What Does BI Mean To You?

Totally an unstructured rant – be very warned ! ๐Ÿ™‚

Over the last few weeks , a lot of discussions happened on BI between me and some friends . Essentially – why is it that BI projects seem to stay the same way it was always done even while tools became a lot better ?

To begin with – tools have become better , but not to the level where a user can use it in self service fashion in most cases . So, education is probably the number one issue in the context of BI. Education comes in many flavors – and the easiest one in my mind for a user is the actual tool training . So lets move past that.

There are a few things that have not changed from a BI project POV in several years

1. Users do not understand the data available to them

This needs a lot of bottom up and top down effort to fix . I think top down governance will hit a wall sooner than most of us estimate . Data needs to be explained for each user with real life examples, but that approach is hardly scalable.

BI project plans need to budget time and resources to fix this – but having seen no change in many years , I guess the inertia is just too much

2. Users do not understand what reports are telling them , and most of them have limitations in explaining requirements to IT or consultants

I have done elementary statistics type classes to explain data to users in some past projects . I have a feeling this needs a deeper look to see if such an approach needs to be standard in BI project life cycle.

Users have unrealistic expectations of BI in many cases. This movie is now playing again with predictive Analytics . I see a lot of users and consultants having limited idea of what a predictive model is telling them and what it’s limitations are . No wonder several of them crash and burn .

3. IT and consultants takes a one size fits all approach for BI , and spends little effort in acknowledging BI is personal , not generic

This won’t change till BI is no longer treated as a side kick for ERP . People personalize ERP quite a bit ( at least compared to BI) , and that rigor needs to get into more BI projects .

There are a dozen more things , but I feel better already after typing 3 to get it off my chest

Sorry – had to rant . Will try to not do this too often .


Published by Vijay Vijayasankar

Son/Husband/Dad/Dog Lover/Engineer. Follow me on twitter @vijayasankarv. These blogs are all my personal views - and not in way related to my employer or past employers

3 thoughts on “What Does BI Mean To You?

  1. Vijay – I agree with all your points above. I see this every day out there. If all users had the attributes: [1] deep data knowledge [2] deep process knowledge [3] technical aptitude to want to dig for information [4] deep knowledge of underlying data models and [5] willingness to change, it would be easier. This being wishful thinking, next best is trying to improve on the items you listed – for which I think a good start will be [1] pilot deploy first, then only mass deploy [2] improved requirements processes [3] improved socializing of collected requirements [4] sign-off and adoption of the business of said requirements [5] deeper testing of solutions by the business [6] more focus by project teams on providing self-service as well, not only pre-defined solutions. Pre-defined only might give you 50% adoption, with solid self-service and enhanced user skills, might get to 80% – which is doable. 100% is not, unless the company CEO during start-up defined the following path:
    Company creed & mission statement <– company goals and objectives in support of the creed and mission <– metrics that support the goals <– processes that generates data that support the definitions of the metrics <– roles and responsibilities that supports the processes. Then finally, ONLY metrics in support of the creed and mission, as well as regulatory gets reported on. Nothing else. And good metrics do not change annually, need to measure across N fiscal years. Thoughts? Johannes


  2. My #1 complaint about almost all BI is that it is rarely actionable. If I’m looking at a budget variance, a late production order, an employee with too much absenteeism, or a customer who is consistently a late payer, I oughta be able to do something about it then and there.

    My #2 complaint is the lack of flexibility of most BI user interfaces, particularly in their inability to drill into external data sources/systems of record (versus a mega data warehouse) and the inability to get the UX “just the way I want it”, particularly in the context of actionability.

    My #3 complaint is weak collaborative capabilities – the ability to bind discussions and wiki content to a report/UX/analytic can help ameliorate your one concern about users not understanding the context of what they’re looking at. It also provides the ability to discuss/refine the context of the data, as well as to allow subject matter experts to share their differing views on the data

    My # 4 complaint is companies that make statements like “Decision makers shouldn’t rely on experience and intuition to make decisions” ๐Ÿ˜‰ https://twitter.com/SAPNorthAmerica/status/337712056356720640 ๐Ÿ˜‰


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