Rapid BI – Part 4

Simplify is one of the keys strategies to creating BI rapidly.  I have noticed we all have a great propensity to make the projects more complex rather than simple.   Simplicity is also a function of understanding.  

We all do this because it is easier to create a complex solution than a simple one.  Sounds contradictory but I believe it is true.  Remember the saying "Keep it simple, stupid."  I recall many years ago I learned that in science for a idea to be elevated to a theory it must be expressed simply.  If it is a very complex formula then it does not qualify.  For example Newton's law that force equals mass time acceleration or Einstein's F=mc2.  Neither of these actually match the data exactly but are simple and thus get elevated to common use.

In BI, we work so hard to include all the data.  If we were able to simplify our model of the things we are investigating rather than trying to include every possible factor we would be able to provide the results faster.  However the effort to simplify is difficult and requires an open mind.  Some people argue that it is simpler to load all the data than to discern which data not to load.

However simplicity is often in the eye of the beholder.  The background and experience of the beholder is really important.  For Graham, a third normal form data model is simple and elegant.  Many business users find the model difficult to understand even though they understand the concept.

Often we strive for perfection.  Do you feel sometimes on these projects you are spirally down into a bottomless pit?  I think it is time to step back and ask how can we simplify this and produced something more quickly.  I think a simple model is much easier for everybody to comprehend.   The concept of having the data only stored once in third normal form is simple but does require some training to implement.   

I suggest that you work on creating a mental model of what you are working on.  If you cannot create a simple model, you will not be able to present the results in any practical way and will be chasing your tail.  Graham has a great facility to create visual models which help to simplify my mental model.  The white board is a great facilitator for creating simple mental models.  The challenge is to draw a box and treat it as black until the details are worked out.  This approach will help keep the model simple and easier to visualize.

However the biggest enemy of simplification is striving for perfection.  Often the reaction to a simple model will be "it's not that simple!"  Likely true but from a practical point of view, the simple model will be create real business value.   In producing Rapid BI, we are not striving for perfection, we want results, real business value, rapidly.  You need to have faith in yourself that you can work out the details when the need arises. 

I am curious about how others address the issue of the desire for perfection when it conflicts with rapid results.

Leave a Reply

captcha *