The BI World is small. Therefore, market news and opinions are dominated by software vendors and industry analysts. No surprise! There are, of course, many tech-savvy people who write about their software of choice and best practices associated with that technology. Technical communities around Microsoft SQL Server and related BI components, for example, are abound. The same is true for open source communities where information sharing is part of their members’ DNA.
However, it is very hard to find truly objective advice and opinions about the marketplace and available tools. On the one hand, this is caused by a wide selection of BI technologies still available today, even after the market consolidation of 2007-2008. You will be hard pressed to find so-called BI specialists who have a good grasp on a broad cross-section of the market segment. On the other hand, there are obvious commercial interests driving news and commentary from market analysts, at the same time providing the manpower to assess the capabilities of the majority of vendors.
How does one follow the trends in the Business Intelligence space? I guess by now everybody uses Google Alerts, RSS Feeds or other commercial intelligence tools to stay abreast on product and market developments. Joining groups on Linkedin or Yahoo are other ways of staying in touch with the BI community. When it comes to analyst blogs, I really enjoy reading the BIScorecard by Cindy Howson. While she apparently has deeper expertise in some technologies, her blog posts are written in an informative and balanced manner. Haven’t read any of her research yet, but that might change :-)
What is your approach to following business intelligence and what blogs do you recommend?
Yes, it’s the ubiquitous “examination of Excel” article that every BI blog posts at some point. But I think it’s important to discuss the limitations of Excel, especially for readers who are just beginning to realize that they cannot continue with manual data collection and reporting forever.
Question: What is the most popular database and what’s the most popular BI tool?
Answer: Excel and Excel
This isn’t surprising. Everybody knows how to use Excel and it’s installed on just about every Windows machine out there. Excel is intuitive and allows users to input data and output it into simple reports and charts – stuff we all need to do our jobs. You can even do some pretty complex stuff with it if you’re willing to learn how to write macros. But just because you can do something, should you? Obvious answer: No.
For one thing, Excel is not multi-user software. It’s only meant to be used by you on your machine. Translation: It’s not a database like SQL Server or Oracle. You can store a lot of data in it, but as soon as you have to share this data with other stakeholders in your organization, things start to unravel. You realize that not everybody is entitled to see the data you’ve put into the spreadsheet (creating authorization/ authentication issues) so you’ll have to extract just their part. Then you have to get it to them via email or FTP, and any interaction they have with the data will need to make its way back to your original version for reconciliation (creating update management and versioning issues).
One thing that’s not often discussed (but is often wondered about) is what you can expect from your Business Intelligence vendor once you’ve made your choice. BI providers and consulting companies have a wide range of approaches when it comes to supporting their customers as they implement BI applications. Today, we’re giving you a glimpse into one of these approaches (the one we know best) – ours!
Since 1993, arcplan consultants have implemented more than 1,000 separate BI implementations around the world, and we’ve developed a procedure to assess customer requirements and ensure that we meet their needs.
arcplan’s 5-Step Implementation Process is based on extensive communication and interaction with the customer to fully comprehend what they need from their BI system and to enable a solution that is customized to their business. This 5-Step process includes the following phases:
1. Discovery – During this phase, arcplan consultants and the customer define the technical and functional specifications of the solution. What database(s) does the company employ? What reports do they require? Which departments will be involved? And who will use the applications? arcplan experts gather the information and develop a workflow plan and a project schedule. The more information derived, the more efficient the project – saving time and money for the customer, and further ensuring project success.
2. Prototype – During this period, the focus is on the evaluation of the customer’s database environment and system architecture. arcplan consultants set up the database(s) to ensure optimal access so they can create best practice applications that integrate data from one or more databases – relational and multidimensional – even in a single report. A Proof-of-Concept (PoC) offers a first glance of the solution.
We look forward to posting more great content in the new year. Some articles to look out for include:
- What to Expect From Your BI Vendor: A Look Into arcplan’s Implementation Process
- Social Media Monitoring for Enterprises
- An Evaluation of Excel as a BI Tool
- Improving Your SAP Reporting
- Top Questions Heard from Small- to Medium-Sized Businesses on Implementing BI
- Mobile BI: What You Need, What You Want
- Using BI to Understand Your Customers
Have a suggestion for us? Leave us a comment!
Business Intelligence (BI) enables organizations to efficiently monitor and manage their business activities with the help of analytic applications that leverage an enterprise’s data sources. Selecting the right BI software is only one component of a successful BI implementation. The true challenge lies in bringing the different requirements and approaches of the IT team and the business units together to avoid conflicts of interest, time gaps, and – at the end of the day – project failure. So, how do you begin to approach this enormous task in a practical way?
For years, Gartner has been promoting the idea of what they call a ‘Business Intelligence Competency Center’ (BICC) – an internal, dedicated team that develops and bundles resources to successfully deploy business intelligence.
In more detail, a BICC is described as a cross-functional organizational team that has defined tasks, roles, responsibilities, and processes for supporting and promoting the effective use of BI across an organization. According to Gartner, the BICC should role out BI technologies, define the company standards and project priorities, and ensure that the BI that’s deployed is aligned with the business needs.
BICCs are still not in place at many organizations, and we’e seen a wide range of variances in the composition of BICCs. Nevertheless, the concept has spurred the creation of business units that concentrate on ensuring the usage of relevant information for decision-making provided by BI software and on increasing the return on investment (ROI) of BI.