Business Requirements For Bi Decisionpath

Business requirements for bi decisionpath

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Business Requirements for BI
and the BI Portfolio:
How to Get it Right
Steve Williams
Business Requirements for BI and the BI Portfolio:
How to Get it Right
Featured in
DM Review, July 2008
Steve Williams
DecisionPath Consulting
[email protected]
ore and more companies are
learning the hard way that Figure 1. Business-Driven BI Requirements Development Process
BI business requirements for Sub-Process 1.1 – BI Opportunity Analysis
business intelligence (BI) are
not something to be taken
lightly. After paying hundreds of thousands Identify Business Drivers Prepare BI Business Case
of dollars in consulting fees for generic BI
The BI Business Case describes in
requirements, or after spending months business terms how BI will be used to
generating traditional report requirements and improve business results. It provides a
functional specifications, major companies in Identify Business Strategies, Goals, high -level description of BI -driven
many different industries have discovered that Objectives , and Performance Measures improvement opportunities (BIOs) falling
these approaches suffer from three primary into three broad categories:
deficiencies: (1) Management Processes, e.g. planning
• They do not provide the basis for a budgeting, performance measurement,
Identify Business Design: controlling, risk management , regulatory
compelling business case that business
(1) How Company Competes compliance , etc

leaders buy into, one that clearly (2) How Value Created for Customers
articulates how BI will be used within (3) Core Business Processes (2) Customer Processes, i.e. all of the
specific business processes to improve sales, marketing , and customer services
business performance. processes aimed at acquiring, retaining
and serving profitable customers
• They do not provide enough specificity
with respect to the kinds of BI applications Identify BI-Driven (3) Operating Processes, including core
Business Improvement Opportunities manufacturing and/or service delivery
that are needed, whereas BI is a broad
(1) To Management Processes processes, back office processes,
term that encompasses a wide range of (2) To Customer Processes supplier management processes, etc

applications, from basic reporting and (3) To Operating Processes
OLAP to sophisticated analytics

• They do not provide enough specificity to
guide development of the BI databases and understand what it means to get BI business The Weakness of Generic
applications that deliver the BI or to guide requirements right. You must know how to BI Business Requirements
the business process changes that deliver use true BI business requirements to drive
the bang for the buck to the business. Consultants often run into situations
definition and prioritization of the BI portfolio
where major companies ask us to help develop
The use of inappropriate and expensive BI as the foundation for a compelling business
a BI Strategy, which includes a business case,
business requirements methods leads to failed case, and you must be able to use BI business
a BI portfolio and opportunity map, and a BI
BI investments and discrediting of BI as a profit requirements to drive development of the
requirements document. In many cases, the
improvement tool. This happens just at the time BI databases, BI applications, and enhanced
BI team has already taken a stab at a business
when more sophisticated competitors using business processes that create business value

case and/or a requirements document, which
business-driven requirements methods are Considering examples from my consulting
typically contain statements such as:
reaping the strategic and financial benefits of BI experience that illustrate incomplete or
done correctly. insufficient BI requirements will set the stage • Produce enhanced organizational
for discussing what it means to get BI business capabilities to manage data and
To avoid dissatisfied business users and requirements right. information as organizational assets

unhappy senior executives, it is critical to
DM Review 2
Business Requirements for BI and the BI Portfolio:
How to Get it Right
• Provide a single version of the truth

Figure 2. Business-Driven BI Requirements Development Process
• Enable consistent and reliable access to Sub-Process 1.2 – BI Portfolio Definition
accurate corporate-wide data

• Provide more sophisticated reporting and Define BI-Driven
Business Improvement
analysis, faster turnaround, improved Opportunities (BIOs)
accessibility, and enhanced quality

