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How to Address Three Common BI Challenges

Friday, February 24, 2012

The challenges

I am currently working on a BI program for a Canadian company and the infrastructure challenges they have will sound familiar. The issues are:

  • Disparate data sources
  • Not all relevant data is being stored
  • Their business intelligence tools are too hard to use

Here’s how I plan to approach these challenges.

Disparate data sources

After diving into the project, I came to the conclusion that this company needs a quick win so going through an ETL exercise was out of the question. With that in mind, I have decided to pick a data virtualization technology that will connect to each source and will allow working with the data as if they were stored in one database. It should be noted that there is a transactional database in play. I suggested running a nightly database job to put the data into a reporting database so the source database is not hit directly.

Not all relevant data is being stored

The solution is quite easy – I’m working with their IT team to make sure all relevant data is being stored. The hard part is identifying what data needs to be stored, where the data comes from, and if it is technically feasible. I did a data-to-operations mapping exercise with the appropriate players to answer all those questions. Look for a future article that discusses the details of this exercise.

Their business intelligence tools are hard to use

The organization is currently creating home-grown software using .NET and SQL Reporting Services. Unfortunately, the applications miss the mark in ease-of-use and showing the right data. The software does provide insight on some of the data that is needed though.

I will be creating ad-hoc analysis tools, dashboards, and reports that will match the end user’s workflow. Once I’ve identified all the design and interactivity requirements, I will go through a technology evaluation to see what BI product is the best fit.

The potential future challenge is creating a BI application for each user. Although it may sound time consuming, if I choose the right product, I should be able to build out applications quickly.

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