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The real deal on agile business intelligence (BI)

There’s a lot of confusion about agile business intelligence (BI). Get an expert’s take on what agile BI really is and if it’s a valid BI development strategy or just a buzzword.

There seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding agile business intelligence (BI). Why is that, and what’s your take on agile BI? Is it just another buzzword or something more legit?

OMG! Where have you been, anyway? I’ve been blogging a lot on agile BI lately and fielding questions from curious clients and angry consultants and practitioners who are struggling with what to do about it. I’m going to assume that you’re a well-meaning member of the latter group and give it to you straight: Agile BI is a buzz-term that, when applied in the correct context, means “incremental delivery of business intelligence functionality and the accompanying data.”

See why people just say “agile BI” instead?

The confusion lies with people who take the “agile manifesto” very seriously and apply the same agile principles to BI projects as they do to operational systems. Now, you and I both know that the desired outcome for your company’s new auto-maintenance supply chain system is a heckuva lot different than the desired outcome for your merchandise management dashboard. Applying the same agile development principles to both of them simply won’t work. And it’s usually the BI project that suffers because of it.

I’ve said before that many companies are attracted to agile approaches because they don’t have the organizational discipline to instill solid BI development processes. They just want to scrum around. These companies are filled with extroverts who like to talk a lot and meet a lot and go out to lunch. Nothing wrong with those people. Just make them say these words: “BI development rigor and documentation.” If their speech slurs, or if they avert their gaze, you have your answer.

Start with top-down development, just to get the practice. Build a BI portfolio. Then slowly adopt agile principles into your BI SDLC (i.e., system development lifecycle). You’ll be glad you took the deliberate path to BI success.

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