Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Will the BI portal last?

imageAlmost all vendors have been moving to a consolidated web portal to expose BI assets to end users. I have to question the validity of making our users come to a portal when they clearly need to integrate intelligence into other aspects of their computer use. Is there a need to change the paradigm of "come and get" it BI?

I think to some extent there is a need to change how we think about building BI applications. We tend to extract out just the information requirements from our end users and neglect to capture their overall business process in the picture. If we look at this bigger picture, we will see opportunities to potentially automate decisions and to make the Business Intelligence technology more transparent in the process.

Today's BI platforms have capabilities to integrate directly within office applications, and through a service oriented architecture can expose any type of BI asset to any other application or service. There are even capabilities to expose reports as RSS feeds, that can even deliver content such as a fully rendered reports directly to the users reader software of choice. Let's use these capabilities to delivery more effective solutions and make the end user experience simpler.

We are hearing the catch phrase "pervasive BI" in the industry more and more. As people get busier and busier in their working lives, we need to provide them with the right amount of data to make the right decision at the right time. This is the promise of pervasive BI, take the strategy out of the board room and bring it to the front lines.

Yes, we will likely always have some type of BI portal to provide access to reports and other content. Let's not lose sight of other ways for our end users to interact with corporate information. By taking their overall process into account, we can integrate the required information in the most effective way for the organization.

The Next Step in a BI Vision

imageIn my post on Creating a Positive Future, I discussed the importance of understanding Business Intelligence requirements from the perspective of your end users.  Once you understand the user experience you need to provide, you are able to ensure that your delivery on this vision meets expectations.

Ok, so now you know what your users are looking for.  Great!  Let's jump in and start building the solution!

Not so fast...  We need to prepare the organization for this massive shift towards an intelligent, fact-based decision making organization.

In a number of my earlier posts I have discussed the Business Intelligence Competency Centre (BICC) as a key component to ensure Business Intelligence projects and resources are aligned to business priorities.  As we spread our wings with Business Intelligence tools it is absolutely critical that we have the underlying processes in place to support both the developers and users of the technology.  Without the appropriate organizational and process support we will not be successful realizing the benefits of Business Intelligence.

There are a number of books available that provide a good overview of a BICC.  One that I have found useful is the "Business Intelligence Competency Center: A Team Approach to Maximizing Competitive Advantage" written by a group of SAS staffers.  It is written vendor neutral, with just a little marketing pitch...8)  I would also encourage you to reach out to your Business Intelligence platform vendors and solution partners, as they will likely have experience launching a competency centre and may have their own methodologies you can borrow from.  It can be invaluable to have a neutral 3rd party help you with this process, so that you can leverage their experience.  That is if you can afford it!

Stay tuned for more thoughts about the BICC over the next couple of months.

This is a personal weblog, and does not represent the thoughts, intentions, plans or strategies of my employer.