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What to keep in mind when expanding a business intelligence platform

What are some things we should consider before expanding our existing business intelligence platform system?

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First, it’s important to determine what expanding your BI system really entails. BI expansion can mean four different things:

  1. Increasing the number of people using the business intelligence system without any changes to the data or the analytics capabilities it supports.
  2. Expanding the depth or breadth of the data that’s available in the system.
  3. Expanding the types of analytics offered to end users.
  4. A combination of 1, 2 and 3.

Option 1 is the simplest of the alternatives. Determine how many more business users will be accessing the BI system compared to the existing amount. It’s especially important to measure the increase on the basis of concurrent users, not just total users. Once you know the difference, it’s just a numbers game: you can calculate the required increases in software licenses, system infrastructure and technical support resources.

Options 2, 3 and 4 require an assessment of your expanded BI requirements in terms of these questions:

  • How many more people? 
  • How will the data in the system be expanded?
  • What types of analytics will be added?

Suites of BI tools offer several data analysis and presentation styles, such as reporting, ad hoc querying, online analytical processing (OLAP), dashboards and data mining. As the number of business users expands, it’s likely that you will have to examine what BI styles are needed based on the type of analytics that your new users require. Too often, IT just expands whatever BI style it initially implemented – which, in essence, is forcing a one-size-fits-all approach to BI on your users. That is a sure-fire way to be unsuccessful.

The other major concern is whether the new BI users require more data for reporting and analysis. Do your homework – if they do you, you’ll need to adjust your plans and their expectations appropriately.

This was first published in September 2010

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