Using multiple business intelligence tools in an implementation – Part II

Rather unsurprisingly, this article follows on from: Using multiple business intelligence tools in an implementation – Part I.

On further reflection about this earlier article, I realised that I missed out one important point. This was perhaps implicit in the diagram that I posted (and which I repeat below), but I think that it makes sense for me to make things explicit.

An example of a multi-tier BI architecture with different tools
An example of a multi-tier BI architecture with different tools

The point is that in this architecture with different BI tools in different layers, it remains paramount to have consistency in terminology and behaviour for dimensions and measures. So “Country” and “Profit” must mean the same things in your dashboard as it does in your OLAP cubes. The way that I have achieved this before is to have virtually all of the logic defined in the warehouse itself. Of course some things may need to be calculated “on-the-fly” within the BI tool, in this case care needs to be paid to ensuring consistency.

It has been pointed out that the approach of using the warehouse to drive consistency may circumscribe your ability to fully exploit the functionality of some BI tools. While this is sometimes true, I think it is not just a price worth paying, but a price that it is mandatory to pay. Inconsistency of any kind is the enemy of all BI implementations. If your systems do not have credibility with your users, then all is already lost and no amount of flashy functionality will save you.
 

7 thoughts on “Using multiple business intelligence tools in an implementation – Part II

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      The first thing to say is that (as per the diagram in the blog post) there are different jobs to be done. Very few tools (or suites of tools) will do basic reporting, OLAP, data mining, dashboards, financial consilidation and data visualisation, so you are probably going to be looking at different tools. This is particularly the case since various vendors have hit on the wheeze of unbundling their products in order to charge for each of them.

      However it makese sense to have the fewest number of tools and to avoid having more than one in each class (why would you need two OLAP tools) as this will simply lead to user confusion. Also it you can find tools that share meta-data, that will help to provide a more joined-up user experience.

      Hope that helps somewhat.

      Peter

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