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Successful Business Intelligence – How to DIY Your Own Centre of Excellence

Business Intelligence strategy is key to success.

A Centre of Excellence is an effective way to ensure your Business Intelligence Programs and Projects are successful. In this video Russell Beech gives you advice and tips on how to DIY your own Centre of Excellence. Each organisation is different but the ideas presented will be valuable to you in creating your own CoE.

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Business Intelligence Competency Centres

Business Intelligence strategy is key to success.

Want to implement a BICC? Here’s an introduction.

Your Business Intelligence investment takes time, money and effort to realise and so should be properly looked after. Your Business Intelligence implementation should be designed to meet the strategic objectives of your BI strategy and these objectives should fulfil your vision. Your strategy will be realised through your tactics and BI operational model. A key component that will help you fulfil your vision is the Business Intelligence Competency Centre (BICC).

Business Intelligence strategy is key to success.Your BICC will act as your BI Centre of Excellence; it will help to ensure benchmark standards and formalised and documented BI process and the governance around it. As the BICC matures it becomes the stable BI mechanism for BI services and development and through which you can pilot and roll out new BI tools to the user community. It will also help you avoid the BI pitfalls such as BI silos.

To establish your BICC you will need to make decisions in several key areas. Here are some examples:

  • Who will be the overall sponsor?
  • What services will your BICC offer?
  • What are your BI processes? For example, what is the process that a key user should follow in order to realise self-service BI?
  • What governance surrounds your BICC process? For example, what should and should not key users do whilst practising Self-service BI?
  • What is the development process within the BICC?
  • How will your off-shore development model work?
  • How will your BICC organisational structure work and who and how will you recruit?
  • What is your communication strategy around the BICC?
  • How will your funding model look?
  • How will your training model look?

Your BICC should be scalable and will grow with you as your organisation grows. Your BICC should also be specifically designed to meet the needs of your organisation, and to this end it can be tailor made. That said there are often common themes and activities that occur within the BICC.

Here are some example activities that your BICC might manage and conduct:

  • New BI projects
  • Change requests
  • Encyclopaedia maintenance
  • Standard report library management
  • Universe maintenance
  • Business analysis
  • Dimensional modelling
  • ETL strategy and development
  • Report writing
  • Data extracts
  • Data mining and predictive algorithms
  • Lifecycle management

As the organisation grows, the BI system develops and more and more users want a piece of the action. This can place a great burden on the IT department. Therefore, one of your key strategic BI objectives should be to help your user community realise Self-service BI. This means that they will be competent to log on to the BI system and help themselves to pertinent data for their analysis and then share the information with other users. The benefits of realising self-service BI are numerous but without process and governance it can become chaotic. The BICC should be the genesis of BI process.

With a clear BI process and communication everyone should understand what is going on. When the process is well managed, order will be maintained and lead to success. The process should be monitored so that if it starts to deviate it can be corrected (refer to Six Sigma process management for more information). If the process continues to deviate unchecked it will become a process out of control. This can lead to inefficiency, unnecessary stress and fire fighting.

If you’re a small to medium sized company establish your BICC footprint as early as possible and plan for it to grow with you. If you’re a medium sized to large company you may already have many BI users in your community. Mistakes in BI process and governance can be painful because BI has high visibility and happens directly in front of and is felt by end users. If you’re experiencing end user grumblings, IT backlogs or high and increasing Total Cost of Ownership revisit your BICC management strategy.

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SAP BusinessObjects Query & Analysis

The concept behind Query & Analysis is really about empowering the Business User and Analyst to interact with data on the fly in a Self-service BI environment. There a few tools available from SAP BusinessObjects that fulfil this criteria. First of all, here’s a little background, so as to avoid any confusion around what the products are.

Historically, the original Query & Analysis and Reporting tool was simply called ‘BusinessObjects’. Back then if you were to ask someone what reporting tool they were working with they would just say ‘BusinessObjects’. That was the only tool, until sometime later the first version of Web Intelligence was released. After BusinessObjects acquired Crystal Decisions the ‘BusinessObjects’ reporting tool was renamed Desktop Intelligence, sometimes also known as Deski. Running alongside Desktop Intelligence the thin client tool Web Intelligence was being developed.

Over the years Web Intelligence has grown to become SAP BusinessObjects’ flagship tool that allowing non-technical users to create new queries, slice and dice, and then drill down through their data all via a web browser. The advancement in Web Intelligence means that Desktop Intelligence is now coming to its end of life.

A second tool available is Voyager. Voyager is an Online Analytical Processing Tool (OLAP). In the BI 4.0 release Voyager is superseded by SAP BusinessObjects Analysis edition for OLAP and SAP BusinessObjects Analysis edition for Microsoft Office. It should be used when analysis is required against large data sets.

We also find it useful to think of a third tool under the Query & Analysis category. That is the search tool named Explorer. The original name for Explorer was Polestar.