Benefits of Modernising your BI Approach and Toolset

Written by Shailesh Mallya

This is the first in a series of 3 posts that explore the topic of BI modernisation. This article starts with the benefits of updating your BI approach and moving off a legacy enterprise BI tool. In future articles, I’ll explore best practices to ensure you maximise the benefits and minimise risks of your BI modernisation project, followed by an exploration of what features to look for in a modern BI tool.

Business Intelligence has been used as an umbrella term for everything reports & dashboards. What ‘intelligence’ really means was left to the ‘eyes of the stakeholders’ who would peruse those reports & dashboards. In that way, the term has been abused and we know it is a misnomer. Over the last 10 years, the definition of “BI” has morphed and expanded to include self-service analytics, followed by AI, Machine Learning and perhaps something else in the near future.

Enterprise BI was revolutionised by the big boys of software primarily with ERP & CRM platforms. The BI software was packaged along with the platforms. A beautiful story was knit on cost savings in the first year indeed. Alas, that did not last. As organisations invested further into these monolithic BI platforms to keep them running, they faced the dreaded point of no return where they could not move away from these platforms. Mind you, these platforms have enormous advantages if used well. They excel at governance and security capabilities to provide standardised KPI definitions across your business. However, people shudder at the thought of change and with an army of developers to manage & maintain these platforms, your costs keep on spiraling with no end in sight!

Sound familiar? Read on!

The so-called, self-service BI provided some respite that provided power in the hands of business users who know their data. The visualisations were sexy and with a low entry barrier (all you need is a desktop tool, innit?) And the users went on an analysis spree. This did unlock enormous insights from your disparate data sets. But this came at a cost – no data or KPI standardisation. Typically, everybody works on their reports on a desktop and publishes them on a cloud platform as a dashboard to be accessed by business users. However, the authors have their own version of truth – that sounds scary. Making changes is easy since there is little governance. Data analysis and sexy visualisations but limited flexibility to manage the common definitions.

Gartner terms the two flavours as Bimodal ItT (or BI if I may). As they point out ‘Bimodal is the practice of managing two separate but coherent styles of work: one focused on predictability; the other on exploration’. As your keen eye would have figured, enterprise BI flavour falls into Mode 1 and self service into Mode 2.

Enterprise BI provides predictability and governance at a snail’s pace whereas self-service BI can provide value with rapid analysis & changes at a scorching pace with little control on governance. What if we say there is a middle ground that is being uncovered!

Enterprise BI needs a new platform, that provides the governance with the flexibility of being truly cloud, rapid change management and of course the sexy visualisations. Enter the new age BI platform!

1. 100% governance on cloud, you heard that right!

The new age platforms are designed ground up to manage governance fully on cloud and that offers enormous flexibility. Well, if you can manage your entire cloud infrastructure via thin clients, why not apply the same principle to enterprise BI. No desktops and no publishing reports across the different pieces of infrastructure. You get all those features at your fingertips with relevant security of course, within a single platform. The monolithic semantic layers are transferable to the new age platform by taking ‘smaller chunks’ in a truly agile manner. And yes, did we say upgrades automatically managed within the platform.

2. Did you say Change, we say bring it on!

If you need to make the simplest of changes to your metadata or your reports/dashboards let alone any complex changes, this can take weeks or in some cases even months. Your business users have moved on, more often than not to analyse data on their self-service BI. The new age platform architecture is fundamentally built with change in mind. It is typically integrated with version control systems such as Git that provides making changes an integral part of the system rather than a long-winded change control process typically managed by multiple people. This brings the power the coders have been enjoying for the last decade right into the BI platform. Embrace change in every possible way!

3. Integrate the other critical silos – your developers & testers

Collaboration is a word bandied around in the organisation for a better culture. Tools such as Slack, Teams have made that easier. It is essential that developers & testers collaborate with each other and within themselves (for peer reviews). With monolithic BI platforms, this can be accomplished by designing long winded waterfall-like process chains. Developers rely on the process that can often be overlooked and this can turn into blame each other culture. The best way to avoid this is by using collaboration that is a feature of the BI platform – that is what the new age platform gives you. Get your people silos working together!

4. New age Visualisations – create & share

After all, this is what the users see and this is what this is all about. A story can be completed with the simplest of visualisations. However, there are times when you would want to create and include your own. No sweat, the new age platform is meant to provide the best visualisations within with an ability to seamlessly embed your favourite ‘external’ visualisations into the platform. And if you want to embed any of these visualisations into your CRM systems or into an external portal, it is dead simple. And unlike the monolithic BI platforms, user experience to create your own stories is a cornerstone of the new age platforms. We talk about democratising insights, there you go!

5. Insights yes but what about Actions?

Data and insights mean nothing until you can act on them. Of what use is a stunning analytical report that can tell you that key customers in your region are churning in the next 7 days until you can action it? This becomes a part of another process. Action should be a feature of the BI platform, not an afterthought. The new age platform precisely does that. It completes the all-important loop of DATA >> INSIGHT >> ACTION. Poetry in motion!

We talked about the ‘why’ that outlines compelling reasons to move away from your monolithic BI stack. In our next post, we will talk about the ‘how’ i.e. the steps that can help you with that move followed by a third post on deep dive into specific features of new age platform.

Contact us today to understand how we can help you turn insights into action: