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Business Intelligence Cookbook: A Project Lifecycle Approach Using Oracle Technology

By John Heaton
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  1. Free Chapter
    Defining a Program
About this book
Oracle Database 11g is a comprehensive database platform for data warehousing and business intelligence that combines industry-leading scalability and performance, deeply-integrated analytics, and embedded integration and data-quality all in a single platform running on a reliable, low-cost grid infrastructure. This book steps through the lifecycle of building a data warehouse with key tips and techniques along the way. Business Intelligence Cookbook: A Project Lifecycle Approach Using Oracle Technology outlines the key ways to effectively use Oracle technology to deliver your business intelligence solution. This is a practical guide starting with key recipes for project management then moving onto project delivery. Business Intelligence Cookbook: A Project Lifecycle Approach Using Oracle Technology is a practical guide for performing key steps and functions on your project. This book starts with setting the foundation for a highly repeatable efficient project management approach by assessing your current methodology to see how suitable it is for a business intelligence program. We also learn to set up the project delivery phases to consistently estimate the effort for a project. Along the way we learn to create blueprints for the business intelligence solution that help to connect and map out the destination of the solution. We then move on to analyze requirements, sources, and data. Finally we learn to secure the data as it is an important asset within the organization and needs to be secured efficiently and effectively.
Publication date:
July 2012
Publisher
Packt
Pages
368
ISBN
9781849685481

 

Chapter 1. Defining a Program

The chapters in this book are intended to give you recipes aiding you in defining, starting, controlling, and wrapping up your Business Intelligence Initiative (BI Initiatives).

This chapter assesses your current project delivery methodology, and highlights areas which may need to be modified or enhanced to support your business intelligence program. In order to do this, you will be using the Project Readiness Worksheet, which is split into the following recipes:

  • Program or a project

  • Mapping your business culture

  • Adapting your project delivery methodology

  • Assessing your project team

  • Organizing your project team

Introduction

This chapter explores recipes designed to give you an insight into your BI Initiative.

BI Initiatives can be daunting, and seem complex to project managers or team members who have never been part of a Business Intelligence project before.

By analyzing a few key processes, understanding your organization and culture, adapting your methodology, and determining your project team, you can kick your BI Initiative off with the right start.

In order to facilitate this assessment, the project readiness worksheet will be used. The worksheet will ask a series of questions which you can complete, and at the end of each recipe give recommendations based on your responses. This worksheet will provide valuable insight into your organization.

 

Introduction


This chapter explores recipes designed to give you an insight into your BI Initiative.

BI Initiatives can be daunting, and seem complex to project managers or team members who have never been part of a Business Intelligence project before.

By analyzing a few key processes, understanding your organization and culture, adapting your methodology, and determining your project team, you can kick your BI Initiative off with the right start.

In order to facilitate this assessment, the project readiness worksheet will be used. The worksheet will ask a series of questions which you can complete, and at the end of each recipe give recommendations based on your responses. This worksheet will provide valuable insight into your organization.

 

Program or a project


Determining whether the BI Initiative is a program or a project can be very subjective. Labeling the initiative is not important, but rather understanding its characteristics better to structure your initiative.

Getting ready

Before starting the assessment, it is important to have some general information regarding your initiative, namely:

  • Intended scope of the BI Initiative

  • Targeted consumers

  • Planned deadline dates

  • Understanding of the type of software and hardware which will be utilized

  • Resources which may be assigned to the project, both internal and external

How to do it...

The most efficient way to understand your initiative and gather information, is to develop a questionnaire or survey. To do this, you could use any of the standard web tools available to build a survey or a simple spreadsheet.

  1. 1. Open a spreadsheet application and create a worksheet called Definition:

  2. 2. Create a series of questions which focus on determining if your initiative is a project or a program. Questions should focus on Initiative type, Scope, Support, Integration, and Costing. Some sample questions are as follows:

  3. 3. Ensure that your questions only allow a Yes or No answer. This solicits direct answers and starts people thinking about the answers.

  4. 4. Save the spreadsheet as Readiness Assessment.

  5. 5. Email the questionnaire to the key supporters of the Business Initiative.

How it works...

Based on the answers from the survey, you can determine whether you have a potential program or a project. A set of general definitions for a program and project are as follows:

  • A program — This is defined as several interrelated projects that have a goal of improving an organization's performance

  • A project — This is defined as a unique and temporary construct with a defined beginning and end, to meet a set of goals or objectives

BI Initiatives are normally focused on organizational improvements, or initiatives (regulatory and so on) of some description. These initiatives do not have a set duration, but rather are implemented using a system of measurement and feedback. As long as they attain the objectives (set measurements), they are normally continued.

