Agile BI - Why it makes Business Sense
For years faster processing, reduced costs, automations have driven the IT budgets of organizations. The result of this demand from IT is: increasingly complex world of ERP, Supply Chain, CRM, Financial applications, BPO based applications. However, in today’s fast changing world where latency between data creation to decisioning leveraging that data is reducing - those applications in itself are no longer serving purpose of competitive advantage for corporates - because that every other corporate too have.
Reduce the IT investment and increase the operational efficiency - two inversely proportional aspects theoretically, but then again isn't that what every CEO/CIO is demanding? We have been hearing terms like Real-time BI & when someone realized that's not practically possible it was re-framed as near Real-time BI. If that's not enough to confuse you, let me add another term "in Memory solutions" - which will act like a blackbox between source systems and end-reporting systems, and with a magic wand, provide you with an integrated live transaction data to do BI reporting on.
We already understand and know about the Agile development methodology of Software Engineering principles. Typical Agile methods break tasks into small increments with minimal planning. Iterations are short time frames, called timeboxes, of few weeks. Each such iteration involves a team working through a full SDLC including planning, requirements analysis, design, coding, unit testing, and acceptance testing via which a working product is demonstrated to stakeholders. The key to success of agile methodology was the IT teams were able to demonstrate tangible results to stakeholders in shorter spans of time, and allow them to add value to enhancing solution towards their needs.
Effectively all those new terminologies/solutions are result of the pains the organizations have been going thru to deliver effective decision systems in shorter span of time, and thus the advent of term "Agile Business Intelligence". Agile BI can be defined as inexpensive (in terms of lesser resources or time or infrastructure), quick access thru visualization to the wealth of information lying in any corporate that can be brought to the desktop of business users for which its relevant, context sensitive and timely. Benefits:
1. Low upfront investment - fraction of overall BI budgets
2. Immediate yields for better business insights
3. Daily non-technical users of business data can work directly with the data effectively, intuitively, and yet have better insights towards solving their business challenges - instead of requesting IT to provide those solutions
4. Allows for data modifications, drilling, mining, filtering etc
5. Focused on business users rather than technology - equipping users to be innovative, creative and find their way towards answers to business problems
Today the target audiences for Agile BI are small to midsized organizations, and even the smaller departments within few large corporates, as for them agility and responsiveness to the data needs is utmost priority.
Expectations from an Agile BI - Business Perspective
1. Give me tools that i can navigate and work my way around - with minimal to know help
2. Should have the insights into context sensitive data - drill down/up, slice/dice, filter, pivot, compare, merge etc functionalities
3. Flexibly add more data sources to increase scope of analysis
4. Least dependency on IT for any data need
5. Better visualizations, intuitive dashboards/scorecards, graphical representations etc
Expectations from an Agile BI - IT Perspective
1. Tools that can integrate with variety of data sources, scalable, handle larger sets of data etc
2. Require least involvement and technical support once implemented
3. Scalable model from department to Enterprise level strategy and solution
The concept of Agile BI can be related to the maturity of a product wherein companies provide early adopter mechanisms to their customers - giving two fold benefits, organization adopting early can tune their solution on the product & product matures when it gets real life taste. Similarly exposing BI systems to stakeholders, using Agile BI, quite early in the game, will help business stakeholders shape their vision and provide concrete feedback about the system. This in turn will allow the developers to respond by continuously maturing the system to align with the stakeholders' vision.
In my view the Agile BI is definitely going to shape the future of BI in a big way, bringing down the cost of IT and yet remain operationally efficient. Especially when we have burnt our fingers in the recession times recently. I would like to hear your experiences in speeding up decisioning for your customers, and thoughts on Agile BI – the way forward.