Better BI

Chris Gerrard – Exploring the world of Better Business Intelligence

We’re in the psychology business, not the technology business.

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As BI professionals our goal must be to make and keep our clients happy.

It seems like such a simple thing, but all too often our client’s happiness gets short-shrifted in the press of getting the “real” work done. This is particularly true in Big BI environments where the bulk and complexity of the enterprise-scale BI technology and tools overwhelms the available amount of time, energy, effort, and resources. There’s so much to do just to get the machinery in place and working that the whole point of the work—delivering high quality information to business decision makers—becomes pushed to the side. And once the focus shifts it’s very difficult, usually traumatic, to get it back on the proper target.

How, then, do we keep our clients happy?

Simple: we deliver business value early and often.
This requires that we learn their needs, and what will satisfy them.

We start off by learning the first thing our client wants to know—the information that, when available, lets them understand something meaningful about the state of their business—and we provide it.
We then learn the next thing, and provide that.
And we make sure that our clients’ needs for high quality information continue to be the driving force behind everything we do. The corollary to this is the guiding principle for our work:

Do those things that deliver information to those who need it. And do only those things—if we cannot see the direct path between what we’re doing and the delivery of high quality information to those who need it we must stop what we’re doing and do something else for which the path is clear. There’s always more than enough straight-path stuff to do.

Some skeptics will say that this is too simple, that it ignores the “real work” conducting the deep and broad analysis, of contemplating and conducting the enterprise-spanning data and information rationalization, of designing the comprehensive data architecture, of designing and implementing the data marts and warehouses and ETL processes, policies, procedures, and programs. All the technical stuff that’s absolutely necessary to get the client the totality of the enterprise information, because, after all, that’s what they really need.

Isn’t it?

Well… no.

The client always needs the next report, the next analytical framework, the next executive monitor, the next delivery of information. Providing the next thing, and then the next, and continuing on this path ensures that the client’s needs continue to be met. Which has a multitude of benefits, all of which contribute to the client’s happiness with their results, and with us.

What about all the “real work”. Doesn’t it matter?

Of course the “real work” matters. But only insofar as it supports delivering high quality information to the client. All the machinery, all the analysis, design, and construction only matters, only has value, it contributes to meeting the client’s need for information.

As BI professionals it is our responsibility to deal with the machinery. To do the analysis, design, and implementation of everything that lies beneath the surface (or under the covers if you prefer that metaphor). We get paid to handle that stuff. If we cannot keep the “real stuff” appropriately out of sight it adversely impacts the client. This isn’t to say that the workings can be wrought shabbily. On the contrary, all the technical parts need to be the best they can possibly be so that when they are examined, as they always will be, they will be able to withstand the most critical scrutiny.

It turns out to be true that continuing to identify and satisfy the client’s needs is also the best way to learn everything that’s required to design and implement the correct machinery. The contributions to our learning, the feedback we get from the client as we satisfy their needs, is absolutely critical in helping us steer the best course towards the best design and implementation of the large-scale elements of the comprehensive business intelligence solution.


Written by Chris Gerrard

February 4, 2009 at 1:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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