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Is Agile BI a Reality for Enterprises Today?

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A hot topic of discussion lately, is agile BI a reality for enterprises today?

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    This is already happening. Relational OLAP supported by companies like Microstrategy keep the databases where they are and do slicing and dicing report at run-time without building cubes and keeping them updated.

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    And it's Agile because you can do these iteratively because you are not committing to any backend store design upfront and can change the reports at will.

  • Depending on the definition of "Agile BI" (there are at least several in popular use), I would agree conceptually with Nari (first reply) that this is probably a case where the technology is ready today, along with the need from customers / practitioners.

    Agile BI can mean flexible, self-service analytics that truly don't require on-going heavy technical lifting and end-user assistance after some basic set up (of domains, topics, pre-defined query objects, etc.) or it can mean "instant-on" business intelligence in the cloud that delivers simple, powerful BI in a scalable "pay-as-you-go" model. Both of these are a reality today - delivered through rich, semantic models built within BI platform architectures and drag-and-drop report- and dashboard-building environments (the best of which are purely web-based, today) combined with integrated, in-memory analysis models that obviate the need for traditional OLAP cube design and maintenance (should that fit the use-case). And, done correctly, this identical functionality (and more) should be available through instant-on cloud delivery and a purely web-based interface, payable as-you-go.

    So, yes, Agile BI is a reality for enterprises today - and in a variety of forms. With practice, it should become widespread tomorrow.

    Brian Gentile
    CEO, Jaspersoft

  • Since Agile can mean different things in the overall context of BI, I think it is worthwhile to take a 'first principles' approach. Agility in BI has to be evaluated in context of the Agile Manifesto, (http://agilemanifesto.org) which describes a set of values (4) & principles (12) of the Agile way of doing things.

    To me, the following core tenets of Agile methodology makes it very relevant for BI systems:
    1) Shared vision among teams
    2) Frequent releases that makes business sense
    3) Relentlessly manage scope
    4) Creating a multi-release framework with a master plan
    5) Accomodating changes gracefully

    I have found Agile framework especially useful in the BI context where development (enhancements to BI landscape) and support (sustenance of the existing BI infrastructure) happens concurrently.

  • I was sitting on the fence to see which way the conversation was going to go on the definition of “Agileâ€? in reference to BI. Karthikeyan Sankaran and Brian Gentile nailed it.

    For years the notion of continual prototyping and incremental and phased implementations have been critical in keeping the end user community engaged. The first principals behind Agile align with these sound practices. Specifically:
    • If you extend the tenants of shared vision between teams to the end user community, your prospect for successful implementation dramatically increases.
    • If you can respond to quickly changing business requirements, the end user community will applaud and support you.
    • If you manage scope through effective communication, you can control any gap that could grow between development and consumers through the refocusing on a shared vision.

    This doesn’t mean disregard requirements around data quality, security and a solid data governance process. These are long term fundamental and foundational requirements that need detailed planning, investment and execution. The Agile framework should address these requirements through a “shared vision� for what is “right� for the organization.

    Once the foundation is in place, supporting rapid prototyping, enabling end user self service and allowing insightful analysis on quality data is where best in class companies are today as highlighted by recent Aberdeen research.

    Enabling technology focused on user self service combined with business models such as SaaS support a more agile approach to BI as well.

    These technologies and business models are available today that not only solve departmental requirements but can also scale to satisfy IT’s requirements larger deployments with a sustainable high quality BI service.

  • While agree with the group on the definition on the approach that "Agile BI" encompasses; but in practice I would not go as far to say its a reality in the enterprise today.

    While the adoption and the technology to support this approach is growing; there is still plenty of education to be done in how the design, development, and delivery of this finished analtyics (report, dashboard, metadata, or data platform) will interact, handoff and how the technology architecture will support this. The big question here is the technology architecture; yes BI on the SaaS platforms does lend itself iterative user driven approach as do many of the OSS.

    From my experience in trying to deploy "Agile BI" its the lack of adaptability in the existing on-premise traditional solutions that holds enterprises back. To provide greater control, rapid response, and flexibility to its business users; many of these platforms do not have that framework that is required for agile to be successful. Much like in the development of software; certain tools and languages are better suited then others.

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