Build An Agile Business Intelligence (BI) Organization

The battle of trying to apply traditional waterfall software development life-cycle (SDLC) methodology and project management to BI has already been fought — and largely lost. These approaches and best practices, which apply to most other enterprise applications, work well in some cases, as with very well-defined and stable BI capabilities like tax or regulatory reporting. Mission-critical, enterprise-grade BI apps can also have a reasonably long shelf life of a year or more. But these best practices do not work for the majority (anecdotally, about three-quarters) of BI initiatives, where requirements change much faster than these traditional approaches can support; by the time a traditional BI application development team rolls out what it thought was a well-designed BI application, it's too late. As a result, BI pros need to move beyond earlier-generation BI support organizations to:
  • Focus on business outcomes, not just technologies. Earlier-generation BI programs lacked an "outcomes first" mentality. Those programs employed bottom-up approaches that focused on the project management and technology first, leaving clients without the proper outcomes that they needed to manage the business; in other words, they created an insights-to-action gap.  BI pros  should use a top-down approach that defines key performance indicators, metrics, and measures that support the business' goals and objectives. They must resist the temptation to address technology and data needs before the business requirements. 
  • Put business in charge. Anecdotal evidence indicates that there's a direct correlation between business ownership of BI initiatives and success. The stigma associated with BI as a cost center can be eliminated by moving the BI support organization under direct or partial control of the business; 41% (a strong move in the right direction from 27% in 2014) of Forrester clients already do this, indicating that they're thinking outside the box. Additionally, in 2015, BI professionals finally embraced the trend for the first time — 50% of BI support organizations are now staffed mostly with technologists (a slight drop from 55% in 2014), 44% are staffed by a mix of business and technology experts (a healthy increase from 38% in 2014), and only 49% report to the CIO (a stark drop from 67% in 2014).
  • Drop the technology-centric mentality and methodologies. Even the most modern SDLC and project management methodologies that call for heavy business involvement foster technology centricity. While constantly evolving, these methodologies roots are in the 1980s and 1990s, when we lacked the luxury of BI commodities like in-memory data exploration, semantic data access layers, user-friendly graphical user interfaces (UIs), and report-building wizards with hints and prompts. Few BI pros should spend their time designing BI dashboard layouts. Why? All modern BI tools offer drag-and-drop and search-like UIs where any trained business user can pick the appropriate metrics from a menu, arrange them on a dashboard screen, and share the results with colleagues — or the entire enterprise. More modern UIs that include natural-language processing interfaces require even less training for business users to become self-sufficient.
  • Embrace business agility. When business stakeholders can't get what they need in time, they go ahead and build it on their own, using homegrown BI applications based on spreadsheets or desktop database management systems or by procuring departmental or project-based BI capabilities as software-as-a-service. That is why you need a business and application development organization that is agile and flexible enough to support modern BI realities.

These and other best practices will result in business and application development organizations that are flexible enough to support today's BI realities. Otherwise, when business stakeholders can't get what they need in time, they go ahead and build it on their own, using homegrown BI applications based on spreadsheets or desktop database management systems or by procuring departmental or project-based BI capabilities as software-as-a-service. While this may solve a problem in the short term, it moves the organization further away from an enterprise-grade BI strategy.

In our latest Build An Agile BI Organization research report we propose and research various approaches to building an agile BI organization with multiple current state data points such as

  • Whether organizations provide BI and data management suppport by the same or different teams
  • Whether organizations provide BI support for client facing vs non client facing analytical apps by the same or different teams
  • Whether organizations provide BI and advanced / predictive analytics by the same or different teams
  • Whether organizations provide BI and big data analytics by the same or different teams
  • How do organizations staff their BI COE BI CC (business vs. technology professionals, virtual vs. physical organization, and others)
  • 27 typical BI roles, their responsibities, what organization they report to


Thanks for keep posting such

Thanks for keep posting such informative articles! Always enjoy reading them! Agile BI is a continual process and not a onetime implementation. Managers and leaders need accurate and quick information about the company and business intelligence provides the data they need. Agile BI enables rapid development using the agile methodology. Agile techniques are a great way to promote development of BI applications, such as dashboards, scorecards, reports and analytic applications. 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. According to the research by the Aberdeen Group, organizations with the most highly agile BI implementations are more likely to have processes in place for ensuring that business needs are being met. Success of Agile BI implementation also heavily depends on the end user participation and "frequent collaboration between IT and the business. More at

very interesting article, I

very interesting article, I would also like to share my though on Agile practice below:
Agile Systems :Increased productivity, Faster turnaround on projects and Shared learning:

The ability which allows the customer to revisit the phase of development can improve the efficiency of a project. The concept of revisiting phases is known as “incremental and iterative” development. This type of development in which the phases within the development are visited over and over again is called Agile development. This system of development improves the final product by utilising the feedback from customer. In Agile development , the process is divided into smaller parts called Increments and Iterations. During the development under an Agile system each of the phase continuous throughout the development life-cycle. The benefits Agile systems as increased productivity, faster turnaround, shared learning and higher developer satisfaction. Agile methods are based and work on teams, customer collaboration , working software and responding to change where as the traditional development methods have the ability to a quick delivery and are comparatively inexpensive. The principle of the Agile systems are bases on the following five elements:

Customer involvement: Customers are primarily involved thorough out the development process which helps the developers to understand the requirements and enables the customer to evaluate the iterates.
Incremental delivery: the product is developed in increments and the customer feedback is utilised in each incrementive.
People not process: During the development all the team members have an ongoing debate about the development of the product rather than following a prescriptive process.
Embrace changes: the requirement of the customer may change so the design system need to accommodate these changes.
Maintain Simplicity: a focus on simplicity on both i.e. development of software and the development process.

It is a very common phenomenon that the customer on the “upfront” could not decide the features required in the product. so the frequent development in Agile system allows the customer to make recommendations whilst the development is carried out. Agile systems also allows the customers to delay their decisions which can be delayed until future iterations when better technology is available to opt for the product.
As the customer feedback is acquired with the iterations, agile system development helps to deliver the product which suits customers requirements. After every iteration development is presented to customer for review. The phases involved in Agile practices are integrated so any re-work doesn’t make any addition to the cost . With the customer having the authority to review the work at each iteration , it also gives customer the ownership and high satisfaction rates hence the final product with all desired features. The iteration based development method is not a new concept and has co-exited as “Project phasing” with the traditional “ waterfall” methodology. Agile system is more simple and clear concept based on collaboration and flexibility. It is also known to be more efficient compared to the traditional system which involves lengthy documentation, processes and management. The cost of the change under the agile development is low as the customers are given the opportunity to change in the beginning of each iteration.

Agile methods emphasize face-to-face communication rather than documentation. Most agile teams are located in a single open office, sometimes called "launch pads". The office should include authors, writers and support documentation, design iteration and project managers. Agile methods also emphasise working software that is the first step of progress. Combined with the preference for face to face communication, agile methods are often criticised and treated as "unruly" by the lack of technical documentation.
The goal of agile software development is to make the software development process more flexible and thinner than the traditional approach in the models is the case. One would like to focus more on the objectives to be achieved and consider technical and social problems in software development. Two methodologies of Agile system are widely used which are SCRUM and XP. Many companies have adopted one of the two methodologies in their systems. Multiple customers or stakeholders and distributed environment are handled by SCRUM while XP handles tailored needs. Both of the methodologies are best to be used with small development teams.

Vishal Sharma

Co-Founder Insight/Marketing

Wise Balloon

At Wise Balloon we use Agile methodology for project management that enables us to deliver projects which are focused on customer needs.
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