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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Why all the fuss around BI? - Data Ownership

I wanted to write today, and address a question that I think needs to be well understood. That is, Why all the fuss around BI? I mean, what is the big deal about business intelligence anyway? To start, there is a real need, for true business & enterprise intelligence that empowers users in their jobs. This goes from the Day-to-Day roles, through middle management & all the way to C-level executives.

To many people however, equate business intelligence to a tool-set, when in reality business intelligence is all about putting your data to work for you! The tool-set is not as important, is understanding the data model, understanding the business, and creating things like learning loops based on lag & lead data that can help drive companies through to their corporate strategy.

There are two big problems that customers face today with most ERP implementations, and relating to business intelligence. First, perceived overload of data. Second, the right tool for the right representation of data in order to glean intelligence from. With that said, there are a number of other specific issues & myths that cloud the path to true business insight - all which should be addressed when thinking about creating a BI story for a company. Ultimately however, these two questions seem to pop-up whenever thinking in terms of BI, from big data, to the personal self-service landscape.

These issues exist for companies small and large, and further what adds dimensions - excuse the pun - to these issues are how companies & their culture perceive BI. So in order to help address some of this, we need to understand a few fundamentals.

1. Data Ownership & Stewardship

If you don't think this topic is the most important to grasp, then your not understanding the goal of business intelligence. It's important for those users who need business insights, to understand who really own's said data, and who are stewards of that data. To many times, customers believe that IT owns the data, which is not reality at all. In fact your IT department, at most classify's as stewards of data. IT is not a cost center, blocking you from your data needs. Instead your IT department is meant to empower you, the user, with secure access to one version of the truth, for your reporting needs.

Users are the true owners of data, with different levels of responsibilities for that ownership. Further some users are data stewards, just like your IT, but with different roles and focus. This must be clearly understood, to help start down the path of addressing the perceive overload of data issue I mention above. The way to address this, is having users feel like they do own their data. This is, of course from the processes that create it, but also from the power in reporting on it. Giving them true Personal BI tools, that allow them access to help form the questions that lead to business insights.

Other myths, and issues that help lead to this confusion - and over worked, stretched IT budgets on report creation and never ending change request is that BI is a separate tool, than that of your ERP system. With out-dated ERP design's this use to be the case, however now exists only as a myth for those customers of Microsoft Dynamics AX.

With Microsoft Dynamics AX, and the stack that it lives on, full BI capabilities exist from the Personal, on to Team and straight through to Organizational BI needs. To help get people talking the same vocabulary, and language, we have the BI Semantic Model or BISM, that helps put some semantics in how we reference and talk about BI artifacts.

Going back to the point now, we have the ability to give users the power to fully grasp their roles as owners of their data - and understand the point of IT and IS departments as being the stewards of the systems, and data that lives within them. Having this clearly understood, means that Users can be turned into fans and a System of Engagement can start to form. Ultimately helping address one of the major issues we see with all this BI fuss, that of perceived data overload. It starts with owning the data, and therefore owning the processes that feed such data. Further, this means understanding the impacts of things like Master Data Management concepts for correct modeling of global data attributes, organization wide.

In order for users to own, and becomes fan's of their data, solid functional modeling & design must exist during the implementation process. Finally, understanding that real business insights, that create things like learning loops, starts with data ownership.

That's all for now, but check back soon as I continue this series and we can turn this BI fuss, into value added business & enterprise insights. Next we will continue our focus, with looking into wading through the onslaught of choices, and help end with classification of BI artifacts for those Usersfans of your organization or customers! Till Next Time!

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