[Johannesburg, 10 July 2008] - In large corporates, the red tape of putting together an enterprise data warehouse and reporting solution is inhibiting efforts by key staff to get the information they need now.
This has put supposed best practices, like restricting `tactical` software developments, under the spotlight. Should organisations restrain this kind of innovation or will encouraging it assist them to eventually roll out their enterprise data warehouse and reporting system faster?
Says Jannie Strydom, director of BI Planning Services, a company that specialises in the design, development and deployment of data warehouse, business intelligence and performance management solutions: "We are finding that organisations that encourage the development of tactical solutions are bolstering their efficiency in the run-up to the implementation of larger enterprise-sized reporting systems. They are also speeding implementation since the tactical solutions provide an ideal blueprint for the more sophisticated solution."
BIPS has numerous clients in the financial services, medical and manufacturing industries. "A large part of the service we deliver hinges on finding practical business solutions that will assist the organisation in the short- to medium-term. To a large extent, we find that the ad hoc reporting solutions requested by our clients are `mid-tier` solutions - solutions that are not yet mature enough to fit the requirements of an enterprise data warehouse.
"To create these solutions we speak to key executive, as well as financial and ICT staff. What we have discovered, however, is that when these organisations rely on centralised management information systems (MIS) departments, the stringent controls and high standards these divisions superimpose on any new developments (regardless of how minor or cost effective) often hamstring the organisation."
"All applications evolve," he emphasises, "and this is especially true of reporting solutions. The people doing the work know what they need, so they use tools they can work with, like Excel. These solutions may start off based on plans scribbled on the back of cigarette boxes or serviettes, but they eventually develop into a practical workhorse systems. Their creators change and adapt them and as the solution matures it becomes a vital element in the reporting process."
When it reaches this point, the solution is ready to be taken to the next level - ie, formalised as part of a departmental or enterprise solution. "The value of these interim tactical solutions is that they not only deliver immediate value but lower the costs of the larger implementation. They may not be best practice solutions but lay the foundation and can fast-track the enterprise solution," explains Strydom.
"Take, for example, a big data warehouse initiative being implemented by a large company. It`s slow and much more expensive to add to such a solution - bearing in mind the integration requirements and the number of systems such an `addition` may impact - than to get it right first time. But getting this right the first time only occurs if the business thinks the solution through thoroughly, which these smaller, tactical systems, as unimportant as they seem, assist organisations to do."
Strydom contrasts two situations that BIPS commonly comes across in client organisations. "In organisations with a centralised IT department, the business unit with the problem usually has to justify its acquisition or development request to central IT, which then does its own investigation. By the time the decision is made, the business unit has fallen behind or the request may have changed.
"Other organisations may allow a business division with a problem to make its own decisions and purchase its own solutions if it has the budget. This model has allowed one of our clients to be first to market in a number of instances. While it costs more to then reintegrate the solution into the enterprise system in the long run, the question to ask is whether it is not more important to ensure business growth and capture market share."
He concludes: "We have found that it pays to encourage initiative and creativity. Tactical solutions can have exponential value if they are absorbed into enterprise systems as they mature. In fact, they can deliver the same value as functionality developed from scratch - at a quarter of the price."