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In order for companies to remain competitive and for government agencies to be able to provide their constituents with the most effective and efficient services, the imperative is to drive innovation and leverage business data to its fullest extent. With this being said, business intelligence (BI) has moved to the forefront of technology investment strategies, due to the transformative effect that its use has on organizations across every industry. Use of BI tools and analytic solutions improve decision making, enhance business performance, and reduce costs.
With the vast amounts of data that organizations deal with, finding the right BI tools can be an arduous task. There are numerous solutions that can provide self-service BI, however, organizations are finding that one tool does not usually meet the needs of their various types of users. Therefore, finding the right BI platform that can support suites of tools is becoming the norm, and thus, understanding the needs of the organization and the various types of user roles and their requirements is crucial.
Though every organization may be slightly different, there are typically four factors that define a user:
- Business role. Organizational roles typically include executive, manager, power user, business analyst, customer, and supplier—and these roles may likely be further segmented by function.
- Analytical need. Users can be segmented by whether they need to create, customize, interact with, or view reports, query source data, create forecasts, develop planning scenarios, or develop statistical models.
- Access and delivery preferences. Different users have different preferences as to how they access or receive information. Some may want to view it via a web tool, email, wireless device, or hard copy. Some may want to see the raw data, while others may want a dashboard view.
- Technical and analytical literacy. Individuals vary by the degree to which they are comfortable working with computers as well as their innate abilities to analyze and interpret data.
Now that you know what types of users you have, the platform that is chosen must also be robust and extensible and have a strong technology infrastructure to support the reporting and analysis requirements of the entire enterprise.
When looking for the BI platform that is “best” for your organization, it is essential to conduct an evaluation based on the following integration characteristics and their level of importance:
- Multiple Server Platforms: The BI platform can run on a range of server systems, including Windows, UNIX, Linux, and others, that can be distributed to leverage available CPUs throughout the organization regardless of the operating system.
- Interoperability of platform components: How well-integrated the front-end architecture of the platform is, and how well the platform integrates with other aspects of the software stack including portal, data integration, collaboration, business activity monitoring and business process management.
- Runtime metadata: How well the BI platform integrates information and allows for common data, report, and report object definitions to be used by platform tools.
- Security, administration, and infrastructure: The extent to which there are common security definitions, administration tools, and other infrastructure services used by all of the BI platform tools.
- Dynamic resource allocation: The BI platform dynamically allocates resources (e.g., memory, threads, pipelined tasks, disk) based on workload or other factors. It also uses queues to distribute requests to threads as they become available, prevent loss of data during outages, and prioritize requests based on system-level agreements.
In today’s ever-changing world, where technology has become a required enabler and is no longer considered just an overhead function, organizations have a need to provide the right information to the right person at the right time. Accomplishing this is the expectation of a BI platform. However, if the solution selected is not properly aligned to the infrastructure, information consumption, and analysis needs of an organization, then it will be extremely difficult to derive the anticipated value.