Build BI tools fast with agile approach

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.

Before developing an agile BI strategy, a company must adapt its organizational structure and enterprise culture for agility, Evelson says, pointing out that no technology or process can address BI challenges if a company's organizational structure and culture aren't already designed to be agile. Once an organization is aligned for agility, it's ready to adopt agile BI processes, he says.

Very few organizations have implemented agile BI as Forrester defines it, Evelson says. Based on anecdotal evidence and discussions with many clients, he estimates that out of all the organizations that use BI applications, probably less than 20% of the BI user population within those organizations is leveraging some kind of agile BI. But he predicts that that figure will climb to about 80% in the near future.

Despite the low adoption rate, companies in a variety of industries -- including healthcare, retail, education, biotechnology and financial services -- are already benefiting from agile BI, according to Evelson.

A Good Fit

Business intelligence is an enterprise application that is particularly well suited for agility and the agile development methodology, says David White, an analyst specializing in BI at research firm Aberdeen Group.

Research that Aberdeen conducted in 2010 shows that despite the wealth of experience that many end-user organizations have in implementing BI systems, only 43% of business intelligence projects were delivered on time or early. Many companies still struggle to deliver the right information to the right business managers at the right time.

Research conducted by Aberdeen in February and March this year indicates that organizations face three significant challenges when it comes to effectively delivering BI that is truly valuable to the business.

One is that data volumes and the number of BI data sources are growing. Another is that the amount of time managers have to make decisions is shrinking. And a third is that demand for management information is always either increasing or changing.

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