Build BI tools fast with agile approach

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BI system development hits the ground running with efficiency and flexibility using the agile methodology.

Feeling like your business intelligence effort is a bit sluggish and out of touch with what the company needs? Maybe it's time to try agile BI, a rapid development methodology that solicits end-user input early and often, and delivers BI systems fast.

While the use of the agile software development methodology is a big component of agile BI, it's by no means its only attribute, says Boris Evelson, an analyst at Forrester Research.

Forrester recommends adopting multiple best practices and next-generation technologies to make BI more flexible. The research firm defines agile BI as an approach that uses processes, methodologies, organizational structure, tools and technologies to help strategic, tactical and operational decision-makers be more flexible and more responsive to the fast pace of change in business and regulatory requirements.

Clearly, BI implementations have to be more agile so managers can easily find the information they need as business requirements change.

One of the most important steps companies must take to ensure that their BI implementations are agile is to analyze their organizations' business needs and take those into account when BI software is being configured and deployed, White says.

The research Aberdeen conducted this year shows that organizations with the most agile BI implementations are more likely to have processes in place for ensuring that business needs are being met.

The nonprofit has used Pentaho's open-source development platform to create monthly, weekly and program-specific dashboards that product managers and finance specialists can use to track and manage key metrics such as transaction volumes, new user registrations and promotion performance, says Greg Allen, business analyst at Kiva.

The organization has developed tools such as a "loan posting explorer," an application that allows risk managers to analyze loan posting patterns based on region and country, type of loan and type of borrower, he says.

The biggest benefit that Kiva's agile BI efforts have yielded is the ability to rapidly and incrementally deliver information to end users. "We have a big vision for our data warehouse project, which will require a substantial time investment to complete," Allen says. "Instead of forcing the organization to wait for a 'big switch,' we are able to focus on specific business areas to design, create and release data marts and reports as part of our iterative development."

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