Dancing in the BI landscape: which BI functionality to use and when?

Geschreven door Iver van de Zand op

1Don’t we all feel like dancing around in the BI space sometimes, when deciding what BI functionality to offer BI users? Dancing around in the sense that our BI users tend to ask for as much BI functionality as possible, thinking “at least I have it now”. Simply offering them all the functionality available is the easy option. Yet both you and I know that this leads to an unacceptable TCO, not to mention high maintenance costs.

So how do we decide which users have access to which features? First of all, we need to categorize our types of users. Based on loads of online blogs on the topic, I’ve determined 4 categories of BI users:

IT specialists who maintain the BI environment: IT experts maintaining the technical BI environment, ensuring governance, system security, authorizations, backups, population routines and uptime.

  • Developers, architects and members of the BI Competence Centers (BICC): BI experts who truly deploy the BI environment and content creators for semantic layers, managed dashboards, reports, datasets and metadata.
  • Data analysts and/or scientists: Users of the BI information, who deeply explore and analyze the BI data and information. Data analysts and/or scientists also embed (un-)structured data from outside the BI environment.
  • BI consumers: Employees who use the offered BI structures such as datasets, storybooks, reports, cubes and dashboards.

 

Core considerations in BI functionality

Once you’ve categorized your users, you then decide what BI functionality to provide by following a series of considerations that vary in abstraction level. On the highest level, core considerations like the ones below will impact your choice. These are the considerations you should take into account first. Core considerations should be part of your company’s BI roadmap, i.e. a long-term (3 to 5 year) roadmap that describes how business drivers delegate BI content and functionality. As the BI roadmap is so crucial, we’ll cover it in a separate blog.

Core considerations in BI functionality include:

  • Cloud: should the functionality be available in the Cloud?2
  • Mobile readiness: should the functionality be available in a mobile version?
  • Adoption readiness: are you prepared to educate your users?
  • Customizable: does the functionality have to be customizable?
  • Content creation: what level of self-service is needed?

 

Categorization according to BI functionality

Having taken into account the core considerations, you’ll come to the next abstraction level: here you define the specific ‘logical BI functionality’ that your users require and then bolt on the BI components that are available. The BICC can define the ‘logical functionality’ per role upfront, but you’ll need to thoroughly verify it with the users themselves, based on use-cases. Short workshops with the users, where you run through day-to-day practices, are very handy to define what functionalities they need. They may, for example, require the ability to work with hierarchies or the possibility to create custom reporting groupings.

Your BI roadmap is the ultimate place to store and secure all the ‘logical functionalities’. Be sure to save them per available BI component, such as managed reporting tools, OLAP tools, self-service tools and managed dashboard tools.

When I talk to customers I always use the templates below. This example is based on the SAP BI Suite components and lists just a few of the logical functionalities your users will ask for. Oh, and by the way, I use SAP Lumira to visualize everything …

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