Top 9 ways to maintain a healthy BI environment

January 4, 2011
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The secret to a healthy Business Intelligence (BI) environment is to ensure it remains relevant.

To remain relevant, and continue to be fully utilized, a BI tool must evolve with a companies reporting and analytics needs and the company itself.

But how do you achieve this I hear you inquire?

It’s like maintaining a vintage car – just give it some judicious TLC.

The secret to a healthy Business Intelligence (BI) environment is to ensure it remains relevant.

To remain relevant, and continue to be fully utilized, a BI tool must evolve with a companies reporting and analytics needs and the company itself.

But how do you achieve this I hear you inquire?

It’s like maintaining a vintage car – just give it some judicious TLC.

So, here are nine ways to keep your BI environment humming, its body sparkling, and interior permeating that new car smell, to ensure it’s every bit as usable and desirable as the first day it hit the road.

1. Stick to intermediate targets

Failure to adhere to a raft of ongoing maintenance targets can result in major deadlines being missed. Timelines for scheduled upgrades, meetings, training and reviews must be adhered to.

2. Avoid budget blowouts

Whilst quality data ensures the success of your BI tool, the success of the BI project is governed by sufficient funding, and executive support. It’s not enough to complete a thorough budgetary estimate for the implementation stage of a BI rollout. You must carefully consider and identify all the elements involved in ongoing maintenance. This is especially important if after the implementation stage, the final rollout is different from what was originally planned, as this will obviously affect continuing costs. Consider:

  • The volume of data and number of data sources being processed, over what timeframe, and compare that to what was originally intended.
  • The number of different functions your BI system performs – is it more than originally planned? If so, this will effect timelines and costs.

3. Pay careful attention to your data

Ensure that the data your BI tool is reporting off remains reliable. If the data collected no longer reflects your company’s operational environment, the BI tool will be rendered inoperable – unable to deliver relevant, actionable insights. Ensure your data is usable by:

  • Guaranteeing data quality
    • Data is complete
    • Data is in a uniform format
  • Guaranteeing data integrity
    • Disparate data is cleansed before using or combining it with other data / data sources
    • The information you receive is accurate and represents what it is supposed to, not what you think it represents


4. Lessons learned from implementation: Do’s and don’ts

Develop a formal tracking system for recording successful and unsuccessful aspects of your initial BI implementation process and apply, or avoid them, when maintaining your BI system.


5. Build and maintain expertise within your BI team

Persevering knowledge accumulated within your BI team is crucial to ensure the success, and smooth operation of, your BI project over the long haul. To assist this process, you should:

  • Develop a mentoring program within your BI team to ensure lessons learned are passed on
  • Insist that each programmer documents and explains their code so that others can understand their work
  • Document your processes so that they are repeatable

6. Document what didn’t get done the first time

During the initial rollout, certain aspects you intended on including in the original BI implementation will have been left by the wayside – it was too difficult to include all desirable aspects from the start. Keep track of those features that didn’t quite make the cut the first time, so that they can be included in the overall setup at a later date, as part of routine maintenance and upgrade processes.


7. Monitoring: The BI tool, business users, and business environment

Constant monitoring is an absolute necessity for the ongoing success of any BI project. Your BI team should:

  • Monitor your BI tool’s performance to make sure its running smoothly, and ensure any glitches are quickly attended to with appropriate updates, before larger problems arise
  • Make sure business users are actually utilizing the tool and its full range of functionality (as far as practically possible), and that they are satisfied with the features provided
  • Ensure that the reports and data analysis generated are still serving their intended purpose. The reporting and analytics needs of a business will change as the business grows and changes. Are you still delivering something useful to business users and executives for current and future strategic planning?

8. Provide adequate end-user training

Hopefully you provided comprehensive training for your end-users when you introduced your BI tool. After all, what good is a reporting tool if nobody’s using it? But training is cyclical – it doesn’t stop there. End-users must be appropriately and adequately educated about new features as they are introduced. Otherwise, end-user drop-off rates will climb, and your BI tool will be made irrelevant.


9. Communicate changes

Develop a comprehensive communications plan to inform users and the executive team about changes and enhancements to your BI tool, and how those changes will benefit them. This will ensure ongoing widespread end-user adoption, and that new features and functions are utilized, not wasted.

Conclusion

Maintaining a healthy BI system is a cyclical, ongoing, never-ending process.

BI helps companies adapt to changing market conditions. But BI is more than just knowledge generation. BI itself must be adaptive to move with organizations as they change, to enable them to continue evolving, and be able to support and address consequent changes in data analysis and reporting needs.

As the father of evolutionary theorem, Charles Darwin, said “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptive to change.”

This statement can be appropriately and aptly applied to BI.