Saturday, July 19, 2008

Business Intelligence Architecture

Dear Friends,
Once again, I’m writing a post with a long delay… Sorry… Today, I will follow the sugestion of several blog visitors, which is to describe and write more about what I’m doing in my master BI degree and my point of view of BI.

After nine months of master classes I’m able to describe my definition and my opinion of BI. My purposes with this post, and based not only in the classes but also in the several books I read and work experience as BI Developer, is to launch the discussion about what is BI and mainly how is BI structered.
Business words
The image shows the four pilars but also in which context the several business words related could apply in BI. Here in Portugal, and I thinks is the same in rest of the world, IT Consulting Companies usually create some confusion into the market, invented new business words, and curiously, almost times only these business words are new!
For me, BI is based in four main pilars:

This pilar is where the top management defines the strategy and the path that must be followed to achieve the organization goals! The typical metodology to structure this strategy is the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) created by Kaplan and Norton. They recommend that managers gather information from four important perspectives:
Customer's perspective. How do customers see us?
Internal business perspective. What must we excel at?
Innovation and learning perspective. Can we continue to improve and create value for our services?
Financial perspective. How do we look to shareholders?

This pilar is not yet very evolved, and only few years ago, organizations start looking to processes in other perspective. Following Paul Harmon, in the article he wrote in about maturity level of organization processes, he realized that almost organizations are in a low level (2,5 in a range of 1 to 5) and still worst here in Portugal... And in my opinion, processes is the better way that an organization has to improve performance, reduce costs, and unfortunately in some organizations a better way to implement downsizing, because automating and improve a process may cause that a person could be moved to another unit or to be fired reducing costs for organization. It’s cruel, but almost organizations in the world focus on reducing costs finding a solution to fire people… but this is another discussion point! Business Process Management (BPM) is based in other past investigations like Business Process Reeigineering (BPR) and Total Quality Management (TQM). BPM or processes, could be monitorized by a Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) that is nothing more that a solution with KPI to monitor the performance of each process, and could be implemented a Business Process Management System (BPMS) that is responsible to follow the life cycle of each process (business object)

This pilar has the organizational hierarchy which shows who commands who, but not what each people do in organization. A good BI implementation must focus on people, not only to better manage the change of a new system, but also to gathering implicit knowledge that exists in each people of the organization transforming it in explicit knowledge.

This pilar as the other pilars it’s very important and requires a big understand not about the tools but about the concepts. There is a lot of people is this subject that are tools oriented in spite of be concept oriented. What I’m trying to describe, and mainly after my master degree, is that the tool is not the most important thing in this pilar. What’s important is the concepts and the understanding of what you can do with the tools. For example, to create a BSC you don’t need to be worried about the tool you do that, but in the concepts required to create a sucessful BSC. You can use a tool from SAS or you can simple create it for example in Excel… maybe you don’t know, but excel is the most powerfull and more used tool in the perspective of end user… and in my opinion, with new version 2007, Excel will be even better!!! Tecnology and mainly data mining algorithms could answer important questions to the organization that could change the strategy of the Organization.

These pilares are all important and dependent of each other, but in my opinion, people is the higher important pilar, and not only the people that implement the new system, but also the people in organization that accept this system, because there is a tremendous resistance by people to a change and there is a lot of implicit knowledge in organization that must be converted in explicit knowledge.

There is a lot of things to write and explain in each pilar, but I will try to do that if you think that itcould be usefull for you!!!


Amin said...

Dear Pedro,
I am very happy that you started to write again.
I agree with you in terms of the concepts are more important than tools.
I think your post was great and helpful. Please, continue to write if you are not in time pressure ;)

I did not write for long time because I did not study BI any more. I want to participate in a Master Degree, so I had to have an IELTS certification. Fortunately, I could get 6.5 in IELTS Academic recently.
I have to search for Universities which offer BI or similar topics. I also have to find the ones which are not expensive. It would be time consuming, because I must search and negotiate while I am working.
I will continue studying and writing when I finish this tasks.

Best wishes,

MySpace Design said...

Stumbled upon your blog. Great blog you got here.

Pedro said...

Hi Amin MySpaceDesign,
Thanks a lot for your visits!!

Amin... try to write something not only about BI, but why not for example about IELTS?!


João Guerreiro said...

Hi Pedro,

Thank you for your thoughts and brilliant vision on the "should be" route for Business Intelligence.
We share the same ideas on this integrated vision of decision support systems.
There´s still a long way to go before companies start embracing this integrated vision and stop deploying separated tools that do not keep strategy and processes aligned.
It's a path we (colleagues at Decision Support Systems MSc) are fortunate to walk together.


João Guerreiro

Pedro said...

Hi Joao!
First of all, I'll present Joao, because it's the first visit to my blog... lol

Joao is one, if not the best colleague of my master BI degree here in Portugal, and not only because he's a very good colleague, but also because he has excellent capabilities and knowledge in these subjects.

Now, thanks João for the visit and the comments, we both know that the master BI is opening several doors to reach the sucess in our careers!!

I hope to keep in contact with you, and other good colleagues that fortunately we currently have, for all!!!


Alex said...

Hi Pedro

I'm afraid it's been a while since I've had a chance to stop by (I'm making up for it now though!), great to see you've been busy with another super post!

Anonymous said...

Hello there. I found this blog through BI professional group in LinkedIn. I just thought I could give some perspective.

You picture shows the vision of architectur driven company. The different layers as Business, Information, IT/technical and Infrastructure. I got the feel you are here trying to represent BI support function in sucha enviroment.

At the company I'm working at we are as of today trying to implement this kind of view. Nice to see someone has picked up that kind of thinking that we are doing in our daily work.

Just remember, BI is never anything else than a enabler/support function within a company. We dont do business with BI, BI supports business. So your picture is showing a support function to a architeture driven company(Zachman, E2EA, Open group, etc)Not the whole picture.

Keep up the good work


Anonymous said...

Hi -
Wow - what an indepth article!
Much more detail-oriented than most blog postings.

Thank you for sharing with your readers!


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