Business intelligence tools: Don't be 'tool myopic'

Don't let flashy business intelligence tools and technology cloud your focus, says contributor Rick Sherman. A successful rollout includes the right business itelligence tools plus giving business users what they need.

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BI tool buyer's guideDon't let flashy business intelligence tools and technology cloud your focus, says consultant Rick Sherman in this section of the BI Buyer's Guide. Find out why a successful business intelligence rollout includes deploying the right BI tools plus giving business users access to the data that they need in order to meet their business requirements.


Business Intelligence Buyer's Guide Table of Contents

Selecting the best business intelligence tools for your business
Buying business intelligence software: Top 11 considerations
Gartner: Enterprise BI strategy rarely a one-size-fits-all approach
Setting key performance indicators can boost BI software user adoption
Business intelligence tools: Don't be 'tool myopic'


Much of the IT literature that you read focuses on tools and technology. That's understandable, since product vendors churn out these materials to sell and market their products. And, of course, many of us are geeks at heart, so we love to read about technology. 

When people discuss their business intelligence (BI), CRM or corporate performance management (CPM) projects, they primarily talk about tools and technology. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as it is kept in perspective.

It does become a problem when tools and technologies are the primary focus. It's easier to focus on the technology than it is to tackle the challenges associated with deploying a successful enterprise-wide business intelligence solution. We get lulled into thinking that technology will solve all our problems after seeing endless product demos and articles that promise instant nirvana if we just use the right tool. And, too often, failed business intelligence efforts are blamed on tools and technology.

This preoccupation with tools leads many projects to focus way too much on tool selection. Some project managers even have to develop a proof-of-concept (POC) to validate tool selections. Sure, selecting tools is necessary, and it's good when business users get involved in the selection and POC activities. It often seems, however, that a significant amount of a project's time and resources are consumed by these tools-related activities, especially in the early stages.

However, providing an elegant dashboard and the ability to slice and dice with a great business intelligence tool is just part of the story. What most business users really want from a business intelligence tool is to get the right data, along with the right business metrics, supporting the right business processes. Otherwise, what's the point? Business users are the BI solution's customers, so the solution had better make them happy.

How do you get the right data, metrics and processes incorporated in your solution? Talk to business users and discuss the tough stuff. In the real world, data, metrics and business processes are never as simple or clean as they are in textbooks and case studies. But your business intelligence tool has to handle the complex data issues and business processes users need to analyze their business and make decisions.

For more information on business intelligence tools

Read Rick's "Business intelligence tools: Disruptive technology or distraction?"

Read Rick's previous column about Microsoft Excel's BI uses

Get a sneak peak of Business Intelligence Roadmap: Ch.3, Project Planning

Gathering business requirements, reverse engineering existing reports (along with their corresponding data and metrics) and getting business users involved in an iterative development of your business intelligence tool is critical to the business ROI and success of your business. Active and extensive business user involvement -- examining the complex and seemingly convoluted data and handling what the users want -- are keys to success.

Regardless of the tools and technologies used, understand and represent the right data, metrics and business processes within your BI solutions. The business community will only use your business intelligence tool if the data they need is there. They don't care what product features are available. Concentrate on the requirements first and foremost, regardless of the last article you've read or demonstration you have seen.


About the author: Rick Sherman is the founder of Athena IT Solutions, a Boston-based consulting firm that provides data warehouse and business intelligence consulting, training and vendor services. In addition to over 20 years in the business, Sherman is also a published author of more than 50 articles, an industry speaker, a DM Review World Class Solution Awards judge and a data management expert at SearchDataManagement.com. Sherman can be found blogging at The Data Doghouse and can be reached at rsherman@athena-solutions.com.


Business Intelligence Buyer's Guide Table of Contents

Selecting the best business intelligence tools for your business
Buying business intelligence software: Top 11 considerations
Gartner: Enterprise BI strategy rarely a one-size-fits-all approach
Setting key performance indicators can boost BI software user adoption
Business intelligence tools: Don't be 'tool myopic


 

This was first published in June 2005

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