Business intelligence consulting services

Background

Business Intelligence (BI) is a complex undertaking for most large organisations. Large organisations typically have numerous (often in the hundreds of) information systems that help them to operate their business. These systems are designed in the most part to provide for transaction oriented performance. For example, when you buy an item at a supermarket the point of sale system (see EFTPOS) is optimised to handle the high number of small transactions that pass through the system in small, frequent bursts. Systems such as this are often referred to as OLTP - on-line transaction processing. OLTP systems are generally not designed to provide management with the summary information that is often needed to make decisions within an organisation. For example, if a manager were to get the IT support staff to query the POS system for what product pairs are the most popular for a given week (e.g. milk and cigarettes) then this would most probably grind the POS system to a halt. POS systems are designed to handle small bursts of transaction throughput - not to summarise a given period of sales.

Most organisations therefore build business intelligence solutions - sometimes referred to as OLAP solutions, often in the form of one or more data warehouses or data marts. See the many articles by Ralph Kimball or Bill Inmon. These systems are built to hold history to perform analysis of large volumes of data. The data is often pre-summarised over various business dimensions (such as time period, product line, geography etc). Therefore when a senior executive wants to know the highest selling product pairs for their local store over the summer then the business intelligence solution can work out the answer without grinding the operational systems to a halt.

Complexities

Building business intelligence solutions is more difficult than most give credit. Complexities can include (but are not limited to):
* Who owns the information - see data stewardship
* Security
* Differences of metric definitions - see metadata
* Technical solution architecture - e.g. when to use a surrogate key over a natural key
* Organisation politics
* Development resources - most people are trained to build OLTP solutions not OLAP

Activities consulting firms can assist with

Unsurprisingly many organisations seek to employ the services of a specialist firm to:
* Develop the Business Intelligence strategy
* Develop the business requirements
* Define the solution
* Build and test the solution
* Implement the solution
* Transition the solution into the business

Seeking the services of a specialist firm can also protect the information technology department within an organisation.


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