Working on solid BI architecture
As manager, project manager or BI consultant, you want to work on a solid Business Intelligence architecture. You know this provides advantages when it comes to scalability, speed, data quality, and flexibility. But there are a lot of stories about data warehouse projects failing, and not delivering the desired results. How should you approach this issue, and what are the relevant questions?
- Which architecture does an intelligent organization use, and how can you learn from that?
- A BI architecture is built in layers. When and why do you need which components? What’s the added value?
- How to deal with Big Data and unstructured data? How do these different forms of data fit within your business intelligence architecture?
- How do the various Business Analytics tools and data integration tools fit within the architecture?
- Who should you involve when setting up BI architecture?
If you have one or more of these questions, the BI specialists of Passionned Group can help you make forward progress towards a more intelligent organization.
The advantages of a Business Intelligence architecture
✓ Cohesion between the various components for a better overview.
✓ High scalability in terms of data volume and user growth.
✓ Flexible reporting and analyzing, using BI to its full potential.
✓ Easier to manage thanks to its clear structure: satisfied users.
✓ Higher data quality and guaranteed response times: satisfied users.
The different components of BI architecture
A solid business intelligence architecture consists of different layers and components:
These components should run in sync with the processes of the intelligent organization:
- Registering data in internal systems, databases, or with sensors.
- Collecting data, cleaning it, combining it, and aggregating it in a data warehouse or a data lake.
- Analyzing using Business Intelligence tools and analytical models.
- Distribution of insights, reports, dashboards, and analyses using portals and mobile BI.
- Reaction by the organization’s directors: the decision-making process.
Metadata supports and guides the overall BI process, so that the transition from one step in the process to the next takes place seamlessly.
“A” is the most important letter
The letter “A” in the word “architecture” is the most important one, from our perspective. It stands for acceptance by the users and stakeholders that have to work with it. These are the BI developers, BI consultants, data scientists, data analysts, and end users. The smileys in the right side of the diagram represent satisfied users. That’s what a Business Intelligence architecture should stand for. Unfortunately, in practice, it doesn’t always work out that way.
Structure follows function
Like a house containing different rooms that each have their own purpose, each component of BI architecture has its own purpose. When the goal is unclear or unknown, it’s pointless to design or build an architecture. When you don’t know what queries the architecture is designed to answer, you can’t design the architecture to answer them, after all. This is one of the most common pitfalls. That’s why it’s important to clarify which KPIs, insights, and analytical models you want to work with first, and which functions your BI tools should perform.
The business intelligence architecture and maturity
You shouldn’t put the cart before the horse, as they say. Unfortunately, this still happens on a large scale: many organizations set up a very mature and complex BI architecture, while the maturity of the business intelligence and its users is very low. This can only spell doom and financial disaster. Our experience tells us that a business intelligence architecture should be in lock-step with the maturity of an organization’s business intelligence, for the following reasons:
- You’re much more likely to be successful using business intelligence.
- No wasted money and considerably less risk.
- In case of success you have to consider revising your BI architecture every now and then.
Don’t buy into a data warehouse prematurely
Just because BI consultants and BI architects are convinced of the value of BI doesn’t mean that your users are too, or that they have the skills to extract value from data. So don’t get sold on a data warehouse or data vault prematurely. It’s self-evident that a mature BI organization like Albert Heijn, which was voted smartest organization in the Netherlands, needs a huge and mature data warehouse, and that’s fully justified. They make a lot of money from it and it increases their customer satisfaction. If you pull the plug from their data warehouse, Albert Heijn would effectively drop down dead next week.
Principles that dictate BI architecture
The goal of BI architecture isn’t just to divide everything clearly. Equally important is establishing principles that developers, data suppliers, and users should keep to. This is important in order to prevent discussions and differences of opinion about the exact design of the data warehouse or a dashboard. If you notice these discussions in your own BI team, it may be time to sit down and hash it out.
Get started on a solid business intelligence architecture
Our Business Intelligence architects and BI advisors are eager to help you. With their knowledge, experience, and awareness of the latest BI trends, they will help you build out a solid business intelligence architecture. Contact us for more information or an appointment.