Standardizing enterprise BI systems: Still a viable strategy?

Consultant Rick Sherman discusses whether standardizing on a single business intelligence platform enterprisewide is a realistic goal for BI managers.

Standardizing on a single business intelligence platform throughout an organization might seem like an easy way to reduce the cost and complexity of BI systems and fix potential data disparities that can result from the use of different BI tools. And in the past, enterprise BI standardization was "the mantra" for many BI managers, according to Rick Sherman, founder of consulting company Athena IT Solutions in Maynard, Mass. But, he said during a podcast interview with SearchBusinessAnalytics, "the reality of the situation has caused it to be maybe not that easy of an issue or a realistic goal" for most companies.

Sherman highlighted some of the challenges and drawbacks a company can face when attempting to standardize its BI software. For example, the rise of self-service BI tools, data visualization software and mobile BI applications is creating an increasing number of BI options for business users, who often have the final say in purchase decisions. Consolidating BI systems takes time, money and resources that could be devoted to higher-value projects, Sherman said. And he pointed out that standardization initiatives can temporarily halt BI processes, resulting in lost business opportunities while perhaps not even providing end users with improved data analysis capabilities. "The idea of staying in place and doing a migration is an opportunity cost that most businesses don't want to go through," he said. A more pragmatic approach, he added, is standardizing on a set of software to meet different BI needs -- for example, augmenting a traditional BI platform with specified data discovery and mobile BI tools.

In the 15-minute podcast, moderated by SearchBusinessAnalytics Executive Editor Craig Stedman, Sherman further discussed the issues involved in standardizing on a single enterprise BI platform and detailed strategies that BI teams can adopt to keep the use of multiple BI tools from becoming a problem. Listeners will:

  • Learn some of the pros and cons of standardizing on one BI system throughout an organization.
  • Discover the factors that can cause issues for companies attempting BI standardization.
  • Hear what Sherman recommends for ensuring that the use of different BI tools in an organization doesn't cause data disparities and other problems.
  • Get Sherman's thoughts on how the growing use of self-service BI software is affecting the amount of control that business users have over the software purchasing process.
This was last published in July 2013

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What has your organization's experience been with standardizing on an enterprise BI platform?
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a set of approved tools including embedded tools serves different purpose like network, HR, customer services...
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The main problem that we have with a "standard" tool (SAP) is the need of specialization of programmers, analysts and users and it is very costly (Both, the product and the resources needed to use and maintain).

Despite the great amount of money spent, time and other resources in the BI effort, nowadays we have an important backlog on the initiatives and projects attention. The business users are desperate in some cases because they don’t have a proper attention to their requests. I have suggested the use of other tools, but it is a very delicate theme, almost “heretic”.

In order to make a decentralization of our overload on the business users, I suggested, for instance, “Tableau” an easy and quick tool for produce visualizations and reports from different sources. Also I have reading and testing other tools like “Alterix” that is a little more specialized but it can coexist with other tools.

Conclusion: I'm a beliver about we can use different tools for different needs.
Despite the great money and time spent in the BI effort, nowadays we have an important backlog on the initiatives and projects attention. I have suggested the use of other tools, but it is
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I agree that you need different tools for diiferent needs, but this is at presentatiuon layer. The problem is what you do with the data to control that is consume in the right way, and you do not end up with in an important meeting sepnding half of it figurint out who has the right value because it comes from different sources.
The data presentation layer (data ready to be consumed) I still belirve that needs to have certain control, framwork and standarization, and for the visualization layer... yes diferent tools for different purposes (not free will)
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Standardizing on one single "best of breed" BI tool leads only to middle of the road solutions with poor solutions ( or none at all ) for eg high end statistical functionality or simulation modeling. Standardizing on a (very ) "high end" tool leads to high costs per seat as high end functionality is only for a limited number of users necessary. Standardizing on your back end value added information logistic processes (data warehousing, data governance), methodology and technology is much more rewarding
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