• A single touchpoint where detailed
Specify for Each BIO:
financial transaction information can be BI Opportunity
• Targeted business process
filtered on user-entered selection criteria, • How BI will improve the process
viewed online, downloaded in standard • When BI will be used
• What kind of BI is needed Prepare BI Portfolio
file formats and used to generate real time Definition and BI
• Who will use the BI
reports. • What units will use the BI Opportunity Map
• How improvement will be measured
These examples of generic BI business BI Business Case • Links (if any) to Balanced Scorecard
requirements illustrate a key point: they are fine
as far as they go, but the business executives
and managers we deal with in major companies Rank BIOs Using Structured
don’t find these kinds of requirements Evaluation Criteria Weighted
statements and value propositions compelling. Toward Business Impact
In fact, it is just the opposite – they see no
reason to get excited about BI absent a more
compelling business case and more concrete
BI requirements that relate to the things from multiple disparate sources. • Customer street address,
they do, like conduct marketing campaigns, Unlike the world of custom systems • Customer city,
manufacture and ship products, buy raw development, BI functional requirements
materials and provide services to customers. • Customer state,
like those listed are standard features of
As a result, they underfund BI, which limits commercially available BI tools. While it is • Customer ZIP code and
its business impact, and thereby justifies their important to know what your company needs • Customer phone number

skepticism. BI tools to do, BI functional requirements
typically say little about the kinds of business Such data element listings can be helpful,
Why BI Functional Requirements
(Specifications) are Not Enough information, analytic techniques and decision and it is important to understand what business
support that are required or the specific core information is needed as a core expression of
In the early days of the computer BI business requirements, but the listing alone
business processes that the company seeks
industry, it was critical to generate a functional says nothing about how the information will be
to improve via BI. And yet, when teaching
requirements document because much of what used or how it might need to be integrated with
BI requirements courses at conferences, I am
computers did had to be custom-programmed. information about products, manufacturing
confronted on a regular basis by companies
If you wanted the monitor to display a table locations, store locations, organizational units,
whose BI requirements approach is centered
full of business data, you had to capture that and other organizational information. Further,
around capturing BI functional requirements
as a functional requirement - often expressed BI capabilities built on top of large stores of
like those illustrated previously. While these
as a statement like “the system shall be capable unintegrated subject data elements run the
are necessary to a degree, they are far from
of accepting data inputs and displaying the risk of spawning inconsistent BI depending
sufficient for creating BI applications that satisfy
data in user-defined tabular formats.” In the on how development teams and/or power
business users’ needs

modern BI world, we run across functional users choose to integrate data for their specific
requirements such as: Data Element Listings purposes. In other words, simple data element
• The system shall provide the ability to drill A third common approach is using the listings don’t provide enough specificity to
down, drill across, and slice-and-dice. data element listing as a proxy for BI business guide development of the BI databases and
requirements. The predominant logic here applications that deliver BI or to guide the
• The system shall provide the ability to
is that the company is not sure about how it business process changes that deliver the bang
specify organizational hierarchies and
wants to use BI, so it seeks to prepare for any for the buck to the business

display performance scorecards for each
eventuality by creating a list of all the data Business-Driven BI Requirements
organizational unit

elements it might need for all the major subjects
• The system shall enable role-based access of the business that it might need to know So far, I have illustrated common
to information. something about. A typical data element listing approaches to BI business requirements and
might include: discussed how they are somewhat useful but
• The system shall provide capabilities to certainly not sufficient. In contrast, a well-
route alerts to business users according to • Customer first name, structured set of BI business requirements:
user-defined parameters

• Customer last name, • Establishes a clear linkage between
• The system shall enable integration of data business strategies, the core business
• Customer account number,
DM Review 3
Business Requirements for BI and the BI Portfolio:
How to Get it Right
processes via which the strategies
are executed, and BI-driven business Figure 3. Business-Driven BI Requirements Development Process
improvement opportunities (BIOs), which
Key Inputs
are the basis for a BI business case that is Define Requirements for Business
compelling to the business stakeholders; Information : Prepare BI
BI Opportunity
Standard Reports , OLAP, Requirements
• Identifies and clearly describes what Analysis
Scorecards , Dashboards, KPIs, Document
business information, analytical tools Metrics , Alerts, etc

