DIY BI: A guide to self-service business intelligence implementation
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Moore's Law doesn't just happen on its own. Relevant companies, and the people behind them, need to make it happen. At Intel, leaders said they carried out a SQL 2012 business intelligence project using self-service BI that helped the company keep up with Moore's Law.
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Moore's Law states that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles every two years. It is named for Gordon Moore, one of the founders of Intel, which is now the largest maker of semiconductors on the planet. So if the tenets of Moore's Law are to continue, Intel will need to have its hands in the game, as it has in the past.
Despite the company's efforts to speed up computing efforts around the world, Intel realized, not long ago, that it wasn't getting business information to the right internal employees in a short-enough time. That led to its chip manufacturing process not being as efficient as company officials felt it could be. So it set out to fix that.
For example, factory technicians at Intel perform preventative maintenance on manufacturing tools. In order to improve the quality of maintenance, the company wants to know several things: how often preventative maintenance happens, which employees take part in it and how well they do in fixing or circumventing a problem.
"We were taking too much time to make decisions," said Eduardo Gamez, Intel senior software engineer and BI tech lead. "It was taking too long for people to get to the data, and that leaves less time for analyzing. Without the data, analytics does not exist."
SQL 2012 business intelligence in the supply chain
So Intel set out on a SQL 2012 business intelligence project in its Technology Manufacturing Engineering (TME) department, which manages the creation of new processors. The goal? To gain faster insights into the department's current manufacturing process, so it could be improved in the next chip rollout.
Intel's TME department ultimately decided to build a layer of Microsoft BI software on top of a SQL Server 2012-based data mart. It used SQL Server Integration Services for building extract, transform and load operations designed to handle the moving of external source data. It also used SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) for managing cubes and tabular models within the data mart and SQL Server Reporting Services for creating reports. Additionally, the company used SQL Server Data Tools to help build BI applications. The database infrastructure resides on Intel-based HP blade servers with a multi-terabyte storage area network.
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Also sitting on top of SQL Server were plug-ins to Microsoft Excel 2010. For example, that company uses PowerPivot for analysis and Power View for reporting. Both tools provide an interface that business analysts can use to tap into the data mart. End users, meanwhile, can work with those reports through Sharepoint without having direct access to information in the data mart.
But Intel was looking for even more capabilities. They wanted even faster self-service BI, which meant providing more access to data models for more end users. They found it with a new role they called the "data steward." The data steward would have to be familiar with both the business and technical sides of the company and facilitate faster access to useful information for more business users.
"Our data stewards are those who understand the business and know the data," Gamez said. "We're having them enable self-service BI for us."
Those data stewards use PowerPivot and Power View to deliver information quickly back to the business while, at the same time, interfacing with IT to make sure the backend database can support it.
The results have been highly positive, according to Gamez, who said employees using data have been impressed with the level of detail they are now receiving in BI reports.
"By incorporating self-service BI, we are helping our employees," he said.