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Agile business intelligence speeds BI development at Union Bank

Ryan Fenner, an enterprise data solutions architect at MUFG Union Bank, gave a presentation at the 2014 TDWI Executive Summit in Boston, where he spoke about the bank's use of Agile business intelligence (BI) processes. At the summit, Fenner also shared tips and advice based on his experiences with Agile BI and data warehousing in a video interview with SearchBusinessAnalytics.

In the video, Fenner explained that the bank's IT team went through a slow learning and ramp-up process as it adopted Agile software development methodologies for building BI applications. In fact, it took "about a good two years to get to a decent level of maturity," he said. But he added that even early on, the developers realized a lot of value from the Agile approach, including a high level of business engagement. "That was a really great benefit, and ultimately, we delivered a better product and service because of that," Fenner said.

Another big benefit was the ability to quickly put new BI functionality in the hands of business users. Sometimes, they said it wasn't the right functionality after seeing it -- but that's alright, according to Fenner: "By getting them something quick, they can realize the potential and maybe decide to go left instead of right. And using Agile, our team can handle that." In particular, he said, Union Bank had success with Agile BI development for sales automation and marketing initiatives that required a high degree of interaction and fast-paced delivery of analytics capabilities.

Although it may have many benefits, Fenner cautioned that Agile BI isn't the best fit for every situation. "Make sure you're doing it for the right projects and the right type of [users]," he said. For example, a traditional waterfall approach may be a better option for a large, long-term project involving regulatory compliance or risk management, he advised.

Fenner encouraged organizations looking at Agile methodologies for BI projects to evaluate their use cases and make a decision based on whether they're likely to gain value for what they're trying to accomplish. "If you don't need the ability to change [functionality], or if the customer doesn't need rapid delivery, some of the benefits of Agile won't be there," he said.

Watch this five-minute video to learn more about Fenner's experiences with Agile business intelligence and what he recommends to other organizations on implementing Agile BI processes.

Text by Monica Vallejo, editorial assistant.

Email us at and follow us on Twitter: @BizAnalyticsTT.

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