Agile BI – What’s in a name?

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Lately, wherever I go, I hear the term Agile BI – customers ask for it, analysts write about it, competitors boast about it, there’s even a Wikipedia entry about it. But, what do they actually mean by ‘Agile BI’? Do they all mean the same thing? Is there one ‘correct’ meaning to it? Apparently, there isn’t a unanimous ‘thing’ that is Agile BI. Rather, there is a unanimous need being addressed: a broad need to accelerate the time it takes to deliver business value from analyzed data.

A major problem with most of today’s Business Intelligence solutions is the latency between an event happening (sale, marketing activity, product launch, contract change, etc.) and the time it takes to gather the information, aggregate, analyze, deliver insights, and finally make an informed business decision based on it. The longer each of these steps takes, the more the business value of this information diminishes. In today’s fast-paced market, this gap can make all the difference between success and failure. Our customers realize the importance of moving fast and hence their quest for ‘Agile BI.’

While the need to reduce the time-to-value of traditional BI and quickly adapt to changing business needs is unanimous, the solutions are not. Initially, the term was coined when BI developers started utilizing agile software development techniques in the development, to allow for rapid version releases. Having a flexible, easy-to-change platform is imperative to Agile BI, but not sufficient.

Agile Business Intelligence & Total Cost of Change

The key to the success of Agile Business Intelligence is the management of changes. A low Total Cost of Change (TCC) will enable the flexibility of the organization. When changes become too costly, IT and business managers spend too much time evaluating and prioritizing needs rather than constantly moving forward with ALL the latest changes immediately morphed into the solution. Agile BI is a continuous process and not a one-time implementation. Business managers need accurate and quick information all the time. A common mistake is the investment in an Agile BI platform without a sustainable and affordable change management methodology.

Bob Violino in his article ‘Getting a fast start with agile BI development’ ComputerWorld, 11/2011 writes:

“Forrester Research defines agile BI as an approach that combines processes, methodologies, tools and technologies, while incorporating organizational structure, in order to help strategic, tactical and operational decision-makers be more flexible and more responsive to ever-changing business and regulatory requirements”.

Investing only in a technology, without combining a process and change management methodology, is like buying a fancy sports car without employing a skilled driver for it. The fastest car won’t take you anywhere, without a driver who knows how to operate it, and is available to do it for you on an ongoing basis.

Have a safe ride on your quest to a holistic Agile BI solution!