Data Data All Around But Not a Drop to Drink!

The team with the best car often but not always win the Formula 1 Grand Prix. Why is this? The skill and experience of driver, engineers and team management all have a part to play in defining the race strategy, delivering the race strategy and tactically adapting to changing circumstances throughout the race.

Similarly simply possessing the market-leading business intelligence software, in SAP BusinessObjects, does not guarantee an answer to a business question. Such that an organisation can have a wealth of data sources without being able to find the relevant data.

A system that can answer business questions correctly, at the time the answer is needed, is the coming together of business requirements with an understanding of data sources and structures. But more than that it is active management of the system. Just like a decision to change tyres mid-race is a combination of input from management, driver and engineers there should be ongoing business, technical and governance input to a business intelligence solution.

Few businesses remain constant. Market changes, technological opportunities, evolving customer requirements mean that for most private and public organisation now the one constant is change. The increasing pace of change in communication and information technologies in particular is prompting organisations to continually refine and re-define their business models.

A business intelligence system is implemented against business requirements. By its nature it models technically-based data into meaningful information. The key to the word meaningful is that it has business context. If the business model changes it can mean that the context changes.

Systems also change; wholescale changes such as moving from disparate systems to an integrated system or moving from on-premise to cloud-hosted deployments, to small-scale changes such as a system upgrade. Both can have an impact on the getting to the data you need to answer your business questions, but whilst the big changes usually include a full impact analysis sometimes the smaller changes don’t. So for example upgrading a finance system to a new version may mean a change to the database structure the system uses to store its data. If this change is not reflected in the BI system then it is no longer able to retrieve relevant data.

Decreasing relevance of existing BI content, either through changing context or missing data, is sometimes addressed through the creation of new reports or universes. This can lead to a proliferation of content without a clear understanding of which content is current or relevant. A light-touch governance process can help to regulate this so that as new shared content becomes available the system as a whole remains consistent and easy to use.

There are also tools available to support this. If you run SAP Business Objects you probably already have the Auditing capability, but may not be using it. This can tell you which content is used, when and by whom. This information gives a good indication of what is considered relevant and current, and by contrast what is not.

Going further you can assess which universes, reports and even users will be impacted by a change to a data source using technologies such as SAP’s Information Governance or Infolytik’s Metaminer. These tools also show the derivation of existing content, to help ensure consistency between universes and reports.

It may also be the case that the traditional methods of deploying business intelligence no longer suit the pace of change within your organisation and it may be worth assessing the costs and benefits of more of a data discovery approach.

Probably the most common starting we point we encounter though is a rationalisation exercise. Often as part of an upgrade of their Business Objects system customers will review the content currently held within their system and cull the unused or outdated content. This provides a good starting point then to put in place approaches to maintain the system’s relevance and ease of use.

So please get in touch with The Business Objects People to discuss how we can help to make your data drinkable!

Posted by , BI Practice Manager, 15th June 2016

Our Customers