Pfizer Embraces Agile BI
Pfizer is one of the companies that's seeing benefits from agile BI. For the past three years, the New York-based pharmaceuticals maker has been using the agile development approach to develop data integration and delivery services, data-capture applications and BI reporting capabilities.
"We have recognized that the [internal] customers of each service we provide need a very rapid and flexible approach to meet their needs," says Michael Linhares, a research fellow in business information systems and pharmaceutical sciences at Pfizer. "It is expected that our applications and system can be adapted to the changes in the business just as fast the business itself is changing."
Pfizer is using BI application development tools from a variety of vendors, and it provides BI applications and data to about 1,000 users within the company, Linhares says.
"Our applications allow for the collection, integration and reporting on [drug development] projects," Linhares says. "This includes project status, financial forecasting, resource forecasting and integration with several other aspects -- including the drug supply chain."
The applications are used for collaboration and sharing information on how the core project teams are progressing with research and development projects, how many resources are needed to execute the projects, and how much money is needed from the business units to pay for specific activities.
The new approach to BI enables Pfizer's application developers to move more quickly. For example, it used to take six to 12 weeks to make a significant change in the way data is presented in a data warehouse. With the agile development methodology, it typically takes three to seven days, Linhares says.
Pfizer also involves end users as much as possible in the development process. "The customer [end user] is key to this approach of development," Linhares says. "The customer reviews the paper prototype, the working prototype, tests and validates the data, and will be the key to supporting a production release to a larger community of users. Our systems are designed and built for the end user. Without their constant interaction, our team could not build a useful product."
While agile BI and data warehousing is still in the early stages of adoption across industries, expect more companies to begin launching such efforts, says Ken Collier, a senior consultant in the BI and agile project management practices at IT advisory firm Cutter Consortium in Arlington, Mass.
"When it's practiced correctly," says Collier, "[agile BI] is an iterative, incremental and evolutionary approach for responding to change and adapting to feedback so that we build the right thing even if it isn't exactly what was originally specified."
— Bob Violino