Note

Determining whether a BI Initiative is a program or a project is an important part of the BI Initiative, because a key success factor is the way it influences the organization, and how the initiative morphs as the environment changes, ensuring long term benefits.

Each project within the BI Initiative should be focused on delivering unique benefits to the organization. These deliverables should be identified and sequenced to ensure that multiple projects or phases can run simultaneously. BI Initiatives are normally mapped to organizational or departmental goals, objectives, and metrics. These metrics are normally evolving and perpetual. The BI Initiative should include continued feedback and improvement to ensure that the program or project remains aligned with the business.

Multiple work packages, subject areas, or rollouts need to be analyzed before development, to understand how the deliverables of one project or phase have an impact on and contribute to subsequent projects or phases.

BI Initiatives rely on a good technical architecture, infrastructure, and integration to be successful. The integration points can easily become projects of their own, given the complexity and the deliverables. It is key to identify these projects early in the process and begin the key foundation infrastructure and integration early in the BI Initiative.

Subject areas can be prioritized and delivered based on costs. Tracking costs and estimates by subject area delivers valuable information to the project. It is important to agree upon and build a standard estimation model to cost a subject area; use a similar means to track expenditure and completion. It is best to start this from the beginning, else trying to manage and reconcile this information after the fact can be cumbersome and time consuming.

Global or multi-site rollouts require you to understand the type of architecture you are putting in place, and the support mechanism for this. Deploying development tools across large networks or geographic locations will have an impact on schedules as you cannot be as efficient. Additional techniques such as remote desktops or access are required for remote locations. Additional support teams or shifts may be necessary to support multi-site implementations. Both of these will affect cost and schedule, and are commonly forgotten within BI Initiatives.

Multi-language requirements not only affect the technical solution but also the business solution. Translating information is costly and time consuming. These factors need to be incorporated into the overall program.

There's more...

Whether you classify your initiative as a program or a multi-phase large project, it is important to realize that you will have multiple streams, and should structure the program or project into smaller modules.

By doing so you have the opportunity for running these smaller modules simultaneously.

Deliverables, templates, and work practices should be efficiently and effectively planned to facilitate reuse, and minimize overhead. By understanding and communicating this early in the lifecycle, you will gain the correct support and awareness.

With the Readiness Assessment you can schedule additional meeting sessions with the necessary stakeholders. The additional sessions include the following:

  • Overview

  • Data Source Review

  • Business Process Review

  • System Architecture

  • ETL/ELT Overview

  • Database Standards

These sessions will give you valuable information to gain insight into your Business Intelligence Initiative, outlining high-level information or gaps. If you are implementing BI applications, you will want to alter the questions to focus more on the pre-defined requirements for the application, and how they will integrate into your environment.

 

Mapping your business culture


The business culture of the organization will greatly influence the way in which you will structure and gather requirements for your BI Initiative. It is important to understand your business community so that you can tailor the communications and information to be effective and relevant. By asking a few simple questions, it is possible to determine the type of business community.

Getting ready

Before starting the exercise, you need to identify a few key resources to gather some information. The resources you will need to identify are as follows:

  • A C-Level or upper management executive sponsor of the BI Initiative

  • A line manager who will utilize the solution

  • An IT manager who will be responsible for maintaining the solution

How to do it...

To understand your business culture you will need to enhance the Readiness Assessment. The assessment will be enhanced by more open-ended questions which enable insight into the businesses growth strategy, and how the information is managed and consumed.

  1. 1. Open your Readiness Assessment Worksheet and add a new worksheet called Business Culture:

  2. 2. Create questions in the worksheet which focus on the way the organization has grown, the phase in which the organization is, information accessibility, tools availability, and so on. See the Readiness Assessment for more sample questions.

  3. 3. This time distribute the worksheet to a selective people within the organization at first to gain an understanding.

  4. 4. Collect responses to the questions and collate the information.

  5. 5. Set up follow-up meetings with the survey participants to review their answers.

How it works...

By understanding the business culture of your organization, you can approach BI Initiative effectively.

Review the information returned from the Readiness Assessment. Should your results indicate that your organization manages by using multiple reports from one or more systems, then you should focus on using the reports as a basis for your analysis. By following a bottom-up approach to analyze these reports, you can understand the key information required by the business. You can use the Report Register to identify and register all the different reports you uncover.

If however your organization has a good understanding of the metrics, they will be used to monitor the business processes across one or more systems by following a top-down approach to analyzing your requirements. With this approach, you need to understand the metrics used by the organization and how they identify and correct an issue. You can use the Metric Register to identify and register all the different metrics you uncover.

