Keep Calm and Carry On
It is a simple message that has gained a sort of resurgence in popularity over the last few years, but it should serve as a rallying cry to Business Intelligence (BI) professionals everywhere. With the explosion of social media and an increase in the velocity of new technology adoption (mobile, big data, cloud infrastructures, etc.), it’s easy to lose focus on what is important in building business analytics. I’m here today to tell you, simply, to Keep Calm and Carry On. BI and Analytics are not all that hard if you break your Analytic problems into a (very) few core components.
Essentially, all of BI & Analytics boil down to four simple components (let’s call them “pillars” so we can sound all academic):
The technology that you choose to use to manage these pillars is secondary to the simple management of these four disciplines. The fastest HANA engine, the most accessible mobile device, the slickest BI Tools are worthless if your analytic solutions fail to define a fundamental balance in these fundamental concepts. (Is the first time that you’ve heard “It always comes down to requirements.”?). It’s easy to get carried away and make a big deal out of one or more of the pillars and the BI project can quickly get out of hand. Keep Calm and Carry On…
Let’s look at the pillars in a little more detail…
- Data Lifecycle Management (DLM) – I don’t mean to over simplify matters here. DLM can be a huge task. You have to know the data that you need, where it comes from, the quality of the data, its latency (when was the data last refreshed – or more importantly – how fresh does the data need to be for your application), and how does it get into your analytic application? The answers to these questions are really quite independent of your technology. But they are critically important to your analysis.
- Business Rules Management – Step back from the transaction ledge pilgrim – you’re a BI person now. We all know what it is, we just don’t necessarily know why it’s important. Maybe it’s important because you use it for budgeting. Maybe if we annualize data element “A”, it becomes more relevant to our business problem. (What’s more relevant: 2% growth per month or 24% year over year)? Understanding what we need to do to our core data to make it relevant is critical to a meaningful analysis.
- Visualization & Presentation – To be honest? Part fluff, part substance. Sure, sometimes data just doesn’t make sense until we analysts see it laid out all colorfully in a graph or a heat map or a bubble chart or something. But there’s no denying that to a busy executive who doesn’t have time to comb through the numerous iterations of graphs and what-if scenarios and just wants to see the answer, a picture is truly worth a thousand words.
- Information Delivery – Ok, you got me here. Technology is a huge lever today. Whereas we used to have to produce hundreds of pages of greenbar reports (if you don’t know what these are, just ask your parents (or grandparents)) to tell a simple story, a tablet computer has become ubiquitous these days for delivering info. The real progression is more like: greenbar -> 35 mm slides -> PowerPoint’s -> dashboards on your laptop -> iPad, but you get the point: How you choose to manage the delivery of your message is crucial in modern BI.
So that’s it, right? Simple. But wait, you say – there’s a lot of work in there. OK…remember…Keep Calm and Carry On…
To make these four pillars work for you and to build a successful analytic application, you need to do three things:
- Content Development – Once you have defined the business problem that you are going to solve and you have identified the relevant Analytic Horizon (stay tuned for a future blog on this topic), you need to develop the content that you want to deliver. Once you know these things, you need to know how to frame your solution. To develop content, you must sort through the data, identify business rules that have already been applied and create new business rules that demonstrate a clearer path from the problem to the solution. This means identifying the relevant subset of your data, identifying the rules, developing the visualization and then preparing for the delivery of the solution. I never said that it would be simple – but it is logical and can be parsed into smaller problems that can be solved. Remember: Keep Calm and…well you know the rest…
- Enable the core of your solution – Sad but true – if you can’t explain the problem and the solution or build a consensus about the relevance of your analysis – in a word if you can’t market your solution – no one will know or care that you just solved world hunger. You must build a buzz around your solution and help your stakeholders understand what your new analytics have brought to the discussion.
- Create a consistent delivery for your solution – can you reproduce the analysis with next month’s data? Do you have a trained team to help “spread the word” of your breakthrough thinking? If not, you haven’t addressed the problem.
So, faithful reader, what do you do now? There is really no magic here. As the old saying goes, slow and steady wins the race (or Keep… (sorry)…).
At SAP, we have used this simple paradigm in the development of our Rapid Deployment Solutions. These solutions help you to accelerate your management of the four pillars of Business Analytics (Data Lifecycle Management, Business Rules Management, Visualization & Presentation, and Information Delivery) and provide you with a great foundation of Content, Core Enablement and Delivery tools to help you down the road to address your Business Analytic problems.
Of course, your specific business problem may be a variation of the problem addressed by one of our many rapid-deployment solutions. Your data may be a little (gasp) customized or your rules slightly different and you may want to tweak one of our visualizations and delivery tools, but through rapid-deployment solutions, we can help you quickly start down the road with a discipline that will work for almost any BI or Analytic Application problem.
You just have to remember, Keep Calm and Analyze On….
For more info about our available rapid-deployment solutions for business analytics, check out these new videos: