Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Being a Trusted BI Advisor

In his book called "How to Win at the Sport of Business," Mark Cuban makes an important point that your customers do not know what they don't know. 

If you are a Business Intelligence consultant, this means that your clients may give you the worst advice on how to build a BI application. They may understand their business problems, but not how to solve them with BI. Instead, you as an expert need to tell them how things should be done. 

Of course, if they are to listen to your advice, they must first trust you. Building trust on your BI engagements is one of the most important things you can do. David Maister once wrote,
"The key point is that trust must be earned and deserved. You must do something to give the other people the evidence on which they can base their decision on whether to trust you. You must be willing to give in order to get." 

You cannot demand trust; instead, you must work hard at developing it. Until you have the client's trust, they will more than likely force you to follow their own mistaken approaches instead of listening to your good advice. 

See this Entrepreneur magazine article for Mark's comments.   

Monday, December 19, 2011

BI Clarity

On a Business Intelligence initiative, much of your success will depend upon a very special word--"clarity." Here is how one online dictionary defines it:
noun: clearness or lucidity as to perception or understanding; freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity.

When performing a BI project, everybody must be clear in their understanding of what is going to be delivered, why, when, how, and at what cost. Ambiguities in the project's mission, tactical approach, or deliverables will lead to failure.

I have recently used a low-fidelity wireframe tool from a software vendor named Balsamiq to reduce ambiguity. This mockup tool helps to quickly define the BI initiative in a collaborative approach.

Not only can business users see an example of what is going to be built, they can interact with it. The Balsamiq Mockup application has simulated links for demonstrating button clicks, listbox pull-downs, drill-downs, and other common user interface controls.

Before any real application development starts, the users can test out your plans and bless the user interface design. Issues can be pointed out immediately, not after weeks or months of costly effort.

Mockups force everybody to put ideas into a quasi-working format and validate feasibility.

I am a fan of Balsamiq Mockups. At $79 USD, it is a cheap way to bring clarity to your BI project.

About Me

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I am a project-based consultant, helping data-intensive firms use agile methods and automation tools to replace legacy reporting and bring in modern BI/Analytics to leverage Social, Cloud, Mobile, Big Data, Visualizations, and Predictive Analytics. For several world-class vendors, I led services teams specializing in providing software implementation and custom application development. Based on scores of successful engagements, I have assembled proven methodologies and automated software tools.

During twenty years of technical consulting, I have been blessed to work with smart people from some of the world's most respected organizations, including: FedEx, Procter & Gamble, Nationwide, The Wendy's Company, The Kroger Co., JPMorgan Chase, MasterCard, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Siemens, American Express, and others.

I was educated at Valparaiso University and the University of Cincinnati, graduating summa cum laude. In 1990, I joined Information Builders, the vendor of WebFOCUS BI and iWay enterprise integration products, and for over a dozen years served in branch leadership roles. For several years, I also led technical teams within Cincom Systems' ERP software product group and the custom software services arm of Xerox.

Since 2007, I have provided enterprise BI services such as: strategic advice; architecture, design, and software application development of intelligence systems (interactive dashboards and mobile); data warehousing; and automated modernization of legacy reporting.