What is Agile BI?
Agile Business Intelligence Defined
Agile Business Intelligence (BI) is the utilization of the software development methodology known as, “agile development” for use in BI projects. Software developers do so to diminish time-to-market and time-to-value times and to keep up with ever-changing business and user demands.
Agile BI is a recurrent process of product evolution with new iterations of reports, dashboards, visualizations, and new BI functionality added over time to adapt to new demands. It’s not a one and done implementation but is often front heavy when it comes to initial implementation involvement. Agile BI is often used in Embedded BI projects which involve additional levels of physical software integration to meet end-user requirements. These projects require development teams and project and product managers to have an in-depth understanding of the current business intelligence capabilities of their product, their highest priority needs in terms of new capabilities, as well as an in-depth knowledge of their software’s architecture to make the most use of the agile strategy during the initial implementation phase. When done correctly, embedded agile BI can help promote long-term user adoption while strengthening a product’s BI capabilities and helps future-proof further BI development endeavors.
The Agile methodology means that analytics projects are separated into a sequence of smaller phases where each phase is recurrently designed, developed, QA’d, and then released on a continuous cycle. This waterfall approach, also known as an iterative approach, helps promote continuous improvement of BI capabilities to help meet changing user demands. This approach also allows development teams to deliver new and improved BI capabilities to users at more regular intervals.
What Challenges Does Agile BI Solve?
Traditionally, the main challenge Agile BI helps solve is that of time-to-value, particularly in projects where the planned timeline to ROI is longer and the upfront investment greater. However, the changing requirements of OEM customers and the emergence of cloud and SaaS related pricing models has helped alleviate the initial burden many organizations face when implementing a new BI platform either internally or within their product. Some organizations still prefer a perpetual pricing model due to the long-term potential gains, while some prefer a term based model which stretches cost over several years. That’s not to say that Agile BI still doesn’t have its place in modern BI initiatives. The total cost of change or TOC also plays a major factor in an organization’s decision to take on a new BI project. Both agile BI and the agile methodology itself helps reduce this cost by encouraging buy into the idea of continuous improvement, meaning there is less resistance to change and long-term growth can be expanded upon without detriment to company culture.
5 Factors to Consider When Starting an Agile BI Project
Here are 5 factors to consider before starting your Agile BI project:
- Current Development Methodology- It is possible to start using the agile development methodology when starting a BI initiative if you’ve never used agile before, but it is important to consider the full user and development implications before starting. BI can be considered a make or break differentiator in many markets, and if you are replacing a current solution it’s important to make sure you aren’t reducing capabilities during the initial phases of implementation.
- Current Project Management Methodology- The same can be said of project/product management methodologies. Agile can often require a more hands-on approach when it comes to recording and adapting to user expectations, but if you don’t have an established method of communicating with current and potential customers this can create issues if user expectations and feature delivery aren’t in alignment.
- User Feedback Loop- As stated, it’s important to consider what means of communication you have between your users and your product/development teams. If you have a community portal or support system which allows users to submit feature requests or vote on new feature sets this can be great for end users, because the time from feedback to delivery is greatly reduced.
- Infrastructure- The ability to scale both from a software and hardware perspective is of great importance as a project develops from initial delivery through more advanced iterations. Being able to keep up with user demand should be a major consideration in planning.
- Organizational Goals- Agile development projects also require a different level of organizational communication than other traditional methods, it’s important that development, product, sales, and marketing teams are aligned how to prioritize different BI features set to be developed.
Agile BI with JReport
JReport supports a number of different deployment and rapid deployment models. It can easily be deployed in public or private clouds, or on-premise to match your business need. It’s also built using scalable architecture means you can scale up or down as is needed when expanding BI capabilities throughout the life cycle of a project or as user demand increases over time. JReport scales using independent node technology meaning there is no single point of failure and failover can be accomplished with ease.
- Agile BI uses the agile software development methodology for use in a BI project
- The goal of agile BI is to reduce time-to-value as well as time cost-of-change by helping to promote continuous improvement internally and putting iterative BI improvements in place over time to meet new user demands.
- JReport is an ideal candidate for embedded agile BI projects due to its embeddability, rapid deployment model, and scalable architecture.