Defining Agile Business Intelligence (Part One)

Right now Agile Business Intelligence (BI) to the IT, BI and business worlds, is what famous-for-being-famous heiress Paris Hilton, is to pop-culture and pimply adolescent males. She/it is on everyone’s mind, creating a big fuss, is ambiguous and an undoubtedly attractive proposition.
And like Paris, it’s a bit hard to know what to make of it. What do people mean when they say ‘Agile BI’?
  • Technology:  Are they referring to actual easy-to-use and deploy technology and its capabilities and capacity to underpin agile development?  
  • Culture:  Do they mean creating a supportive environment for the introduction of a BI solution?
  • Process:  Or are they suggesting the way in which BI is employed/deployed should be agile to meet the specific needs of any given industry or organization?
Forrester Research blogger Boris Evelson in his article, “Agile BI Out Of The Box”, discusses the emergence of new BI applications that reduce development time and effort. He seems to emphasize the importance of technological development.  
Conversely, The Data Warehousing Institute’s (TDWI) recent conference in San Diego on, “Creating an Agile BI Environment: Delivering Data at the Speed of Thought”, had a focus on creating and supporting appropriate business environments for the deployment and application of successful BI projects.
And Chief Delivery Officer of VSoft Consulting Group, Nari Kannan, espoused the view that Agile BI was about a flexible approach to deployment and implementation in his blog post – “Intelligence for an Agile Business Vs Agile Business Intelligence” – stating that: “Agile Business Intelligence is all about responding to the changing and imprecisely articulated needs of the BI user.  Instead of nailing every detail of BI down to the wall before providing them, Agile BI is all about the immediately clear, and possible BI requirements, provided in a timely way to the BI customer.” 
At Yellowfin, we think true Agile BI means satisfying all the conditions above, and agree with Paul Kautza, Director of Education of TDWI, in that Agile BI is not just “tied to design and development, but also to how we deliver analytics, manage our organizations and plan our infrastructures.”
According to the Forrester Research report – “Agile BI: Best Practices for Breaking Through the BI Backlog” – BI solutions need to become more flexible and responsive to meet changing demands of business consumers.
Sixty-six per cent of Forrester survey respondents said that BI requests were back-logged because IT staff were too busy to deal with them in a timely manner; and 70 per cent said that their BI requirements changed on a monthly, daily, or even hourly basis.  A further 22 per cent stated that they felt their requirements out-stretched the usefulness of traditional BI applications because their needs changed too often.
The report concludes that: "More often than not, unstructured, free-form exploration and analysis is needed to answer an in-the-moment business question. Indeed, the survey respondents indicated that only on average, 51 percent of their BI requirements can be fulfilled by a canned, structured production report, while on average, 49 percent of the cases require free-form exploration and analysis." 

So what does all this mean? The constraints and complexities of traditional BI solutions severely restrict the ability to adapt and respond swiftly to changes in reporting needs. Agile BI is far more adaptable, and its intuitive nature means that end-users can use the solution independently, rather than relying on technical experts – a cumbersome process.

It’s obvious that the demand for Agile BI is rapidly increasing. Businesses are demanding more in shrinking timelines from their data reporting and analytics programs. Whether this demand is driven by the increased pace and complexity of business operating environments, or whether technological innovation pushes the pace, matters little. The need for Agile BI solutions is here to stay, and demand will only increase. 
  • So, what do you need to look for in BI solution? 
  • How do you fashion a BI solution to meet your changing and individual needs? 
  • And how do you build an environment to support BI solution?  
Answer these critical questions, and you’re well on your way to achieving real Agile BI. Watch this space, we’ll be providing some answers to these critical questions.

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