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Bottom-up BI Requirements Analysis June 30, 2006

Posted by Cyril Brookes in BI Requirements Definition, General.
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Bottom-up specification involves understanding and documenting the existing BI environment and then determining ways to improve and augment the reporting to take advantage of new technology, data availability or management. 

The classic bottom-up specification approach, therefore, involves these steps: 

  1. Where are we?  Document our current context.

  2. What constraints are there on better performance?  Analyze the context for inadequacies.

  3. What options exist to remove these constraints?  Document them.

  4. Prioritize these options.

  5. Plan the project based on the scheduled, prioritized options.

Documenting the existing BI context results in tabulation of existing KPIs, metrics, transformations, data warehouse cubes, dimensions, and if practical the links to data sources, ETL specifications and report content. 

A product I have worked on that does most of this, in the Microsoft SQL Server and Analysis Services environment, and is evolving tocategorize all the BI database is called BI Documenter – see www.bidocumenter.com. 

A tool such as this is necessary to obtain snapshots of the BI context to be taken and stored. 

We can then analyze these data to establish the existing context, including:

  • Defined KPIs

  • Existing data cubes

  • Data dimensions

  • Data sources

  • ETL paths and algorithms

  • Report content and presentation information

  • Recipients of KPI information

  • Etc.

The Business Analyst will then be able to make some initial conclusions including:

  • KPIs not reported

  • Potential inadequate presentation of information

  • Profiles of KPI reporting across the enterprise

  • Gaps in reporting to corporate areas

  • Duplications

  • Etc.

The way is then clear to propose the plan and specification to improve the BI reporting environment. 

It appears that support for the requirements planning process is desirable, to provide structure to the task, and guide the analyst through the task, prompting the creative use of advanced reporting technology. 

Another product that I have helped with is BI Pathfinder – see www.bipathfinder.com 

This tool was, and still is, aimed at those analysts wanting to use a top-down approach, finding out requirements before committing to software or project expenditure. 

However, it is able to work with the output of a documentation tool, to allow rapid development of the specification using the existing BI context deficiencies as the starting point for improvement. 

We’re not yet able to do all this efficiently, but I’m convinced this is the way forward.

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