How to learn business intelligence strategy

I'm working on the "reporting" team that uses Business Objects XI (and soon to be "BI Suite"), against an Oracle database.

It's a legacy system, and it has your traditional reports, plus the users create their own (ugly) reports. But there's not much in the way of dashboards, business intelligence, and analytics. We could also do more on "user generated reports" to help them do their job better, and present the data better. The data is straightforward - it's an education institution with military instruction - no financials.  

So I'm looking for some good resources for overall BI strategy (and principles), before one even gets to architecting a solution. One principle that I see that needs addressed is "who owns the data?" (as I see, it the users own the data, but IT seems to think they own the data. IT then provides tools to access the data, and to secure the data).

And with BI Suite coming on board in the next year, we're kind of at the stage where we could take some time and do it right.
Gadsden ConsultingIT SpecialistAsked:
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slightwv (䄆 Netminder) Commented:
I cannot help with overall principles or learning but wanted to comment on data ownership.

The organization that provides everyone's pay owns the data.  Ask any CEO who 'owns' the data in their company.  I bet NONE of them say IT or the users.

Users access the data in ways necessary to perform specific job functions.
IT provides storage and access to that data.

Neither can lay claim to ownership.

I've seen the type of empires that IT seems to think they own in the past.  They believe that nothing can exist without them.  It is hard to get them out of that mindset but ask them this:
If the "Users" didn't exist, would you?

Sure, you'll get a few die-hard types that will say they will because you still need servers, networks, etc... but the reality is, no they wouldn't.

Storing data with no users to access it just doesn't seem necessary...

Users existed LONG before technology.

It wasn't that many years ago that databases and systems were filing cabinets and manual procedures...

Technology just made access to information very efficient and allowed poor humans ways to interpret the data in ways never before thought about.

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Jim HornMicrosoft SQL Server Data DudeCommented:
Strategy is an extremely broad term, so I'll just provide some thoughts, based on a SQL Server and not Oracle background...

>We could also do more on "user generated reports" to help them do their job better, and present the data better.
The Microsoft Power BI suite allows users to in effect write their own reports.
This still requires user and role security, that will have to be owned/managed by a DBA, to allow them access.
This also typically requires developer help to write SP's for report consumption.

>One principle that I see that needs addressed is "who owns the data?"
IT owns the data in the sense that it is the custodians for storage, security, and connections, but unless IT wants to be eventually unemployed it needs to proactively support the business with its data needs.

>IT then provides tools to access the data,
Be careful on this one.  I've seen a lot of clients where if the business feels that IT isn't helping them with their reporting and analytics needs, the business will seek it's own tools without IT involvement, which is not a happy place for IT to be.

>and to secure the data).
Correct.
Gadsden ConsultingIT SpecialistAuthor Commented:
slightwv,

thanks, and relevant comments to my situation, so it helps me build a case.

Jim,

also excellent comments, thx.
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Gadsden ConsultingIT SpecialistAuthor Commented:
So I've never made the leap to DW / BI (Dimensional Modeling), but as I understand things, DW / BI translates to dimensional modeling. Is that right ? If so, then
- I need to learn dimensional modeling
- the organization needs to understand the need for it
- then users have to be trained  . . .

As I see it, users are happy to write ugly, list based reports from a normalized d.b., so they wouldn't know dimensional modeling if it hit them over the head. And I can spell it . . . but I'm the IT guy.

And it kind of sounds like a major overhaul, a new paradigm, and also a new thing to deal with  . . .
Jim HornMicrosoft SQL Server Data DudeCommented:
>DW / BI translates to dimensional modeling.
Yes, but it's common knowledge that 75% of DW/BI projects ultimately fail, so I'd make sure the business requirements dictate the expense.  Namely..
Is the transactional data so frEEaking huge that a DW is necessary for speedy reporting?
Is there a large number of disconnected data sets, and a need to report on all of them?
Gadsden ConsultingIT SpecialistAuthor Commented:
Jim,

good questions, and I was about to post a comment along those lines.

- the d.b. is actually very small, so performance is not an issue. Although I can see / sense the value (and expense) of DW / BI in huge corporations, I can also say what they really need here is list based reports.
- the data is essentially from the same source (multiple oracle d.b.'s on the same server farm).

In this regard, although the users can and want to "write their own reports", what they do is terribly inefficient, and I think IT should be helping them. Small example: the year of graduation is not hard to figure out, in fact, it's retrieved via a stored procedure as "current grad year". Yet day after day, month after month, and year after year, the users take the time to enter or select from a list of years what is the current grad year. A smart BI approach should eliminate this step (and many others).

In addition, there's plenty of BI type dimensional things that the organization can benefit from, giving leadership valuable views into data they couldn't do on their own.

Also, does analytics fall under the heading of BI ?
slightwv (䄆 Netminder) Commented:
BI is the catch phrase being thrown around in recent past.

In a nutshell, it is ANYTHING that helps turn data into information.

>>although the users can and want to "write their own reports", what they do is terribly inefficient, and I think IT should be helping them

Agreed!

Giving people too much rope leads to accidental strangulation!!!

Back from my old Business Objects days, too many 'lazy' app admins would just create mirror copies of tables and let the users muddle through creating their own reports.

Who cares if the data mashed together doesn't have ANY relevant/meaningful value.  Just because you 'can' report on something, doesn't mean you 'should'!!!

Where IT can help is mask where the data is coming from in ways that users cannot abuse it.

They also need to educate the user base about the goods and bads of trying to make data information just because you 'can'.
sdstuberCommented:
>>> In this regard, although the users can and want to "write their own reports", what they do is terribly inefficient, and I think IT should be helping them.

Yes and this where BI is successful.  Much of the failures I've seen are where IT tries to take over.  IT has access to tons of data and can see the connections between applications  and other resources.

However, IT does not generally do a good job at determining what the business needs to analyze.

So the business SHOULD be driving this, trying to write queries and pull data that is of interest to them.

The fact that they may write bad queries is irrelevant.  They will also write some good queries that return uselss data.  If they don't get it right on the first (or second, third, 87th try) ok, that's where IT comes in to help from the technical side.

The business analysis is the business unit's job, doing something to make it harder is not IT's job.



>>> Also, does analytics fall under the heading of BI ?

yes
Gadsden ConsultingIT SpecialistAuthor Commented:
slightwv, excellent common sense, wise points. Good reinforcement of my own unstated perspective.

sdstuber, also very cogent points, thanks !
Gadsden ConsultingIT SpecialistAuthor Commented:
excellent discussion, thanks !
Gadsden ConsultingIT SpecialistAuthor Commented:
Sugantha,

thanks for the link, but it doesn't seem all that helpful.
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