There's more...

By understanding your organization you will be more equipped to tailor your BI Initiative to your audience and organization's culture. Understanding the basics of the organization can facilitate more effective communication, and hopefully a greater adoption rate for the initiative. Now we'll look at some key examples of different organizational cultures and the insights they can provide.

Organizations that have grown through acquisition

In these organizations, there could be a lot of different business processes and systems storing for key information. If this is so, then there could be a master data management concern to the real source of information, for key business information. It is best to include additional time for data discovery within the project plan, as a real understanding is required to understand the different sources of information and the nuances based on the source system.

Note

Be aware of any standardization projects or system migration projects which may be active as these are a good source of information for the BI Initiative.

Expect to see an increase in systems and differences in business processes as the new organizations are folded into your organization. For your BI Initiative to consume information from these new sources, a flexible architecture and methodology will need to be developed and adopted. The BI Initiative can provide a vital role in this strategy, by having a standard integration model enabling the business to integrate new organizations quicker and more efficiently.

Organizations that have grown organically

This organization normally limits the number of systems and variations in business processes. These main systems, similar to an ERP system, are good sources of information for business processes and key information.

A standardization of business processes and consolidation of systems are the normal progression of an organization growing organically. Be aware of upgrade projects or a project that will replace existing systems; these will normally introduce enhancement for business processes and key functionality in core systems. Again, a flexible architecture and methodology are key to ensuring that the BI Initiative is capable of embracing this change.

Organizations and growth phases

For an organization in a growth phase, typically information requested will be to do with expansion metrics, sales, volumes, and so on. The focus of the organization will be external, and to the markets. This enables the BI Initiative to focus efforts on delivering information which can increase these metrics, or provide insight into increasing the revenue, market share, and so forth.

If the organization however is in a contraction phase, the metrics and focus are normally on cost reduction and containment. For this, the BI Initiative should focus effort on optimizing existing business processes, and look for ways to reduce cost. Finding relationships between metrics is essential in this phase of an organization. Thus, correlations between spend and efficiency are invaluable at this stage.

Metric driven organizations

These organizations normally use management by exception. They use metrics to identify problem areas, and then drill into the problem areas to understand issues. If your organization has adopted such practices, then they are an advanced organization and the BI Initiative should assist by automating and distributing these metrics. Organizations like these normally have a single version or very few variations of the same information, making it easier to find the trusted source of the information. BI Initiatives in these environments are normally very rare.

Report managed organizations

Organizations that manage by means of reports or details are normally very early in their BI Initiative. Organizations at this point require a gradual approach to adopting Business Intelligence. For these organizations, it is essential to invest a lot of time in education and communication around the BI Initiative, to outline the benefits and approach. It will be key to prove to business users that the BI Initiative can produce reports of equal or better quality, in a more efficient manner than the current manual processes. In an organization you will normally find multiple reports that represent the same information in a slightly different manner. This will be evident if you analyze a business process and gather all the reports and information used during the business process. Reducing the number of reports, gaining consensus, and providing automated information are paramount to success in these situations. BI Initiatives in these environments are normally very common.

Once this is done, taking the organization to the next step of common business metrics and enabling them to manage by exception is possible.

Understanding if a line manager has the necessary information, and the amount of effort needed to obtain this information, is a great way to determine whether the area of responsibility requires immediate attention. This helps set priorities for the BI Initiative.

Utilizing existing reports as a basis for requirements gathering helps the project to contain scope, and business users to understand the charter of the initiative. It is not recommended to ask a business user what they want as it is a very ambiguous question.

Identify the key information that is required to operationally manage a department, or report information to higher levels of management. Try and identify which systems provide key pieces of information. This helps not only to identify this information, but gives you insight into which systems the business determines as the source of record for the information.

Information is normally extracted from systems and then manually manipulated in spreadsheets. The spreadsheets inherently contain a lot of business rules in the form of the following:

  • Calculations

  • Data standardizations

  • Groupings

  • Filters

  • Key attributes

  • Visualization cues

It is important not only to look at the spreadsheets as example reports, but also to capture these business rules and standardize across the organization.

See also

For information about Blueprint, look at Chapter 5, The Blueprint. For more information about using this information, look at Chapter 2, Establishing the Project.

 

Adapting your project delivery methodology


This recipe focuses on how to adapt your current project delivery methodology to cater for a BI Initiative. For BI Initiatives there is no correct or incorrect methodology. So if you follow Mike 2.0, Scrum, Prince2, DSDM Atern, Waterfall, Prototyping, Spiral, or some other methodology, it does not really matter. These are personal preferences and standards set by your organization. It is important to understand a few characteristics of a BI Initiative, and how to adapt your methodology to cater for these characteristics.

