Business Intelligence Technology Strategy

Key Points

  • You need to have experience in several real BI projects before you can say which products will work within your organisation
  • BI tools and infrastructure should be readily available to the business users. We must allow them to experiment and take controlled risks
  • The technology strategy should consider non-functional requirements like availability, security, and performance but this should not be the primary concern in the early stages

Business intelligence technology enables a solution to be realised at a non-prohibitive cost and in a short timeframe. Using specialist software in the right way is what makes successful BI projects so productive.

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Introduction to the business intelligence technology strategy

Why does business intelligence offers such potential?
Business intelligence technology enables a solution to be realised at a non-prohibitive cost and in a short timeframe. Using specialist software in the right way is what makes successful BI projects so productive.
Each business intelligence project will only provide maximum return on investment if the path from conception to implementation is short and efficient. The BI tools are the vehicle for this journey and the core components must be in place early in the BI strategy. The technology pillar of the BI strategy must:

  1. Provide the infrastructure and tools to support common BI solutions
  2. Educate the organisation on the different capabilities of each tool so they can correctly match the problem with the technology solution

The technology strategy guides you through the minefield of BI tool selection. If you are not an IT manager, you may be tempted to skip this article. Please read on. It is important for everyone to understand the purpose of each component in the generic BI solution architecture and the value it offers to the business.

What do we cover in this article?

We start the article with some principles that should guide us when we first initiate the technology strategy. Next, we identify the components of the generic business intelligence solution architecture. These fall broadly into two categories. Firstly, the data storage components used to implement the data strategy and increase data availability. Secondly, the user interaction components through which we deliver BI insights and value to the business. We consider each in turn and discuss appropriate applications of the technology and common limitations. Having gained an appreciation of the capabilities of each component, we then look at the process of procuring BI tools. We discuss the different types of BI vendors and look at common criteria for tool selection. We finish the article with some practical advice on building a hardware infrastructure and environment management.

Guiding principles of the technology strategy

The goal of the business intelligence technology strategy is to provide the infrastructure and support for the BI tools that will deliver the data and process improvement pillars of the BI strategy. Careful tool selection will save time and money and ensure you have properly covered off the main categories of BI capability without unnecessary duplication.
As with the process and data strategy, we should not attempt to implement the technology strategy in one big bang. Although it is very tempting to tick the box, this is most likely to incur significant expense, raising expectations that we cannot possibly match by business productivity improvements in the short to medium term. Several principles should guide our thinking in the early days of implementing our technology strategy.               

  1. Do not immediately sign up for an all-singing-all-dancing BI suite. Either get a long-term evaluation licence or cherry pick inexpensive BI components from different vendors. You need to have experience in several real BI projects before you can say which products will work within your organisation
  2. Start with just a single environment capable of hosting development work and some early production ready solutions
  3. Where possible, use licences and tools already available within the organisation. This is particularly the case with database management software and ETL tools
  4. Accept that different user groups will want different user facing BI tools and do not put all your eggs (money) in one basket (vendor’s pocket)
  5. The technology strategy should also consider non-functional requirements like availability, security, and performance but this should not be the primary concern in the early stages. Instead, use one or two well-specified off-the-shelf servers and go from there

Most importantly, the BI technology strategy should make the tools and infrastructure readily available to any business unit, power user, or developer who has an idea for improving a business process. This is no time for protectionism, especially in the early stages of the technology strategy. We must allow users to experiment and take controlled risks.

See Also

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