Monday, November 17

Worst practices, who's got them

Learning from the mistakes of others is the way to go. No need to blaze a new path. It's all been done before. And BI has years of this "experience"; DW has "failures" from decades prior too.

This is backed up by Madan Sheina's article:
  • 87% of BI projects in the UK don't live up to expectations.
  • 25% of those projects are going over budget.
  • Only 50% of end users were satisfied with the BI system
Maybe you're planning to implement BI in your organization. Perhaps you have a BI system but you're not getting the benefits you expect. It's an unruly world in the BI space. Data is a major problem. Tools are another. It's costly and takes lots of your time and effort.

So what are you going to do about it?

You could read Peter Graham's posts about Kevin Quinn's "Worst Practices" whitepaper (saving you from signing up your email address).

Or read the following, which incorporates Kevin's ideas of worst practices but stays away from the marketing of a toolset vendor.

Let's start with the customers, or more specifically the business user. After all this is who BI is meant for. I figure adoption of BI tools is really low. I don't have a specific statistic but I find them difficult to use. People don't have the time to learn a new tool AND don't have the time to understand how to interpret the data.

Apply Tom's Spandex Rule: Just because you can wear spandex shorts, doesn't mean you should! (you know who you are)

Match what the people are asking for and reign in your project team. They can do it all given enough time. A zillion reports. Lots of dimensions, filters, and ranges. However, your BI system should provide what is being asked for. Stay away from the "it would be cool if..." until several years later when people want more.

Ah Excel.

Should you force people away from Excel to use this new BI system? Maybe. Maybe not. Some say Excel is preferred because of it's familiarity and simplicity. Well I think the majority of people who have used Excel don't know how to create a pivot table or know why they should use one.

So in my opinion, Excel is used because it is quick! No involvement from IT. They can do it themselves until it works for them. Typically they are looking to solve a business problem, they just need the evidence.

BI just made their lives a whole lot more complicated. Now they need to write a request for what they want. Then when they get it, it's in this strange BI tool. At which point they copy it into Excel and continue on. Granted they probably have more data than before and cleaner data for sure.

Which brings us to the data warehouse. Yes, a storage area for internal data. What about data external to the organization? Many would caution the use of external sources because of inconsistencies, not having control of the quality, difficulties aligning with the data warehouse, etc.

Let me ask you, "who is the biggest data provider in the world?" Google. What do they do differently? They allow the consumer to determine whether the data is relevant and give them access to everything. They've empowered people with information access.

We need to let it go. The days of the data warehouse or BI team or IT department controlling all the data should come to an end. The business should get access to information they want and need, internal or external, in a BI tool or Excel and when they want/need it.

For instance, Chevron has 200,000 employees worldwide and uses MSFT BI to deliver specific, targeted information to many of them. Starbucks uses Microstrategy to publish in-store metrics to every store manager. Boeing uses MSFT BI to provide manufacturing performance metrics for managers.

These are all extremely large organizations and yet they aren't pushing out tons of cubes, reports, and dashboards. BI is not a central focus for their employees but it does give them targeted information specific to their needs.

Remember Tom's Spandex Rule. Just because they could, doesn't mean they did.


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