To build your BI System you will need to install and configure a Business Intelligence platform. The Business Intelligence platform is the heart of your BI System and for SAP BusinessObjects this comes in two main versions. These are SAP BusinessObjects Edge BI and it’s bigger brother SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise. SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise has full BI Platform Scalability. After installing and configuring your BI platform you will be able to leverage its many capabilities. The capabilities will vary depending upon which license you buy.
There are some very useful BI capabilities available such as SAP BusinessObjects Encyclopaedia which you can use as a BI knowledge management tool and BI Content Search which will allow you to make powerful searches through your BI library of reports, or use Explorer (Polestar) which will allow you to make google like searches on your BI reports and data. You can use the Threaded Discussions capability to collaborate your Business Intelligence with your colleagues.
There is a full administration console known as the Central Management Console which will allow you to do many important things such as configurations and setting up your security model. Through the Central Management Console you will also be able to know what is happening on your BI System by activating SAP BusinessObjects Auditing. Many organisations set up at least two environments such as a development and production environment. You may also opt for testing, training, and pre-production environments. To promote your BI content through the environments you can take advantage of the BI platform’s Lifecycle Manager.
Databases are queried with technical languages such as SQL and MDX code. However, the SAP BusinessObjects BI platform includes two tools Universe Designer and Universe Builder that will enable you to build your own universes. These universes generate the query code behind the scenes so that business users don’t have to write it themselves or make requests to IT. In fact business users do not even need to know that the code exists.
The BI platform is also capable of supporting dashboards and by purchasing the Xcelsius Dashboards product you can create many interactive dashboards for your KPIs. You can also incorporate your Xcelsius Dashboards with other components such as Widgets and Web Intelligence Reports into a single dashboard with Dashboard Builder.
Cornerstone Solutions® use an End to End BI approach and here’s why. When thinking about Business Intelligence architecture we need to consider the entirety of the component parts as a whole and not simply individually. In other words consideration is made of the full BI system as a whole and the individual components are not treated in exclusivity of each other. This is because the components will need to act interdependently regardless of whether they have been procured from a single or multiple software vendors.
In this respect the BI system is similar to the human body i.e. everything is so closely related that a felt symptom in one area (a pain in the arm) may be caused by an unseen symptom in another part of the body (a problem with an internal organ). To relieve the pain felt in the arm we treat the unseen causal effect in the internal organ. The same concept of unseen relationship and causal effect applies to the Business Intelligence system. Data flows from end to end through the Business Intelligence system in a similar way to blood circulating in the body and must not be blocked, lost or corrupted at any stage. The BI Architect must ensure this.
Interdependency of the BI system
The early phases of a BI implementation can be usefully considered as akin to those of the Rational Unification Process (RUP) stages of Strategy, Inception, Elaboration, and Construction. A well defined BI strategy is very important. However, perhaps paradoxically the Construction phase is often delivered using an Agile delivery method.
Construction frequently commences with source system analysis, end user requirement gathering and the installation and configuration of the software components. If using SAP Business Information Warehouse, cubes and queries will be developed, or if a relational platform is used a dimensional modelling exercise is undertaken and then the physical tables are developed. The ETL system is designed and developed and reports and dashboards are built.
The relationship between these things is one of interdependency. It’s like a linked interdependent chain. This is why in the implementation methodology of BI System Builders we practice our philosophy of End to End BI. End to End BI takes the view that as each component in the BI system has interaction with and therefore dependency on its related components, BI Breakpoints can occur. BI System Builders take full consideration of the interdependencies in the landscape to ensure prevention rather than cure in their End to End BI project delivery method.
In essence Business Intelligence is about taking raw data and turning it into information and then using that information to do intelligent business. The process of both transforming the data and consuming it as intelligence occurs in the BI system. The effectiveness of the BI system is dependent upon the quality of the overall BI architecture. Planning the BI system architecture occurs very early on and there is an art to getting it right. BI System Builders recognise that it takes wide and in-depth knowledge and experience to effectively make consideration of the full BI system in the early design stage of the Business Intelligence architecture. At this very early stage thinking may be embryonic and the components do not yet physically co-exist in the system. The skill set to visualise at this level can be sparse on the ground but the failure to do so can lead to consequent sub-optimal BI systems being developed. At their worse these BI systems run the risk of becoming expensive white elephants. They have taken a lot of effort and budget to implement but in the final analysis the end user community cannot access the critical information that it requires.
So what are the key areas at the macro level that constitute the Business Intelligence architecture and hold interdependencies?