Dancing in the BI landscape

We sometimes might feel dancing around in the BI space when deciding what users to offer what functionality. Dancing around in a sense that our BI users tends to ask as much BI functionality as possible based on the principal of “at least I have it”. The easy answer might be “offer them all we have”, but you and I know this leads to unacceptable TCO numbers, not even talking about the maintenance levels.

Prior to 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 at least we can derive following 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 Competence Centers. BI specialists deploying the BI environment. Content creators for semantic layers, managed dashboards and reports, datasets 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 datasets, storybooks, reports, cubes and dashboards

Deciding on providing what kind of specific BI functionality to your users, is based on considerations that vary in 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 on what functionality you offer to users. These core considerations should be part of your company’s business intelligence roadmap. This roadmap typically covers max. 3 – 5 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 a separate article.

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 you 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 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 the BICC, but needs to be thoroughly verified with users based on use cases. Short workshops with BI users, 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 to where you should store and secure the logical functionalities required. This should be done per BI components you have available to offer your users. Components are the likes as managed reporting tools, OLAP tools, self-service tools and managed dashboard tools. When I talk to customers I always use below templates. This example is based on the SAP BI Suite components and lists just a few of the logical functionalities your users will ask for. Ah, and by the way, I use SAP Lumira to all visualize it …. :-)

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