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BI from the trenches… Too many options!

This blog is dedicated to disseminating Business Intelligence tips, tricks, best practices and general insights.  Contributions to this blog come from many of the company’s partners, including Perficient’s National Microsoft Business Intelligence practice, and cover a full range of disciplines including Strategic Planning, BI Program Management and Governance, as well as Tactical Implementation.

The intended audience will vary over time but will primarily target IT and business leaders who need to make the difficult decisions that influence the direction of their enterprise BI program.

To set the context for what types of blog posts will be published, let’s break down the umbrella term that ‘Business Intelligence’ has become.  Two primary focus areas exist within any BI program: Strategic initiatives and Tactical implementations.  Strategic initiatives encompass the long-term vision of the enterprise; they set boundaries for tactical implementations as well as guidelines around how they will be governed long term.  Tactical implementations build the enterprise BI platform a piece at a time and can be grouped into the three core disciplines of: Data Architecture, Analytics and Delivery.

Although data architecture and analytics can be thought of as the ‘heavy lifting’ disciplines where all of the disparate sources are integrated and where analytic business rules are applied, insufficient or incorrect delivery can not only negate a great DW, but can undermine the confidence of the business and affect a timely adoption.  This is why my first post will be focused on the BI delivery options within SharePoint 2010.

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I speak to a number of clients both directly and through conferences at which I present and have come to realize that “paralysis from analysis” affects many of them when trying to decide on which delivery components to leverage out of the SharePoint BI stack.  I call it the “SharePoint BI stack” because that is what it has truly become; a stack of delivery tools/options that have grown over time and are now integrated into one delivery platform.

The stack has options for self-service, free-form explorations as well as ‘controlled ad-hoc analysis’.  Some of these delivery options are better suited for different groups of users, with not only different analytical needs, but capabilities as well.  It’s no wonder that business and IT managers struggle with these decisions.  Fortunately the decision making process can be simplified (or at least guided) with the use of a simple framework.  I created the following framework for just such a purpose.

As you can see, the Visualization Framework breaks the organization into groups of users that have varying needs/capabilities.  As a general guideline we then lay the individual technologies from the SharePoint BI stack across the organization where they are most likely to be used correctly without overwhelming that group with functionality they are not capable of using.

Note that this framework does not imply that the predictive analytics group can use SSRS to perform complex problem modeling.  It simply shows that since this group is capable of using some type of data mining application, then they are also capable of using SSRS.  Conversely, if the tactical messaging group is only capable of receiving subscription based reports via an email link, then they are not good candidates for some of the more functionally advanced tools.

Our journey doesn’t end here as there are plenty of other decisions to make when it comes to visualization/delivery, not to mention across the entire BI stack.  We’ll explore these options as well as variations of this framework in following posts.  Until then, feel free to ask questions or suggest topics of interest.

Thoughts on “BI from the trenches… Too many options!”

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Duane Schafer

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