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Agile BI and DW: Dynamic, Continuous, and Never Done

Delivering value sooner and being adaptable to business change are two of the most important objectives today in business intelligence (BI) and data warehouse development. They are also two of the most difficult objectives to achieve. “Agility,” the theme of the upcoming TDWI World Conference and BI Executive Summit, to be held together the week of August 7 in San Diego, is about implementing methodologies and tools to that will shorten the distance to business value and make it easier to keep adding value throughout development and maintenance cycles.

We’re very excited about the programs for these two educational events. Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of moderating a Webinar aimed at giving attendees a preview of how the agility theme will play out during the week’s keynotes and sessions. The Webinar featured Paul Kautza, TDWI Director of Education, and two Agile experts who will be speaking and leading seminars at the conference: Ken Collier and Ralph Hughes.

Agile methodology has become a mainstream trend in software development circles, but it is much less mature in BI and DW. A Webinar attendee asked whether any Agile-trained expert could do Agile BI. “No,” answered Ken Collier. “Agile BI/DW training requires both Agile expertise as well as BI/DW expertise due to the nuances of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) system integration, disparate skill sets and technologies, and large data volumes.” Ralph Hughes agreed, adding that “generic Agile folks can do crazy things and run their teams right into the ground.” Ralph then offered several innovations that he sees as necessary, including planning work against the warehouse’s reference architecture and pipelining work functions so everyone has a full sprint to work their specialty. He also advocated small, mandated test data sets for functional demos and full-volume data sets for loading and re-demo-ing after the iteration.

If you are just getting interested in Agile or are in the thick of implementing Agile for BI and DW projects, I would recommend listening to the Webinar, during which Ken and Ralph offered many wise bits of advice that they will explain in greater depth at the conference. The BI Executive Summit will feature management-oriented sessions on Agile, including a session by Ralph, but will also take a broader view of how innovations in BI and DW are enabling these systems to better support business requirements for greater agility, flexibility, and adaptability. These innovations include mobile, self-service, and cloud-based BI.

As working with information becomes integral to more lines of business and operations, patience with long development and deployment cycles will get increasingly thin. The time is ripe for organizations to explore what Agile methodologies as well as recent technology innovations can do to deliver business value sooner and continuously, in a virtuous cycle that does not end. In Ken Collier’s words, “The most effective Agile teams view the life of a BI/DW system as a dynamic system that is never done.”

Posted by David Stodder on July 14, 2011


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