BI- Soft yet Hard Challenges
This blog covers some of the difficulties that users, technical team and the stakeholders face during their course of implementing a BI project. These kind of issues can typically be witnessed when working closely with the client.
Let’s see a typical day of a BI Consultant trying to educate the end user about BI reports.
“Hello dear, How are you? Don’t worry, your work will be reduced very much with our new “Business Intelligence reports’” is one the most common catchy lines spelt to the user by the SAP BI team. That’s the starting point of a SAP BI reports user’s dream, not actually realizing what’s in store for both the BI team as well as the user.
It becomes an important factor for the technical team or at least the lead consultant to be in good touch with the end users. They are the customers of BI report and hence, we know how customers need to be treated. Maintaining a friendly relation with whom we work always will make our life easier and less stressful.
The end user in our illustration is currently using Excel as his tool to check/analyze various figures through his daily/weekly/monthly reports. He is more than an expert in using Excel. He is one of the most Sr. Managers whose report analysis is highly critical for the various activities in his company.
Our illustration here is in a phase where the BI reports are implemented and Productionized. Aaah! All reports are now in portal, soooo , good looking, soooo nice to see!. BI team tries to sell it to the users. The end user gets very much excited to see the portal, his dreams still running in his mind…he sees his report link and clicks it,… waits for it to come, waits, waits , waits waits… oh no… “Request Timed Out”. Oh! Man!! He stares at the BI Consultant who is with him to impress the user. He curses himself, “In this whole big world, Why Me? “. He calls up the network team and hears that the network connectivity is very slow. Our BI Consultant is quite happy that he could say very well that, BI is good, but network is not good. Still, our end user says, “whatever you say, …Finally, BI reports are not working’. The user is not really ready to listen to technical stories about the network and hardware. All they want is a properly working report.
Network Infrastructure of the organization is one of the major factors that can make a BI project success or failure. The network infrastructure should be better to serve data to the end user, so that the response time of reports are faster.
Looking deeper, we’ll see what’s happening at the high level committees. The Head of IT department in that company is quite tensed about BI implementation, since, he is the one getting brickbats during the weekly status meeting. He has been saying the same reason for days, weeks and months to the user heads about the networking issues surrounding BI implementation. Final word that would come out of the user is “BI reports not working!”. He interacts with the infrastructure head to know where they are in terms of laying fibre optics and its completion date. His frustration descends down till our BI Consultant, who just said,” In this whole big world Why Me”. Hence, it’s a rippling effect that spreads across the various levels of personnel.
With the available network connectivity, the BI consultant convinces the user, that particular report has huge data, hence, let’s look at a simple report. The user finally sees a simple report. BI Consultant is quite happy, but…the user’s eyes directly lands on the final figure which is too deviant from the everyday value that it is supposed to have. Annoyed at the figures, he says, “Allow me to work with my Excel pleeeeze”. BI Consultant is totally frustrated on the happenings. He calls up his team and asks them to find out the cause. He comes to know that the data load has failed for that infoprovider. All he could say to the user is, “We will get back to you sir” and he vanishes.
Though this illustration sounds like a story, there is a greater insight into the difficulties of stabilizing the BI reports and convincing the users to accept it and feel comfortable with it. So, the role of a BI team doesn’t really end up in just delivering the reports, but a lot more….Data model, hardware profiles, database sizing, network infrastructure need to be really good to make the support activities lesser.
In such circumstances, users will not really prefer using BI reports with so much of complexity and so much of errors and hence, affecting, various lines of their productivity, especially when they have an alternative – Excel and R3 reports.
Hardware profiles need to be up to the mark and sized appropriately to handle various workloads of the servers. There are reports that are viewed every one hour. Imagine a data load takes 25 minutes for the entire loading and indexing. Over a period of time, due to the increase in the volume of data, indexing alone takes more than 55 minutes. The report wouldn’t get the required data. Hence, there is no use for the end users.
The database statistical updates and regular housekeeping activities need to be done as a discipline, apart from implementing BI performance related techniques.
Because of the reason that the users initially use Excel as their analytical tool and they also use R3 reports, the users have a considerable comfort in using them. Now, when BI reports come into place, it requires utmost importance and focus in making the users feel comfortable in smoothly transitioning themselves to use BI reports. This is one typical scenario when the users will not hesitate to use R3 reports or Excel. Again in such situations, BI reports lose credibility. The sensitivity of the information to the users need to be understood to understand their stand.
We actually see a hidden issue here – Access to R3 reports need to be denied to the end users, hence, forcing them to use BI reports. There have been situations where the BI team thinks they are OK, because, the end users did not come back with issues. The reason may be that they are not even using it. So, Portal statistics need to be taken periodically to ensure all the end users are logging into the portal and using the reports regularly. This activity has actually helped us in understanding their reluctance factor to use BI reports.
Another important factor – role of Change Management.
There are organizations where the Change Management team is not in good accord with the Technical Team. This is one major pitfall. They both need to go hand in hand to ensure smooth transitioning. The end users should feel good to move away from their old technologies to the new way or working to boost productivity. Adequate number of trainings needs to be conducted in appropriate intervals to educate the end users about the various benefits that they get by adopting the new technology. The content of trainings needs to be appropriate based on the end user audience. The role of Change Management is another big topic to understand its importance for the success of a BI project.