and techniques, and decision support (1) Analytical Needs
is required by the business to realize
Define Requirements for Analytical
BI-driven improvement opportunities Tools and Applications : (2) Information
regarding management processes, BI Business Case Trend Analysis, Statistical Analysis, Requirements Matrix
customer processes, and/or operational Optimization , Forecasting,
Simulation, Modeling, etc. (3) Representative
processes; Business Questions
• Provides the essential input to the process (4) High-Level Fact
of defining specific BI projects and Define Requirements for Decision Qualifier Matrix
prioritizing those projects based on key BI Portfolio Support :
Definition (5) High-Level BI User
criteria such as business impact and time- Alerts, Decision Processes, Scoring
to-market; Engines , Predictive Analytics, etc

• Provides the means of aligning BI,
business process improvement, and
balanced scorecard initiatives; the BI Portfolio explicitly links BI and one or document that can drive development of the
more targeted business processes. In the center BI databases, BI applications, and enhanced
• Drives key data architecture decisions; of Figure 2, we see that when we talk about business processes that create business value

• Provides the basis for end-to-end defining BI-driven BIOs, we get very specific Short of a major faux pas with a key
traceability between BI requirements about the BI and how it will be used to improve customer, committing a social gaffe in the
approved by business users and the business results. This approach overcomes executive suite, or consistently missing
delivered data stores and BI applications; the weaknesses of traditional approaches to BI performance targets, nothing will derail a
and requirements and establishes the basis for the promising business or IT career like being
last step in the process of developing a well-
• Provides a key baseline against which the associated with a high profile initiative that
structured set of BI requirements, shown in
performance of the BI initiative can be fails. And BI is increasingly high profile
Figure 3

measured. because of the costs of doing it right and the
The last step in getting BI business strategic and financial consequences of doing
Many companies have seen the
requirements right is becoming more it wrong. Most professionals I work with want
shortcomings of traditional requirements
specific about the requirements for business to be part of successful initiatives because such
approaches for BI purposes, and they can easily
information, analytic tools and applications, initiatives help the company, provide a sense of
relate to the characteristics of business-driven
and decision support – all in relation to professional accomplishment and satisfaction,
BI requirements listed previously. Therefore,
previously defined BI-driven business and help careers

if creating a well-structured set of BI business
improvement opportunities. For example,
requirements is the goal, the next challenge In the BI world, the odds of success go
a management process such as performance
is how to get it right. While much more is way up if we get BI business requirements
management may have a requirement for
involved than can be addressed in a short right. While there are a host of other issues
specific business information in the form
article, I can provide a high-level overview to that go into BI success, they don’t matter much
of metrics and key performance indicators,
get you started. The first step is BI opportunity if we build the wrong things or the things we
perhaps in a scorecard format. A customer
analysis, as shown in Figure 1. build aren’t used. A well-structured set of
process such as cross-selling may have a business-driven BI requirements helps avoid
The goal of BI opportunity analysis is requirement for an analytic application those scenarios and sets the stage for delivering
to identify – in business terms for business that uses a data mining technique like successful BI projects

executives, managers, and analysts – the collaborative filtering to identify product
main ways that BI can be used to improve recommendations for customers at a company
business results. The outcome of the analysis Web commerce site. An operational process
is documented in a qualitative BI business case such as manufacturing may have a requirement
that describes potential BI-driven improvement for decision support in the form of alerts
opportunities in three broad areas: to executives when the cycle time for three
management processes, customer processes, consecutive orders to a major customer is
and operating processes. The BI opportunity outside of established targets. Armed with a
analysis and the resulting business case are key specific understanding of the BI requirements Six Montgomery Village Ave., Suite 622
inputs to the next step, as shown in Figure 2. for each specific BIO, we are then in a position Gaithersburg, MD 20879
to develop a comprehensive BI requirements P: 301-926-5838, F: 301-417-0508
The business-driven process of defining
DM Review 4

Requirements document. In many cases, the BI team has already taken a stab at a business case and/or a requirements document, which typically contain statements such as: • Produce …

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