Top Challenges While Implementing Analytics Reporting. Part One.

Volodymyr Yatsevsky posted on November 28th, 2012
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Let’s say Excel has been always a starting point to any kind of reporting or tabular data accumulation point since it’s very first version. Then, over decades, the market has been overwhelmed with data mining tools replaced by more lightweight, easy to implement BI platforms and applications. Analytic BI tools spread fully into mobile apps, making tablets more appealing device for decision making rather than desktop machines. Finally, cloud services drove away databases from local storages into distributed computing environments. All of the above gave BI analysts and IT departments vast number of tools to choose from.

However, according to Gartner, nearly half of the Business Intelligence or Analytics Reporting projects fail. Although software progress has made a big leap over recent years, implementing any type of reporting has its challenges reside still in the stone age. BI reporting or analytics reporting project that involves end non-IT users always meets a number of challenges that need to be taken into account. The first part of this post will uncover the ones that appear early in reporting project implementation.

Fast pace of requirements change. Since the very first feedback or interview on how the future reporting system should be, we are dealing with a continuous and fast requirements change. The process usually involves a significant number of specifications that are written, approved, thrown out, then re-written again. Most projects never finish requirements phase as become lost in what stakeholders really need and want.

Such change is natural – market changes, company changes, let alone people change. While this issue has been given a treat in software industry like Kanban, lean development or Agile/Scrum methodologies, Agile BI becomes major topic, discussed across business analysts and BI companies. Regardless of whether you go with Agile BI or any other methodology, do requirements management as flexible as possible and move to BI POF (Proof Of Concept) as early as possible. It’s like shooting a moving target, start shooting early with couple of shots and there’s a likely chance you got it hit instead of aiming a long time and trying to hit the target with one clear shot. Truth is, you never get a clear shot on requirements.

The platform of choice in its place has to comply with the possible change in goals and requirements. It has to be sufficiently flexible and customizable to respond. A rigidly customized platform may be quickly thrown out or forgotten by users if it does not solve their needs.

Assuming the requirements phase is set, you might encounter stalled development at once. Development, in this case, would mean integration, adaptation, installation or setup of the selected reporting platform. The reasons to look for are development risks: the system can be complex, technologically incompatible or the IT team is not smart enough to tame it. Development problems may also involve inability or high complexity of actually accessing the data. In most cases, these are delivered to end users from several sources (SQL DBs) or mediators (MS Access, using Excel to connect to DB or OLAP). In any case, deal with such risks early in the reporting project planning.

Alright, so the requirements management is on track, the system installation went well, and… whoa… nobody uses it. This normally means you’ve excluded end users from the project. You were so busy planning the reporting project that totally forgot about the end users right after they gave their initial thoughts on the system. Their expectations were not met. Involving end users and evangelizing future system is as important as letting your users to play with a POF and provide early training. Providing the latter would help in overall reporting project adoption.

Stay tuned for second part covering more of organizational challenges while implementing analytics reporting. Have anything to add? Don’t forget to tweet us about that.

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