As with most solutions, start with the end in mind. Do your best to anticipate what analysis will need to be done after the new solution is implemented. Figure out what data will be needed to do that analysis. Then be sure the new solution can capture or create that data at the right level of granularity. After the new software has been deployed, you really don’t want to hear, “If you had told us you needed data at the daily level when we were installing the software we could’ve given it to you, but the system only captures data at the weekly level because of the way we configured it.”
One thing that often gets overlooked when selecting tools is the skill set of the existing development team. If you already have tools in house that your developers are familiar with, start by assuming they will be your tools of choice unless you can find a good reason to use something else. If a new tool is needed, people will need to be trained and, more importantly, gain experience with the new technology. You should also consider the degree of difficulty in training employees or finding new employees who possess the desired skill set. You could paint yourself into a corner by selecting a really nifty, inexpensive tool and then not being able to find anyone with the expertise to implement or support it.
End Users Skills
Remember that the best measure of success of a BI solution is the extent to which it is adopted by the end users. With that in mind, what is the profile of your end users? Typically, end users fall into three categories: those with little technical skill who only want to see completed reports; those who are capable of some manipulation and prefer parameter-driven reports; and those who are technically savvy, are intimate with the data and prefer to build their own reports and analysis from scratch. Find out what your user community looks like and select tools that they can use. Most of the today’s market-leading tools can accommodate all three types of users and it is simply up to you to build it out in such a way that it will accommodate your user community.
Because BI solutions are typically built over a long period of time with the primary goal of supporting business users, it is vital that the solution owner works closely and continuously with the business community to deliver a solution that aligns with both the business needs and the business capabilities. You want the solution to be used, so design a solution that makes it as easy as possible for your team to build it and the business community to use it. That way, they’ll be sure to come back for more.
Todd Saunders, Principal with CBIG Consulting, is responsible for overseeing the delivery of business intelligence, Big Data, and data warehousing solutions and consulting services for CBIGs West Region. Todd has over 23 years of management consulting experience with the last 15 years focusing on business intelligence and data warehousing. Todd began his consulting career with McKinsey & Co. before moving on to Coopers & Lybrand. In previous positions, Todd served as the National Vice President of BI for Braun Consulting and VP of Consulting Services for Quaero Inc. Todd holds a B.S. degree in Physics and Engineering Science from Manchester College, as well as an MBA in Finance and an MSEE in Quantum Electronics from the University of Illinois. Todd is a Certified Business Intelligence Professional and has served as a member of the faculty of The Data Warehousing Institute.