From Strategy To Execution

How can business intelligence improve the whole information value chain? The answer requires a network approach that integrates standalone applications and data resources to deliver timely intelligence across the enterprise.
You'll need to create a new position for a person who has overarching knowledge of the value chain, including business processes, workflow, and technology underpinnings.

As in all enterprise endeavors, executive support is key to ensure full cooperation from each business unit. Each unit should contribute:

  • A domain expert to translate the business activity as it relates to the unit's goals, objectives, strategies, and execution plans, as well as the unit's role in the overall value chain. This person will identify the information and intelligence the unit requires from other units, as well as the business timing, events, and triggers within the business workflow.
  • An application expert to provide knowledge of the data, including where it resides, formats, system issues, and so on. This person takes part in defining the attributes necessary for the interfaces, integration, and system events within the application workflow.

Experienced BINI team. Developing a system to integrate information and intelligence from any source takes a high degree of technical expertise combined with the ability to rapidly synthesize business knowledge. Pairing data sources with developers is a good way to manage this multidimensional affair. Doing so helps ensure that everything will be in sync at the end of the project. A solid team would consist of:

  • Project manager (who can double as solution architect)
  • Technical architect (who can double as ETL guru)
  • Information architect (who can double as SQL guru)
  • Integrator developer (matched to application streams)
  • Dashboard developer (responsible for integrated reporting).

Technology. You can achieve a basic but extremely effective BINI implementation with the following foundational tools:

  • ETL, which is used to develop pipelines, movement and transformation processes, delivery mechanisms, alerts and notifications, and business activity flow
  • A relational database management system, for use in the OIS
  • A data modeling tool, used to develop logical OIS and star schemas
  • Management dashboards, which are easy to use and to interpret for enterprise business activity monitoring. Dashboards provide sets of views and replacement/overlay/comparison schemes that enable viewing of the metrics life cycle (comparing forecasts to actuals to final outcomes).

How It Works

A BINI design achieves integration so that the value chain has the motorized communication mechanisms that are urgent to business flow. (See Figure 2.) In a retail business, for example, the warehouse, logistics, and product applications are informed whenever there is demand at the store. Processes are triggered to ensure that the stores have product when customers come in to purchase. The analysis output from all major operational systems is moved through the BINI and delivered to multiple applications and business groups on an as-needed basis, just in time.

Once constructed, the BINI isn't readily apparent to business constituents. For example, when you order goods from a catalog, you don't think of the infrastructure that gets the shipment to you, you just happily open the package when it arrives. With BINI, the roadways, processes, triggers, and thresholds are all defined and constructed to seamlessly ship the goods (in this case intelligence) directly to a business user, an application, your application's database, or to a dashboard.

BINI satisfies situations in which companies need enterprise data integration but don't have the time or money to redesign and reimplement new systems. It's appropriate when there are autonomous business units that are in charge of selecting their own applications. It's also a good solution when there are external parties to deal with, such as suppliers, distributors, or warehouses.

Intelligent Foundation

Corporate management wants to know what's going on in the business today and how to recalibrate core business functions as they relate to the value chain for the most profitable future. Yet integrating the necessary data from disparate sources is a constant struggle. A BINI provides the infrastructure for moving enterprise intelligence for insight into the value chain. It also provides an infrastructure for BAM and a no-impact architectural glue that binds operational and decision-support applications together. A BINI makes it possible to integrate and distribute shared reporting and analysis generated by operational applications, online analytic processes, and data mining.

Enterprises can use the BINI as the foundation for comparing, calibrating, and recasting predictive models as they degenerate over time. A BINI can also help a company move into the future through feedback loops for optimizing business forecasts and comparing forecasts to actual results.

When executives want to monitor the value chain end to end, understand today's operations, and gain insight into planning the future, a BINI implementation with a BAM focus might be the best bet.

Lelia Morrill [[email protected]] has worked with large firms over the span of her 18-year career to implement enterprise BI architectures for targeted, profitable solutions. She is a popular speaker and has written articles on BI, data mining, and architecture.

Hemant Warudkar [[email protected]] is CEO of e2e Solutions, a consultancy devoted to BI architectures and technologies. Prior to founding e2e Solutions, he was a manager in the data warehouse practice at KPMG Consulting.

Editor's Choice
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Astrid Gobardhan, Data Privacy Officer, VFS Global
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing