Are Big Data, Business Intelligence, and Data Analytics buzzwords in your workplace? Or are you already working on a BI project and need to ramp up your skills?
If so, you’re not alone. Business Intelligence skills have become increasingly valuable in recent years, as businesses in every industry have shifted from static reporting to interactive, predictive analysis.
What is Business Intelligence?
Business Intelligence refers to both (a) business insights derived from collected data that are used to support business decision making, and (b) the tools and processes used to gather and deliver these insights. Furthermore, the purpose of business intelligence is to interactively monitor business status, deliver insights to decision-makers, discover valuable new connections through data mining, and support the continuous improvement of business processes.
In short, Business Intelligence is extremely valuable because—when done well—it enables future predictions and supports good decision-making. However, Business Intelligence projects are very different from other business projects, and the requirements for BI projects therefore present a number of unique constraints and challenges.
Business Intelligence Constraints: Eliciting & Analyzing Requirements
All too often, organizations approach data analytics projects by learning and exploiting cool tools (such as Cognos, WebFOCUS, and Oracle BI Discoverer). There are many other dashboard and decision-making tools that create slick reports, graphs, and interactive displays. The problem with any tool, though, is not about the functions (i.e., outputs) they can perform. The issue is usually the inputs, and for that good old-fashioned requirements are key.
Not just any requirements, though. Eliciting and analyzing requirements for Business Intelligence projects can be especially challenging. Some of the key complexities include uncovering and defining multiple dimensions of information that clients want reported. Another challenge is to make data flexible enough to allow as-yet unknown querying and “mining.” Additional constraints to determining requirements include lack of clear priorities, lack of ability to imagine possibilities, and volatility of requirements.
For these reasons and more, analyzing and documenting Business Intelligence requirements demands special knowledge and skills.
Top 6 Business Intelligence Skills
1. Defining Requirements. First and foremost, you can increase project success by better defining requirements for Business Intelligence (BI) applications that meet business needs. It is especially important to discover BI requirements correctly the first time.
2. Anticipating Client Needs. You can also save time and be more effective by learning the right questions to ask for BI projects. Two key questions revolve around: (a) usability and interface expectations and (b) “Look and Feel” for how information should be delivered to users. Other types of needs to explore include:
- Historical data needs
- Data currency needs
- Summarization needs
- Requirements volatility
- Data sharing culture
- Regulatory and compliance issues
3. Helping Clients Articulate Their Needs. Discover what business clients truly need and want from BI applications. Besides the right questions to ask, modeling and prototyping of dimensional data can help clients see their needs and better understand their own requirements.
4. Using Dimensional Modeling. Dimensional modeling is key to eliciting BI requirements and to analyzing and documenting them. The two most common types of BI models are star schemas and snowflake schemas. Data analytics involves various dimensions for drilling up and down that differ from operational data. Examples are: time, locations, and people.
5. Defining Business Problems and Objectives. Be able to identify the obstacles and goals that a BI solution will help address. Examples include typical and unique constraints such as:
- Budget and resources
- Change management
- Expectations management
- Gaining/maintaining executive support
- BI Project Considerations
6. Seamlessly Communicating BI Requirements. To designers of interfaces, data structures, and applications, etc. Models and prototypes are two common and effective ways to do this. Many BI tools include these capabilities, or they can be generated with basic Microsoft Office® tools like PowerPoint® or Visio®.
What’s the best way to develop these skills? Students of our Business Intelligence Requirements Analysis training course have consistently pointed to hands-on exercises as one of the most effective ways to hone BI skills and apply them on the job.
In fact, Watermark Learning’s Business Intelligence Requirements Analysis course uses a practical and engaging format to address all six of the skill areas described above, and it has helped build the confidence and proverbial toolkit of many professionals who work on defining BI requirements. By learning a combination of industry best practices and practical approaches, our class attendees are able to improve their BI project success.