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What is business intelligence reporting?

Need business intelligence reporting requirements for an information management requirements specification and want practical timesaving suggestions?

Business intelligence reporting can mean a Business Intelligence Reporting
lot of different things e.g.
  • The ability to perform ad-hoc queries on previously unavailable data;
  • The ability to analyze product sales by region, sales territory, sales representative and customer;
  • The ability to see a “dashboard” of key performance indicators;
  • The ability to show on-line customers what other customers bought; or
  • The ability to provide analytic capabilities to sales representatives so they can respond to client questions on sales calls.
What are information management projects?

There are many types of information management projects with varied objectives e.g.
  • Build a data warehouse and consider reporting as a second phase;
  • Integrate data from several source systems, consolidate it, and feed a downstream system, with no reporting requirements;
  • Synchronize master data between applications, with no reporting requirements; and
  • Provide reporting capabilities, including extracting data to spreadsheets for additional analysis purposes.
So some projects have no reporting requirements?

Yes and no! Almost every information management project will have some information usage requirements. Information might be required to support reporting or it might be required to support the operation of the system.

How do we gather business intelligence reporting requirements?

Frequently, business owners are not aware of the capabilities of business intelligence tools and are unsure how to define requirements.

A business intelligence analyst usually works closely with the business team to establish common understanding of capabilities and requirements. Each analyst will have their own way of defining requirements. The following suggestions provide some things to consider:
  • Review the business objectives stated in the business case e.g. if the objective is to analyze product sales, then focus on product, customer, and sales territory and ignore non-essential items such as work effort required to produce the product;
  • Review the logical data model—This is a starting point to form analysis questions. It shows the logical relationship of data and is a big help with providing insight to facts and dimensions;
  • Review the corporate metrics lexicon to become familiar with key performance indicators;
  • Determine what metrics are considered critical to the success of the project. Ask questions such as:
    • Is this a base metric i.e. is the metric at the most ‘atomic’ level possible?
    • Is this metric dimensional specific i.e. is the metric derived based on a categorization involving one or more attributes?; or 
    • Is the metric derived or calculated i.e. is the metric derived based on a mathematical formula?
  • Agree on facts e.g. is the invoice amount for a product considered the correct fact or is the order amount the required fact?
  • Agree on dimensions e.g. ask how the facts and measures will be analyzed and what is important to the business team.
Other questions to consider
  • What day-to-day analysis/reporting/monitoring is required?
  • Will data be used to monitor real time processes?
  • Does the required data exist in a non-production environment?
  • How soon does the data need to be available, e.g. next day, real-time, or some other interval?
  • Will existing reporting need to be modified?
  • Are there any data issues that currently exist related to this system/project and are they documented?
  • How long will the data need to be kept?
  • What new data elements have been defined to meet the business requirements?
  • Are there user specific access conditions that need to be established?
  • What system monitoring will be required?
  • How will data quality be measured, monitored or reported?
  • What are the requirements for data warehouse reporting?
  • What query and reporting functionality is required?
  • How will reporting and business intelligence be integrated?
  • Are there any operational reporting requirements?

Business intelligence reporting is the key driver for most information management projects. It determines data movement and structure and design requirements. It is essential that an experienced business intelligence analyst, and the business team, develop requirements early in the project.

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