Getting ready

Contact your project management office if one has been created, or look for projects which have successfully been completed within your organization. From these projects, gather the project methodology.

To use this recipe, you need to be familiar with your project delivery methodology.

How to do it...

From the artifacts gathered, create a simple process flow for your methodology outlining your phases.

  1. 1. Review the typical project delivery methodology phases:

  2. 2. Create a lightweight methodology which is easy to understand with a few phases, by defining the phases that make sense within your organization. For example, Definition, Data Discovery, Development, Testing, Promote, and Production:

How it works...

By understanding some of the more prevalent characteristics of a BI Initiative, you have the opportunity to adapt your project delivery methodology to cater for these characteristics.

The methodology should be clear and easy to understand. The phases should be encapsulated enough to be self-contained, but have sufficient inputs and outputs to allow for interaction with other phases while running in parallel. All phases should be broken into defined time spans. The key to the methodology is to make it efficient and repeatable. If it does not make sense, it is probably too complicated.

There's more...

The key to adapting your project delivery methodology is to deliver results in a short amount of time, while providing visibility into the process by the business user. Delivering the benefit quickly, consistently, and efficiently is essential for a BI Initiative to be deemed as a success whilst maintaining constant communication, feedback, and improvement.

See also

For more information on how to structure the different work practices, refer to the recipes in Chapter 2, Establishing the Project.

 

Assessing your project team


In a BI Initiative it is important to have a mix of skills within the team. These skills range from presentation and information gathering, to technical development and implementation. With the right mix of skills, your project can be very successful, as a BI Initiative is not all about the technology.

How to do it...

In order to assess your project team, it is important to first understand the skills which you will require from your team to complete the project:

  1. 1. Categorize your team members into two different buckets:

    • a. Members with good communication skills, and more business acumen and knowledge.

    • b. Members with good technical skills.

  2. 2. Create technical and business placeholders for roles required, and assign team members to the different roles:

  3. 3. Identify supporting and contributing roles for your initiative:

How it works...

By understanding the roles required for the project, you can effectively recruit your team and identify any gaps in your resource pool.

See also

For more information on the different responsibilities by the roles, refer to the work practices recipes, in Chapter 2,Establishing the Project.

 

Organizing your project team


Once you have identified your project team, it is important to organize your team efficiently. There are two major models to organize your team.

How to do it...

Depending on how you plan to run your project, you could choose one of the following models for your team:

Option 1: Model based on subject areas with multi-skilled resources.

  1. 1. Separate your team into business initiative and subject area resources:

Option 2: Model based on resource specialized skills.

  1. 1. Separate your teams based on technology and business skills:

There's more...

Option 2 is the more advanced model for an initiative which will run multiple subject areas concurrently. This model is effective if you have a good grasp of the methodology, and some experience.

Note

Option 1 is normally the best model to start your initiative with and then migrate to Option 2 at a later date.

See also

For more information on the different deliverables by the roles, refer to the work practices recipes, in Chapter 2, Establishing the Project.

About the Author
  • John Heaton

    John Heaton graduated top of his class with a Diploma in Information Technology from Technikon Witwatersrand in South Africa (equivalent to Bachelors in computer science). He has 10+ years with Oracle Corporation, including as a Practice Manager. John has been co-managing the North Business Intelligence and Warehouse Consulting practice delivering business intelligence solutions to Fortune 500 clients. During this time he has steadily added business skills and business training to his technical background. This experience gives John a great background and insight into the requirements of differing businesses and how to design and develop technical solutions enabling clients to realize their requirements. John’s strengths include the ability to communicate the benefits of introducing a business intelligence solution into a client’s architecture. He has consistently become a trusted advisor to our clients. John’s philosophy is based on responsibility and mutual respect. He relies on the unique abilities of individuals to ensure success in different areas and strives to foster a team environment of creativity and achievement. Today, John specializes as a Solution Architect assisting customers in designing large complex data warehouses. Through his years John has worked in numerous industries with differing technologies. This broad experience base allows John to bring a unique perspective and understanding when designing and developing a data warehouse. The strong business background, coupled with technical expertise and his professional certification in Project Management makes John a valued asset to any project or organization. John frequently presents at Business Intelligence conferences on a variety of subjects.

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Latest Reviews (1 reviews total)
very unique book addressing both technical aspect and project flow/management. very useful in day to day sceanrio for BI professionals.
Business Intelligence Cookbook: A Project Lifecycle Approach Using Oracle Technology
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