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Tom Breur

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Tom Breur, Principal with XLNT Consulting, has a background in database management and market research. For the past 10 years, he has specialized in how companies can make better use of their data. He is an accomplished teacher at universities, MBA programs and for the Certified Business Intelligence Professional (CBIP) program. He is a regular keynoter at international conferences.  Currently,he is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Targeting, the Journal of Financial Services Management and Banking Review. He acts as an advisor for The Council of Financial Competition and the Business Banking Board and was cited among others in Harvard Management Update about state-of-the-art data analytics. His company, XLNT Consulting, helps companies align their IT resources with corporate strategy, or in plain English, he helps companies make more money with their data. For more information you can email him at or call +31646346875.




I was asked the question: ”Is Agile the correct development method for Business Intelligence?”.  An interesting question. According to me any development method that takes BI characteristics in mind is better than a method that does not. Therefore I would say that Agile is better than most waterfall based methods.


So, what are some of the BI characteristics that we have to take in account while using any development method? First , BI projects almost always have some sort of business purpose. For example, sales insight or call center performance improvement. But the business case is not always clear upfront. So the BI contribution to the bottom line is often unknown as well. Another thing is that the business requirements are also often not very precise. At the start of any BI project getting the detailed and finalized requirements from future information product users is a challenge at best. Finally, the whole development process is pretty much linear. We get data from the source, we ETL it to our warehouse, fill the data model, ETL it to our data marts and build the reports. So before any user sees the final result 80% of the work is already done. The biggest challenge for BI development methods is to deal with the ‘advancing understanding’.


Agile can contribute to this as it works with: small iterations, used cases, fast and frequent releases, much interaction with the client, integration of testing in the development cycle and so on.


The key question that remains: ”Are agile methods being adopted and used in the BI world?”. The answer to that is very simple: Agile is all in the mind. The question is not if Agile CAN be used, the question is if BI people WANT to use it. 

Posted October 16, 2009 8:32 AM
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