Top Six Worst Practices in BI – Vendor Nonsense

A while ago I was pointed at this TDWI white paper – “Top Six Worst Practices in Business Intelligence” – which turned out to be a classic TDWI vendor driven pile of steaming misinformation. Verbatim, here are their claims:

  1. Buying what analysts want without considering the needs of other users
  2. Deploying new BI tools without changing the Excel mindset into a BI platform mindset
  3. Making a BI purchasing decision based on one hot feature, or buying a feature list rather than laying the foundation for a comprehensive BI strategy
  4. Lack of a concrete data quality strategy or treating data quality as an afterthought
  5. Not taking a “mobile-first” approach, or not considering the needs of mobile BI users
  6. Ignoring new data, new sources, and new compliance requirements

Just in case anyone is in danger of believing this, I thought I’d give a rebuttal as I have a headache and am feeling grumpy.

1. Buying what analysts want without considering the needs of other users

The paper makes the somewhat bizarre (and unsupported) claim that:

Most companies make business intelligence (BI) purchasing decisions based on input from
just one group of users – the business analysts. This single perspective, however, creates
many problems.

I can safely say in any purchasing decision I’ve ever come across the BA’s input has been somewhere between nada and zip. The reality is that it’s driven by corporate policies, what legacy systems are already in place, licensed and supported and one in a blue moon some idiot in management sees Tableau or Qlikview and buys that without considering any of the underlying problems that will cause.

There is a grain of truth in this point – that any purchasing decision that doesn’t consider the end users preferred way to to use information is doomed to failure. The back end is irrelevant – end users do not care about the Data Warehouse platform, the ETL tool or even the Cube platform you use. Just the front end. And most of the time, that front end is Excel.

2. Deploying new BI tools without changing the Excel mindset into a BI platform mindset

This is a vendor problem, not a user problem in that users prefer Excel to their tool. Sorry about that to anyone who isn’t Microsoft. It’s kind of odd because this point contradicts their first point.

3. Making a BI purchasing decision based on one hot feature

Yes. This explains Tableau and Qlikview’s popularity. However the solution is not – as the erstwhile vendor claims – their product. In fact, I’m not even sure why this is on the list. Technical issues are rarely the source of BI project failure, so it doesn’t really matter what product you choose – and I’m sure every vendor in the world will recoil in horror at this uncomfortable truth. What matters are people and data. The tool connecting the two is often inconsequential.

4. Lack of a concrete data quality strategy or treating data quality as an afterthought

This I agree with. Data Quality is a huge pain point.

5. Not taking a “mobile-first” approach

If it’s relevant to your organisation. In my current organisation it is utterly irrelevant. In many projects I’ve worked on it’s been a nice to have that got discarded quickly due to its poor value. If it affects adoption, then it’s relevant and must be considered. If it won’t, it doesn’t need to be thought about.

6. Ignoring new data, new sources, and new compliance requirements

I’m ambivalent about this one. The implication of this is less about ignoring and more about being unable to adapt. Rigid, locked down BI systems rapidly become irrelevant because they must change as business changes. However this is as much a function of people and process as it is technology.

How about ONE worst practice in Business Intelligence?

Try this instead: “Believing your BI implementations success or failure will be impacted by technology more that by the people using it”.

…as a cheeky second practice – “Believing anything vendors tell you”.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Excellent video on the History of BI

Click here to access a funny and accurate 10 minute video on The History of BI from Nic Smith of Microsoft. It’s not a Microsoft puff piece (not until the last 30 seconds, anyway, which is forgivable) – which again drives home the message that seems to slowly being worked out by BI professionals that BI is a people driven business process, not an IT driven system. (This topic seems to be getting thrashed about on some of the LinkedIn groups I frequent, as BI Vendors using it for marketing are getting a deserved kick in the pants for being too tech focused)

Anyway, watch, enjoy. (via: Oz Analytics, but for some reason that particular page kept killing my browser, so I went to source)

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