Saturday, March 15, 2008

Operational Reporting Meets Business Intelligence

One of the interesting debates we have had over the past couple years is the difference between true Business Intelligence and Operational Reporting. This discussion started around who within the IT organization was accountable for developing "reporting" for applications. We have come from a place where Business Intelligence and reporting were considered synonymous, and all reporting requirements were considered the domain of the organization's Business Intelligence team. The argument was that reports that are more operationally based needed to fit into the overall information architecture, along with more analytical style of reporting. The issue became that no single team was able to have the subject area knowledge of every operational system within the organization.

Ok, phase II, all operational reporting requirements would be handled by the development teams most familiar with the application. This makes a lot of sense since a report can be considered simply an output of the application (definition of an app: inputs into a process, a process that happens, and then outputs come out). The major issue here is that this can lead to silos of reporting being developed that are not integrated into the enterprise information framework. As an end user, do you really want to have to go to multiple applications / portals to get all the reports you need?? This doesn't make any sense, as a consumer I want the "one stop" shopping approach.

The future... I really see that we have an opportunity to provide one integrated portal to knowledge workers that contains all the information they need to do what knowledge workers do best. It shouldn't matter what application / database the data is contained in, it should all fit into one portal, one integrated set of data assets. All the major BI platforms are now able to support basic reporting, slice & dice, predictive models and dashboards. We truly can make a one size fits all platform, even if we end up with a couple technologies being stiched together. As long as they can integrate (meta data, meta data, meta data) we can still call it a single platform.

Ok so the technology is there, but how do we make this all work? That is the million dollar question, by definition we would need to account for the following:
  • Multiple development groups (IT & Business) contributing to this single platform
  • Decisions on how to present data for reporting (source system, operational data stores, data warehouses) - Architecture decisions to ensure appropriate reporting architecture are key
  • Providing a set of best practices and standards across all teams
  • Potential conflicts between groups on business definitions and rules

The concept of the Business Intelligence Competency Centre (BICC) can be the glue that holds this distributed approach together. The BICC can set the standards, build the processes and provide that central view of the overall information architecture that is so key to leverage a single integrated environment.

Here is a link describing the BICC concept, there is a ton of information out there, most of the major BI vendors provide information as well.

No one said it would be easy...8)


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