full BI implementations using a Cornerstone Solution®?

BI System Builders can help you with small parts of your project.  A Cornerstone Solution® is modular and we select the best practice part that is applicable to what you want us to do for you.

 

I’m new to Business Intelligence and some of the things that you talk about with Cornerstone Solutions® seem complex. Where can I read more about BI

You can read more at bisystembuilders.com and we plan to add lots of other content too. For an informed read on Business Intelligence we also thoroughly recommend the book e-business Intelligence authored by Bernard Liautaud the founder of BusinessObjects. It was published back in 2001 but is still very useful.

 

This is not really about Cornerstone Solutions® but what does the BI System Builders logo represent?

Actually it does relate to Cornerstone Solutions®. The logo is in the shape of the end of a large key. A key in itself is a solution to unlock something. You’ll notice that there is also a flow through the key. This is symbolic of the flow of data into information through your business… through your BI system. BI System Builders have the key that unlocks the flow. The key is a Cornerstone Solution®.

 

Why do you say that a BI project doesn’t need to be like a walk through a jungle when you talk about a Cornerstone Solution®?

Walk through the jungle with no map and no guide – not a good idea, it’s a big place and easy to get lost and end up in trouble. You know you could get caught out by things that you failed to see or expect, you could become disorientated, lose energy, and lose spirit. So you could consider one of the following:

  1. a) Employ a guide but take no map – if you have a good guide then you don’t need a map. However, you are trusting the guide to be who he claimed to be, but what if he’s not authentic? On the journey how will you know if you’re getting lost? When you’re really lost and come to the conclusion that you’re following a charlatan!
  2. b) Take a map but no guide – it’s possible, but anyone embarking on that journey should also take a compass and be sure that they can use them both effectively together, as well as knowing the jungle dangers and having wilderness experience.
  3. c) Take a map and a recommended guide – you get the best of both worlds. The guide can keep you safe and at the same time show you exactly where you are on the map so that you can check progress.

If BI System Builders is like a recommended guide, then a Cornerstone Solution® is like a map. You can know where you have come from, where you are, where you are going and where you will end up, safely!

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Big Data Technology Vendors

Here’s a list of links to the Big Data vendor websites. The Cornerstone Solution® methods are vendor agnostic. Several of the vendors below offer free analytical and data integration (ETL) software. You can combine the software with the Cornerstone Solution® to get powerful and cost effective data solutions.

Talend
Pentaho
Connexica
Couchbase
Karmasphere
Hadapt
Neo Technology
Splunk
MapR
Hortonworks
Cloudera
Datameer
Platfora
Sisense
DataStax
Tableau
Tibco
LucidWorks
Acunu
MongoDB
Precog
YarcData
Kapow Software
Zettaset
Space-time Insight
ClearStory Data
Spark
HBase
Sqoop
Pig