Agile for BI: A crash course

Agile for BI: A crash course

on Jul 6, 14 • by Chris Bubinas • with No Comments

John Harmann recently highlighted six key guidelines for leveraging agile development tools and strategies for business intelligence (BI) purposes...

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The rise of Agile development is among the most significant software trends of recent years. With Agile strategies in place and supported by code review tools, firms can create and improve a wide range of software types far more efficiently and effectively than would ever be possible with legacy development methods.

As Agile development becomes more widely known and embraced, the possible applications will continue to increase and expand beyond the bounds of traditional application creation. Notably, John Harmann, consulting principal for CBIG, recently highlighted six key guidelines for leveraging Agile development tools and strategies for business intelligence (BI) purposes.

Agile BI
Writing for Information Management, Harmann noted that while Agile development and BI are not often thought of together, in reality Agile may be better suited for BI projects than most other potential applications. However, it is essential that firms apply the right strategies when pursuing these efforts.

According to Harmann, the ideal cycle for Agile BI development is three weeks. He explained that with such a schedule, the team can perform 2.5 weeks of work, then spend a few days on design and retrospectives. Thanks to code review tools and related technologies, no additional time is required to examine the BI project for errors.

Harmann also emphasized the importance of data when using Agile for BI. He highlighted the need to see data as features, rather than focusing on reports.

Furthermore, Agile BI project development requires a plan for refactoring, Harmann said.

"In a BI project, you'll often uncover many of your real data issues once you've built your complete star schema," he wrote. "Then you can write and perform queries to slice and dice data in different ways."

High-quality code refactoring solutions can prove critical for this purpose.

According to Harmann, it is also essential to have a thorough understanding of your constituency before beginning any Agile BI development project. Analytics or SQL experts may eliminate the need for a longer or internal cycles, instead enabling a sprint with a period for data analysis and demos of queries.

Agile BI developers must also include a willingness to reconsider and adapt, Harmann argued.

"Regardless of the meeting name or approach to doing so, one of the key tenets of Agile development is refining your approach and adapting to change," he wrote. "That means looking at what you did, thinking about how you can improve and continually getting better."

Finally, Harmann emphasized that Agile BI development must be agile. That is to say, there is no definitive guide to these projects. On the contrary, decision-makers must incorporate their own experiences and unique needs and goals when pursuing such efforts, rather than following a hard-and-fast playbook.

The end in mind
One additional concept worth bearing in mind as firms pursue BI projects with Agile development is the importance of having an end-goal from the very beginning. As a recent uTest report explained, Agile practitioners must understand the big picture and develop definitive objectives if their efforts are to bear fruit. Without such clarity, these projects are liable to become unfocused, delivering less value for the organization.

This is particularly important because, as the report explained, many developers are tempted to seek out the latest, most cutting-edge technologies when leveraging Agile. As a result, they may end up using solutions that are not ideal for the particular needs of this specific endeavor. An holistic approach to Agile development for BI is far more likely to lead to optimized results.

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