One of the things that became very obvious listening to Claudia Imhoff (Co-founder and President of Intelligent Solutions, Inc.), Stephen Brobst (CTO, Teradata) and Bill O’Connor (Distinguished Engineer, Business Intelligence CTO, IBM) was the use of reference architectures to help build roadmaps for Business Intelligence environments.
It does not mean that at Day 1 you need everything in place, but you can build and evolve into your end-state ove3r time. In an example Walmart was given (one of the largest commercial users of Business Intelligence) as to how Sam Walton wanted to change the way the business looked at itself and change the way they did business. As part of that foundation, the Walmart team introduced early stage aggregate Business Intelligence (BI). They have I am sure eclipsed this, but not every implementation needs to be a 2 year, $20 Million project before you see any results.
We all find that BI quicklyt becomes a big beast that the users do not often know how to engage. At Project X we often see this in the big Enterprise Data Warehouses we work on where it is clearly easier for the business to do their work on excel spreadmarts than engage the BI team as it appears to expensive and non responsive.
The leverage of a Reference Architecture in association with an IT strategy and BI Guiding Principles gives everyone involved a frame of reference that we all know where we are, where we are going and how we get there. Within that Claudia mentioned two things that sprang out to me.
1. Start with a solid proven architecture. This is often an IT holy-war.
- This should act as an implementation roadmap which can be implemented in steps so that the business can start to get value and get involved sooner in end results. The challenge is in creating a seamless integration of the components and dealing with major components of the infrastructure which may not scale easily.
- Well planned and realizable data integration plan. How do you and do you move the data (ETL/ELT, EII, EAI)
- The idea of the extended Corporate Information Factory (CIFe – this is an Intelligent Solutions, Inc concept) that is a roadmap or blueprint embodying the reference archtiecture from a technical point of view. The tools of the BI workbench.
2. Simplify the Environment – mask the complexity from the users.
- The idea of a BI delivery workbench – linked to and understanding business processes
- The business community should not need to understand technology to get the value and data
- Reduce tool complexty. Do not introduce tools where the functionality is lost and distracts from the use of the data. When asked how most organizations review data, the tool most commonly used is excel. So be careful on what you introduce and how. Match the tool to the business problem and don’t assume one tool will do it all (though some of the BI suites are doing well here)
- Remove the barriers – think simple, IT and Business need to work together
- Remove the clutter – we are all overwhelmed with the amount of information we receive. Leverage the right tool from the workbench to create immediate access to relevant data.