Dancing In The BI Landscape: What BI Functionality To Use When

Iver van de Zand

man breakdancingSometimes it might seem like we’re “dancing around” when deciding what BI functionality to offer users. Dancing around in the sense that our BI users tend to always ask for as much BI functionality as possible, based on their principal of “at least I’ll have it.” The easy answer might be to offer them everything available, but you and I know this leads to unacceptable TCO numbers, and we won’t even talk about the maintenance levels.

Before we even start thinking about the BI functionality we want to provide, we need to categorize our types of users. Our beloved Internet has tons of blogs on this topic, but the following are the basic categories of BI users:

1. IT specialists maintaining the BI environment

Specialists maintaining the technical BI environment, ensuring governance, security, and authorizations, backups, population routines, and up-time

2. Developers, architects, and members of the BI Competency Centers (BICC)

BI specialists deploying the BI environment. Content creators for semantic layers, managed dashboards and reports, data sets, and metadata

3. Data analysts and/or scientists

Users of the BI information, deeply exploring and analyzing the BI data and information. Also embed (un-)structured data from outside the BI environment

4. BI consumers

Employees consuming the offered BI structures like data sets, storybooks, reports, cubes, and dashboards

Deciding on what kind of specific BI functionality to provide to your users is based on considerations that vary at an abstraction level. On a higher level, core considerations (like indicated below) will impact your choice. These considerations have to be taken into account first before deciding what functionality you offer to users. These core considerations should be part of your company’s business intelligence roadmap. This roadmap typically covers a maximum of three to five years ahead, and describes how business drivers delegate BI content and functionality. The roadmap is highly essential and we will have a look at it later in a separate blog.

Core considerations in BI functionality

  • Cloud: Should the functionality be available in the cloud?
  • Mobile readiness: Should the functionality be mobile available?
  • Adoption readiness: Are you prepared to educate your users?
  • Customizable: Does the functionality need to be customizable?
  • Content creation: What level of self-service is needed?

The next abstraction level should be to define specific, logical BI functionality that your users require, and match these requirements against the BI components you have available. The definition of the logical functionality can be drafted upfront by your BICC, but it needs to be thoroughly verified with users based on use cases. Short workshops with BI users and going through day-to-day practices will quickly generate these functionalities. Examples are the ability to work with hierarchies, or to create custom reporting groupings.

Categorization in business intelligence functionality

Your business intelligence roadmap is the ultimate place where you should store and secure the logical functionalities required. This should be done per the BI components you have available for your users. Components include managed reporting tools, OLAP tools, self-service tools, and managed dashboard tools. When I talk to customers I always use the templates below. This example is based on the components of the SAP BusinessObjects BI suite and lists just a few of the logical functionalities your users will ask for. Oh, and by the way, I used SAP Lumira to visualize it all ….

 

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In my next blog I will detail this categorization and further comment on the different types of BI users.

Follow me on Twitter –  @ivervandezand.


Iver van de Zand

About Iver van de Zand

Iver is the Director of  the SAP Global Analytics Hub for business intelligence and predictive analytics focusing on enablement for pre-sales, collaboration, content generation, and best practices. He works closely with global leadership and stakeholders across SAP incorporating the latest insights, tools, and best practices in order to optimize the use of SAP resources, improve cross organisational collaboration, and drive efficiencies in business execution. Iver is also a member of the Lumira Advisory Council (LAC) and the International Business Communication Standards (IBCS) community that focuses on data visualization standards and Hichert principles.