The New School of BI: An Agile BI Practical Guide

According to The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI), “Agile business intelligence addresses a broad need to enable flexibility by accelerating the time it takes to deliver value with BI projects.”

Essentially, TDWI’s definition of Agile BI is doing more in less time. Of course, that sounds very appealing, but the question is: How does Agile BI accomplish more in less time?

As a pioneer in Agile BI, Pentaho has interviewed several customers using our Agile BI solution and have found that the most effective approach to BI includes the following actions:

  • Creating smaller projects that add up to the big picture
  • Rapidly deploying the initial solution, focusing on a few reports or metrics at a time
  • Building on that foundation with frequent iterations and checkpoints
  • Facilitating constant collaboration between Business and IT  throughout the life of the project

By starting small and growing bigger through multiple iterations, Agile BI creates a rapid development environment for BI project teams and avoids keeping IT working in a vacuum. These projects stay on track and improve over time through constant collaboration between business and technical users.

Unfortunately, most of practitioners still approach BI the old-school way. This is due to the industry culture, outdated skills in the market and access to only traditional/proprietary BI tools that have dominated the market for the past 10 to 20 years.

The times have changed. The BI buyer now has several options such as: Data Discovery tools, Cloud-based and hosted solutions, and unified Data Integration and Visualization platforms. The new school rules have opened the playing field making it easier for BI practitioners to be more productive and get something up and running quickly.

Download the Agile BI Practical Guide – How to Lead your BI Project with a Brand New Approach which was developed from interviewing our customers who have previous experience with other BI tools before choosing Pentaho. The guide summarizes the top three major reasons that BI projects fail and describes a simple four-step process for solving these issues.

If you are attending TDWI World Conference in San Diego this week make sure to stop by our booth (#209) to learn more about Pentaho Agile BI.

– Farnaz Erfan, Pentaho, Product Marketing

This blog was originally posted on Business Intelligence from the Swamp.

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What does the economic BI buyer know about Agile BI that you don’t?


Agile is a familiar term to product managers and software developers who are looking to build rapid prototypes and iterate through software development life cycles fairly quickly and effectively.

With recent market trends, Agile has now made it to the agenda of the economic BI buyer. If you are a CFO, CIO, or CEO, and have been hearing about Agile BI in the industry, you are probably looking to quantify the benefits of Agile BI in terms of direct cost savings.

As a CxO you know that your Business Intelligence costs are mainly driven by these 4 areas:

1. License acquisition costs
2. Skill development and training
3. Project deployment duration and man hours
4. Ongoing cost of change management once the solution is deployed

The question is whether Agile BI can save you costs in any of these categories? While Agile BI can immediately imply faster deployment of the BI solution (#3 above), in Pentaho we add value in all the 4 areas. Here is how:

1. Consolidation of licenses: Any BI implementation requires some form of Data Integration, Data Warehousing/Data Mart development, and Data Visualization (Reports, Analysis, and Dashboards). Current BI vendors in the market have disparate products for each of these areas, and offer each product at a separate license acquisition and maintenance cost. Pentaho provides great value in this area as it includes all these components in “one” subscription to Pentaho BI Suite Enterprise Edition, giving you an ultimate price tag that is by far a fraction of the cost of other BI tools in the market.

2. Collapsing skill sets into one: Each specialized tool mentioned above also requires a set of highly trained staff. In a traditional BI project, a crew of ETL Developers, DBAs, Data Modelers, and BI Developers were involved, each building one piece of the big puzzle. An all in one tool such as Pentaho BI Suite EE offers “one” single integrated tool set for all areas of BI development. This enables organizations to collapse the diverse skill sets into one. This level of self-sufficiency reduces the amount of IT staff that needs to be on board for building and maintaining a successful BI program.

3. Rapid deployment
– Pentaho offers an Agile Development Environment, as part of its BI Suite EE. This integrated data integration and business intelligence development environment turns data to decision in a matter of days as opposed to months/ years. Interactive data explorations and visualizations for slicing and dicing data across multiple sources are instantly auto-generated using this tool. Unlike a waterfall approach, this tool allows business and technical teams to build quick prototypes, and iterate upon that all within a unified workspace that empowers sharing, collaboration, and rapid results.

4. Rapid change management
– The need for quick turnarounds when adding additional business metrics or changing existing ones is a reality in BI deployments. When disparate tools are used, adding a new data source, or changing a metric, can take a long time. With Agile BI Development Environment, unique to Pentaho, any change to ETL flows or to the business semantic layer, is automatically reflected in the visualization layer (Reporting, Analysis, Dashboards). This helps organizations to quickly incorporate changes and adjust their BI solution to current business requirements, without long wait times and IT bottleneck delays.

Ready to start saving? How about this….try the Agile BI functionality of Pentaho BI Suite or Pentaho Data Integration for FREE (30-day supported enterprise evaluation).

This blog was originally posted on Business Intelligence From The Swamp

Farnaz Erfan

Pentaho Product Marketing

Can Business and IT finally live in harmony when it comes to BI?

This is not a new concept or question. In fact, for the last several years pretty much all BI vendors claimed that they have solved the “Business and IT Collaboration” needs. Or, at least their marketing departments did!

To truly solve a problem, we must first fully understand it. In this case it is important to ask questions such as: Why is there a lack of collaboration between these two groups? What is so drastically different about these two groups that have forced such a gap between them?

The truth is that IT needs a central ownership to information to streamline processes and ensure sustainability, while business users want their own self-service and ownership to gain results faster. After all business users have become a lot more analysis and data savvy these days as compared to the past; so, an old-school approach of letting IT do the work and just being the consumers of canned reports doesn’t cut it anymore.

Perhaps this picture illustrates the differences more clearly.

As you can see, these two groups are clearly in conflict when it comes to how they like to manage their information. So, we ask: What will help these two groups to start working in harmony?

The truth is that it won’t happen… unless there is a ‘balance’ between their needs.

As much as business users want quick time to value out of their BI projects, one-off applications are not sustainable overtime. They become monsters that are too hard to keep up-to-date, considering all the changes that happen to business requirements over time. Sooner or later, business users will need to reach to their IT friends for help.

The ‘balance’ lies in letting the business users get fast time to value, but still building applications that are sustainable to change. We define this ‘balance’ with an Agile BI approach:

–          Quick prototyping and visualization of the results

–          Frequent iterations and reviews between business and IT users to ‘get it right’

–          Once the data is ‘fit-for-purpose’, providing self-service tools for business users to be self-sufficient in building their own reports, analysis, and dashboards

–          Having a strong ‘shared’ metadata foundation across the board to adjust to changes quickly and to scale up with cumulative iterations

So back to our point about collaboration between business and IT: It is possible? Yes. Does it happen because a set of ‘tools’ facilitate this collaboration? Not necessarily, but they can help. What is the secret ingredient then to ensure such collaboration occurs? Simple: This collaboration happens as long as these two groups need each other, and are working towards a set of common / balanced goals for their BI projects. Something that is only possible with an Agile BI approach.

For more information about this topic and to explore how Pentaho has made Agile BI possible, attend our upcoming webinar on “How to Fast Track Your BI Projects with Agile BI” and see for yourself how Pentaho customers have come to reap the value of their BI projects with Pentaho’s Agile BI initiative.

This blog was originally posted on this site: http://blog.pentaho.com/2011/03/22/it-vs-business/