Posts Tagged business intelligence

DW != BI?

For the past few years, ITWeb in South Africa have run a number of annual Business Intelligence (BI) conferences. In addition to this, they have run seperate conferences for Data Warehousing (DW).

Now, personally I have never really understood this approach of seperating the concepts. Basically this is implying that possibly BI != DW.

Based on my experience in delivering BI projects; I have always found that a good BI project absolutely requires a good DW component. Despite Analysis Services’ ability to conform data through the virtual world of the UDM (and I include PowerPivot and other 3rd party BI front end tools with similar claims in this discussion), pragmatism and the usual dodgy data quality issues have always dictated that best practise ETL and DW practises are needed before we expose data to end users.

In fact, I have always found the relationship to be so tight, that my internal framing of the world has dictated that BI == DW.

As with any good internal assumption or belief, it is currently being challenged. I’m involved in assisting an international company in developing a group wide reporting data warehouse. Now, the programme is so large, that our current scope of work is “simply” to consolidate the data from the inevitable wide variety of sources into a central data model. This stage of the project has dictated that the approach is very different to what I am used to. i.e. I am no longer directly involved in data delivery, so my usual toolkit of Excel, Strategy Companion, Performance Point and a bit if good old Business Strategy conversations are simply not in the picture.

So, maybe there is space in the world for the idea that DW != BI. (i.e. maybe ITWeb has a point after all)

So, maybe if we flip my formulas into logical implication statements, we could say:

BI –> DW

And although my current project does not necessarily dicate that DW –> BI, I would argue that for the long term success and acceptance of the data we’re consolidating, BI projects will need to be initiated to allow end users to dive into the data asset we’re creating.

Looking forward to being involved in that 🙂

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Business Intelligence – ala Microsoft 2010 – Part I

For those that haven’t heard all the news yet … this year is going to see some of the most exciting product launches from Microsoft; particularly in the Business Intelligence space.

Now, Business Intelligence is a far bigger
concept than simply a sexy front end tool, or a super quick ETL tool. Rather it is that sum of the parts that creates a magic whole, and hopefully helps business people grow their businesses.

To support this, the Microsoft Business Intelligence picture includes three main products, all of which are getting new versions in 2010; namely

  • Office 2010
  • Sharepoint 2010
  • SQL Server 2008 R2

I’ve had the opportunity of playing with all of these products in pre-Beta and now in Beta releases, and have seen them improve with each new release. The key new features in each of these products that have got me the most interested include:

  1. Excel Slicers for Pivot Tables
    1. No more horrible unrelated drop down lists in Excel. Slicers really open up your data in an intuitive and ‘touch-ready’ way.
  2. Reporting Services Map Control
    1. Wonderful method to display geographical information, within the context of Reporting Services. No custom code. No messy data connections. Flexible, and very useful.
  3. Master Data Services
    1. One of the features that gets very little attention in the SQL space; but has great potential to help businesses manage their critical business data. No more messy Excel spread sheets, or phone calls to IT to update that mapping table.
  4. Decomposition Tree
    1. Still one of the most powerful visualisations for performing root cause analysis. Available within PerformancePoint Services. (Would love to see it introduced into Excel as well…)
  5. Powerpivot
    1. No Microsoft Business Intelligence blog would be complete without a reference to this wonderful in-memory tool. A plug-in into Excel 2010 as a fully-fledged modelling tool, as well as a Sharepoint feature allowing for online access and sharing. A must have for every financial manager J

These are just a handful of the vast array of features that are coming from Microsoft this year. I would encourage you to download the public betas and start becoming familiar with these products.

Sharepoint 2010 – download

Office 2010 – download

SQL 2008 R2 – download

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