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Three things every BI implementation must have

Contemplating a BI implementation for your business? Hold on. Three must-haves will help ensure that your company is making powerful decisions based on real data.

If you’re looking to implement a business intelligence (BI) system in your environment, there are three things that should be at the very top of your shopping list. These are designed to make a BI system more useful and more easily accessed across your enterprise; without them, you’re looking at a less capable BI implementation with less benefit for your business.

  • Web-based dashboards and scorecards. Dashboards and scorecards are invaluable high-level ways of directing employees’ attention to where it’s needed most. By making these BI elements Web-based, you ensure that they’re as broadly accessible as possible. “Web” in this sense doesn't necessarily mean “Internet,” although you may want to consider solutions that can expose information to authorized users who are outside the office, for example, via an extranet, a mobile device or virtual private network access to the intranet.
  • Write-back capabilities. Write-back enables a user to enter proposed data into the BI system and have that proposed data affect the analyses that everyone is looking at. You might punch in new payroll budgets, for example, to boost the sales staff, and then see what that does to your revenues. Ideally, write-back should be accessible to a wide range of decision makers -- typically, employees should be able to change any number that they have influence over in the business’ real life. That way, they can punch in their ideas and see how they play out before taking action in the real world.
  • Data warehouse and in-memory analytics. The best BI systems rely on a hybrid data approach: A lot of data is pulled from your production data sources and transformed into a data warehouse. But you’re not limited by the data that’s in the data warehouse; you can also touch production data directly, drawing it into in-memory analytical servers that can help quickly answer questions the data warehouse wasn’t designed to answer. The goal is flexibility. In-memory analytics require a lot of power, so if you find users using it a lot for specific questions, then your data warehouse can perhaps be modified or extended to support that kind of question in the future.

The big theme here is flexibility and broad access. In your BI implementation, make sure you’re getting everyone in the business involved in a culture of fact-based decision making; the company will start leveraging real data and making powerful new decisions about its future.

Don Jones is a co-founder of Concentrated Technology LLC, the author of more than 30 IT books and a speaker at technical conferences worldwide. Contact him through his website at

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