Operational BI is becoming quite the buzz today. There are countless articles, tips, vendors with operational BI offerings, case studies, etc., available today. Yet, I still get asked the very basic question of how do you get started. What are the first steps? Well, here are my thoughts on how to get started...
I plan to focus a lot of my attention on operational BI this year and next. It is a fascinating and critical form of business intelligence but it is also quite foreign to traditional BI implementers for one very big reason -- it requires climbing back into the world of operations and truly understanding the processes, procedures, and workflows of operations. We in the BI space were happy to turn our backs on operational procedures and processes, choosing to create a completely separate world where we could store our data and then analyze it until the cows come home. We gave little thought or care about what was happening in operations. That was the operational IT folks' problem...
Well, operational BI changes all that!
For operational BI to be effective, it must be injected into the ordinary operational procedures and processes at the right moment to impact the decision-making process of the operational personnel. so what should BI implementers be thinking about before starting down the road of creating operational BI applications? Here are two suggestions:
1. Start small -- sound familiar? It should. It is what we have always said about BI projects but in this case, I mean really small. I recommend that you examine well-documented operational processes (that is the first trick -- finding well-documented operational processes) to see where in the process you can inject a bit of BI. Perhaps the process is inefficient or requires considerable manual intervention (of the analytical kind) before moving to the next step. Look for productivity gains that can be acquired through the use of BI. And make sure you consider collaboration in the overall process flow. Why small? Because you are not only creating the analytic capability -- you are also impacting a standard operating procedure. These may have to be rewritten, the operational personnel may have to be retrained, the interfaces between the involved applications may have to be recreated. And so on. My first piece of advice -- Don't try to make big changes to operational processes. You open a can of worms when you do. Just speed up or make more efficient the processes you already have in place.
2. Second suggestion - Perform a honest assessment of your existing data warehouse and BI delivery capabilities. What technologies do you have? How suitable are they for operational BI? How mature is your overall DW and BI architecture? What about your existing DW and BI personnel? Are they suitably experienced and skilled? Why do I ask these questions? Because I guarantee that any weaknesses that you discover in your assessment will only be exaggerated as you speed things up -- as you squeeze out any and all latencies in your DW creation and BI delivery processes. For example, if your ETL infrastructure is weak, it will only get worse. If your data quality processing is fragile or inefficient, speeding it up will only make it shoddier. If your ability to delivery data is frail, trying to drive out latencies in it will only cause it to fall apart.
Once you have picked an appropriately sized project and have assessed your ability to delivery on it, you can begin implementing the operational BI application. I hope these tips have convinced you that an operational BI application does has ramifications way beyond the projectâ€™s immediate boundaries. It also has significant benefits to the enterprise if integrated appropriately into the operational procedures and processes.
Good luck to you on this exciting and new adventure. I encourage those of you that have experience with operational BI to share your thoughts on getting started as well. I look forward to reading them.
Yours in Operational BI success!
Posted May 31, 2008 3:54 PM
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