Monday, June 23, 2008

Worst Practices in Business Intelligence

I came across this white paper from Information Builders on worst practices in BI. Aside from having to register to download the white paper, Kevin Quinn does a good job highlighting the 4 key areas of failure:

Worst Practice #1: Assuming the Average Business User Has the Know-How or Time to Use BI Tools

This issue is very accurate. Even with the advances in user interfaces and hiding of the complexity to aggregate and join information, the tools are still overwhelming. What is interesting is what people are usually migrating from is desktop productivity tools like MS Access or Excel (see worst practice #2).

Worst Practice #2: Allowing Excel to Become the Default BI Platform

Excel becomes the default BI platform inherently because of worst practice #1, meaning the tools are too complicated. The simplicity, flexibility and ease of use along with the overall ubiquitous familiarity of Excel makes it the default tool of choice. Typical organizations at some maturity point will move from something like Excel to a standard tool (see worst practice #4). Nothing can be more frustrating then purchasing a BI platform and having to fall back to the legacy solution, which can be error prone and unmanageable.

Worst Practice #3: Assuming a Data Warehouse Will Solve All Information Access and Delivery

Data Warehouses are meant to store data, in whatever preferred design approach that makes sense (hub and spoke, data marts, enterprise warehouse, federated, etc). The BI application implementation should leverage this single view of the organization's data. The point that is made in the white paper is that the information needs typically go beyond what is housed inside the warehouse. The BI platform should have the flexibility to consume these non-warehouse sources. As much as I agree with this point, it can be inherently dangerous to use sources of "unknown nature". That's not to say that all data outside the warehouse is not trusted, but consistency in the usage of this information across the enterprise needs to be assessed.

Worst Practice #4: Selecting a BI Tool Without a Specific Business Need

Absolutely (see worst case #1 and #2). From my experience, the most successful selection and implementation processes have happened when both the business users and the IT group run the selection process together. I have also seen where one group runs the process independently from the other, the "opposing" group rejects the selection. So it is not just the business users that need to make the selection.

What additional worst practices have you encountered? The list is endless, but it would be great to start sharing other experiences individuals have.