Just last week actually as we were researching this we found a new term Agile Business Intelligence Solution Centers. They are more than just competency centers, which cross over between the technical side and the end users side. The best practices for enterprise software development in terms of support don’t work for business intelligence.
The unique BI requirements include less reliance on the traditional software development cycle and project planning and more emphasis on reacting to the constant change of business requirements. So this is different than other enterprise systems or a resource scheduling system. This is something that is more dynamic and requires more end user input to define and work correctly.
Earlier generation BI support organizations are less effective because they often put IT in charge and remain IT centric. That means they continue to be mostly project based and focus too much on functional reporting but ignore the data. And as we look at the market, our view is that you need to enable more collaboration with end users and IT. They need to be working much more together than in the past.
Part of the reason why I think has happened is because business intelligence has largely focused on management as the buyers. They are the key users, and they tend to get operational reports and scorecards and dashboards they need to see information quickly so they can make a decision. But the staff down under them will need to slice and dice the data and look at trends to make decisions.
They don’t just need the summary the high level. They actually need the detail and reports, scorecards, and dashboards would be inadequate since they are generally summaries, and you can’t get down to the specific transactions. For example, the marketing manager needs to create mailing list segments from a list of 6,000 customers, and they need to see if a certain segment should get a different mailing.
To give them the self-service analytics solution is time consuming, difficult to implement and consumes a lot of core IT resorts. And, hence the key staff are largely unsupported, and then when they go to IT or central reporting for custom reports what often happens is they ask a question which is someone hard to interpret. And so some information comes back, but it take so while, and at best it might be the right data but it might take another question which goes back to the loop and then the report becomes hard to work with.
So basically what I am saying is this Agile software development movement is basically responding to “a cycle of pain” that exists. And it’s also the cycle of pain felt by the operational, the tactical staff who are dealing with systems that had been more designed for senior management. In fact, this is something we’ve been using quite a bit because it captures what a lot of our customers feel. This custom report request that the end users come with to answer questions, they take a while to get back, and they’re hard to interpret. They can be interpreted in different ways so you might go back for a segment for a mailing.
You need 30,000 names or something, and it comes back with 10,000 it’s not enough so it got to cycle back and maybe change the parameters on prior purchase history or something to get the numbers up and that continues back in forth. And you know this scenario where end users will download data into excel and try to manipulate it there which is what they’re comfortable with.
Excel is the major end user business intelligence tool today, but it’s limited to working with just some of the data. It can’t bring in all the tables, and it’s hard to slice and dice for more than a couple of fields. It’s hard to show the analytical results. And then it ends up being a shadow data system because it was hard to get the people in the first place.