Putting the Business back in BI

Originally Posted On 3/24/2010 

We've been talking too much about technologies, myself included.
There's a focus in BI community on the emerging trends of cloud computing, in memory processing, columnar stores etc. but the link with business requirements is weak. In my experience of a life spent in small and midsize BI projects I've never found a business manager or an entrepreneur really caring about the technicalities of a solution. They see it as a black box where to pour an amount of money in to get back some capabilities, possibly to be translated into ROI. 
The general mood is "do what you need with that box, I need the result". Usually it is hard to explain to a business user why she can't see the data formatted like he wants, if all those data are available; the usual reaction is "why you can't do something to get it?". So, during the years, I've found myself developing a business management culture and getting more and more business analysis skills. Today, with few exceptions, my project documents are always business talks, focusing on business issues and describing systems to cope with it or to keep an eye on. The technical part is for the CIO who is often happy to let the consultant do all the dirty job of defining requirements and targets.

Someone says that the eye candy of modern platforms can make the difference and win a contract; I despise this approach, it's for the professional liar. I prefer showing the business people that I actually understand them and I can cater actual solutions. I seldom give demos, I prefer to sit and listen. I seldom write 300 pages of specs, I write 10 pages of business analysis and they're usually enough. I do not have the experience of some of the people hanging around my blog, but I found this approach to be highly effective.
So I think that I should help BI consultants to better understand their customers. Understanding your customers let you build a better link between the tech requirement and the business requirement, let you serve them better and let you ask for higher fares. 

Do not underestimate the amount of business knowledge required to set up a coherent management control system; for you, as a technician, some aspects are just reduced to "one more field" or "one more table", but they have deep business implications. This is the introductory post of a series dedicated to business analysis for BI consultants. The most correct choice is to describe the business environment in the academic order, like a university course in business analysis. Being practical, I'm going to start covering the topics in an order in which they are implemented or are important to know. I assume that the reader has already an average knowledge of relational and olap databases and is familiar with the BI terminology and with the basic datawarehouse concepts. The work is not completely unbiased and it will reflect my personal career. Examples will cover many economy sectors but not banking, insurance and investments in general because I have only a marginal experience on those. A different type of bias also comes from my experience on the Italian market, albeit often with internationalized companies. Let me know if there's a topic you'd like to see covered. I hope you'll enjoy the posts so I can keep doing the very clever professor who puffs his pipe! In the next post, we'll start with what companies live and die for, income.

See you soon and, please, tweet this post for your friends and coworkers