Agile BI Equals Successful BI (Yet another Example)

A quick Google search on “Failed BI Project” will yield more results than any normal human can read in a lifetime. Sure, many of these results are the product of marketers playing the fear angle, but there is also some very valuable content written by people with real world experience. A common theme exists which can be summarized in this way. An agile methodology is a critical component to successfully creating a BI/DW solution.

Since there are only 11,300,000 search results for “Failed BI Project” it seems appropriate to add yet another example of why taking an agile approach is really the only rational option. I was recently engaged by a client that learned the hard way. The story is not unique. An executive decided that there was a need for a business intelligence system and engaged a partner to deliver the solution. The partner collected requirements for over a year and had nothing in production. After a year and a half, one data mart and dashboard was deliverd. Needless to say the client was not happy with the performance thus far and picked a new partner to deliver the remaining 4 line of business data marts & dashboards.

At this point the client had spent well into seven digits (100% of waterfall budget) and had only one dashboard and a few dated requirement documents to show for it. It was just too big of a pill to swallow when asked to convert the exisitng requirements into a backlog list that would be reprioritized (possibly scrapped) each sprint. Instead, the new pseudo agile approach was to develop against the existing requirements while also delievering production ready assets each sprint. Hard lesson learned again. After the first line of business dashboards were delivered, it became clear that a lot has changed since the original requirements were collected. New leadership, new regulations, new metric definitions. Ouch!

With all of this data in hand, a full agile approach was an easy sell for the remaining deliverables. The existing requirements were converted into a backlog and presented to the business for prioritization. It wasn’t long before business sponsor started saying things like, “We don’t need that any longer… Can you add this new user story?” Each sprint planning meeting is a true breath of fresh air. The business sponsors have been through years (literally) of delay and disappointment. It is amazing to hear their reaction to a simple response like, “Yes, we can deliver that piece in two weeks. No problem.”

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