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A New Requirements-Gathering Technique for Building Applications Users will Embrace

Like most organizations, you are probably struggling to gather the true requirements of a project. Learn how using the BI Dashboard Formula can foster a higher user adoption rate of your completed application.

[Editor's note: Mico Yuk will explain how you can avoid having your requirements-gathering sessions turn into a nightmare because your users can't decide which KPIs, colors, and charts they want. The solution: a new requirements-gathering technique, the BI Dashboard Formula, which she will discuss in her session at the TDWI World Conference in Chicago, BI Delivery Formula: Planning, Scoping, and Storyboarding. (The conference runs from May 11 through 16, 2014.)

In this Q&A, Mico provides an overview of the key benefits and impacts to your organization of BIDF.]

How does the BI Dashboard Formula (BIDF) differ from other traditional BI or methodologies?

Mico Yuk: Traditional methodologies tend to focus primarily on the process. The BI Dashboard Formula Methodology is focused on increasing user adoption. It contains four very powerful modules and a handful of well-tested templates that will guide you through the steps of planning, scoping, prototyping, and implementing your BI reports and dashboards in an agile and fun manner.

The BIDF Planning Guide and Blueprint templates are designed to force you to ask the right questions to derive the correct answers and key performance indicators (KPIs). Its reliance on user feedback to complete each template fosters more effective user engagement and higher adoption of the resulting solution in the long term.

When would an organization use the BI Dashboard Formula?

Almost all major organizations go through the painful process of gathering requirements that will eventually translate into an enterprise business intelligence solution. Unfortunately, the requirements-gathering process is often conducted based either on guesswork or on outdated ERP-type approaches. This is where BIDF comes in. It takes the guesswork out of the process and increases the agility by providing a proven, step-by-step approach. It serves as a bridge for the discussion that happens between IT and business users.

Who is the methodology best suited for?

The first target audience is anyone responsible for gathering requirements and/or building analytical solutions that contain reports and dashboards. This may be business analysts, report and dashboard developers, and BI managers. It's useful for any organization that wants to stop guessing or using agile and scrum methodologies that do not work with the data visualization scoping process. BIDF encourages users to step out of their comfort zones and their usual way of thinking, dig deep for insight, and develop creative visual solutions to their problems.

Is BIDF only dashboard specific? Can it be used for reports or scorecards as well?

Absolutely! As a matter of fact, the BIDF Blueprint template has been used and even studied by Ph.D. students as an agnostic "requirements gathering" methodology. In Module 2: Scoping, once the BIDF Blueprint template is completed and signed off by the user, you are prompted to focus on the output format. It forces you to clearly understand the problems and data requirements before you provide a solution. The most popular outcome is an analytical solution that combines dashboards, reports, scorecards, and so on.

What are the main components of the BI Dashboard Formula?

BIDF has four core modules.

Module 1: Planning. Using the BIDF Planning Guide, it asks the user to identify the who, what, and when of the project. Not to be confused with the typical project plan that is focused on specific tasks and deadlines, this high-level planning is more of a preparation phase, and is focused on identifying gaps in the audience and resources. It also helps identify any misunderstandings with the business about the actual problem(s) to be resolved by implementing the analytical solution. Having this discussion prior to scoping helps prevent undesirable outcomes later in the process.

Module 2: Scoping. Using the BIDF Blueprint template, we break the scoping process into three segments: data requirements, functional requirements, and design requirements. Gathering the requirements in that order forces users to focus on the data first and not on the design. Many can attest to the fact that once the design-related discussion begins, it's hard to focus on the problems at hand. Discussions about colors and proper chart usage tend to dominate the process too early in the project. Using our methodology prevents this, saving time and money while increasing the effectiveness of the solution.

Module 3: Prototyping. Using a variety of free resources and techniques, we teach how to engage users during the design process by first developing a BI storyboard. The BI storyboard allows the users to get the "narrative" correct, a term coined by Alberto Cairo, author of the Functional Art. Through the use of the free tools we recommend, the wire-framing process is reduced to days instead of weeks, and the design is finalized with the use of sample data. As the design phase progresses, a back-end data validation effort is also underway to ensure the availability of all requested data.

Module 4: Social Go Live. Using the BIDF Social Go Live checklist, we encourage teams to have a very public facing event (where the entire user base is your audience) upon the launch of the final application. Although this is geared more toward enterprise-size deployments with multiple users, the reason for conducting such an event is consistency. The goal is to increase overall awareness and, in the long term, user adoption of the application. A recent study of lower user adoption of BI applications concluded that over 70 percent of users simply did not know that application existed. Conducting a social go-live is a quick way to let the world of end users know that the application is now ready for use, understand its purpose, and provide their feedback. In our World Conference session we'll discuss the different types of social go live and provide specific steps and checklists for setting one up.

Can you share a success story where it has been used at a real company?

The BI Dashboard Formula has been around informally for the last seven years with a little shy of 5,000 students globally; it was tested in various organizations and taught in classrooms across the U.S. Today we have thousands of students and it is taught each year in over eight countries. As a result, we have quite a few success stories within companies such as HP and McKesson, but one particular success story comes from one of our students in Australia. At South Australia Power Network, a senior BI expert and one of our top students, Matty Grygorcewicz, was able to delivery four dashboards to an executive audience in five months! He now goes around the Asia Pacific region sharing his story and explaining how BIDF has helped his organization and how it can help you. You can read more about his amazing journey.

How can BIDF help in deriving the correct KPIs?

Deriving the correct KPIs has always been tied to first knowing how to ask the correct questions. Although there are industry-specific KPIs that can be found on sites such as, we've found that each organization has a different way of defining even the most generic KPIs such as 'Sales'.

To address this problem, we developed the BIDF Blueprint that requires you to work with the end users to complete 13 fields of detail for each KPI before it can be added to your analytical solution. Coupled with our democratized post-it method system, scoping becomes one of the most engaged phases of the entire process. Users leave feeling a sense of ownership and a confidence that their requirements have been captured.

The class will be about 30 percent focused on the training. Learning what questions to ask, how to dig deeper into each KPI, how to combine, eliminate, and make KPIs more intelligent is all a part of what the BIDF Blueprint and training will help attendees learn.

When using the BIDF Blueprint for scoping, what do you do when the user doesn't have any KPIs?

For users who don't have KPIs, we recommend using resources we've mentioned, such as (a site where hundreds of companies around the world contribute their key KPIs and definitions). It is subscription-based but well worth it. It is also useful to derive and use examples of other dashboards in that line of business and industry to get the conversation moving. We will discuss more advanced techniques during the World Conference session.

How does BIDF foster a higher user adoption rate?

If done correctly, the level of user engagement required to utilize the BIDF methodology naturally forms a sense of ownership among the end users who are put in and left in the driver's seat throughout the entire process. Too often we find that users are reluctant to champion an application they have little say in. The reality is that IT teams know how to build applications but they don't know what to build in those applications. That knowledge can only come from the business.

In addition, because IT has in depth knowledge about their data warehouses, by default they often gain ownership of the data in the applications as well as the application itself. BIDF eliminates this workflow, which is prone to failure.

As I explained, the BIDF methodology is designed to be a bridge between the end user and the person(s) gathering the requirements and delivering the final analytical solution. By following the tips, tricks, and techniques we will provide and by using the templates, you can increase your chances of having a successful deployment that is well received by end users as many organizations around the world have already done.

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