Business Intelligence Consultants–When Can They Help and What Can You Do Yourself?

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On one hand, you hear that business intelligence is huge and complex, costs a fortune, and is totally out of the grasp of small to medium-sized businesses.  On the other hand, some vendors are saying, “Download this BI software and start using it now with no help from anyone.”  Who is right?  Well, as with most things in life, the answer for many organizations lies somewhere in the middle.

Advances in technology have made business intelligence software accessible, both in terms of cost and feasibility, to all but the smallest firms.  But that doesn’t mean it’s an entirely do-it-yourself affair.  The fact is, that unless you have staff comprising IT, data managers, and business analysts, you may need a bit of consulting help, especially in the implementation phase of your business intelligence project, with even the most “out-of-the-box” software.

There really is no typical BI implementation.  Differences will result based on the software you choose, the depth and breadth of IT and data experience you have on your staff, what your goals are, what data you are using and what condition it’s in, and much more.  But for the sake of discussion, let’s assume you have chosen BIO Business Intelligence for Microsoft Dynamics, that you do not have an in-house IT department, that you would like to include both Dynamics and non-Dynamics operating data, and that although your data is in good condition, you’d like to use this opportunity to update your chart of accounts.

The implementation phase is where you can really leverage your BI consultants.  Your BI consultant will manage the project and help you identify the processes you will incorporate into your BI system.  He or she will analyze your infrastructure requirements and capacity and put together a plan for an infrastructure that will leverage your needs.  He will help you prepare you data for a migration, including making that change to the chart of accounts that you need.  He will install and configure your software and make any necessary customizations, implement any complex security needed, and prepare multiple data sources for consolidation in the BIO data warehouse.  He will also deliver some initial training.  The contribution you can make in this phase is really determined by the extent of your knowledge and skills.  If you know SQL or Analysis Services or if you are accustomed to working with Pivot Tables, you may be able to pick up some of this work.  But BIO business intelligence consultants have been at this a while and they have the expertise and situational fluency to make your implementation go smoothly and quickly.

Once the original implementation is done, a non-programmer can easily manage the BIO system and begin creating reports and performing ad hoc analysis and data discovery right away.  Even the most non-technical users can use all of the functionality in the front-end visualization tool—from pre-configured reports to sophisticated graphics, from the in-grid calculator to traffic lights, from drill-down to aggregation—with no more than an initial tutorial.  Reporting and analysis for operational decision making is easy for everyone in the organization and collaboration via sharing active analyses and comments is available to everyone.

Building new cubes, creating new hierarchies, adding data sources, managing ongoing security, adding new centralized reports, and building dashboards are examples of functionality that is handled in the back-end or what we call the design and development platform.  Although it’s true that nearly anyone could execute these functions in BIO—you don’t need to be a programmer or have a degree in development or mathematics—you will want to think about who should be making these kinds of changes.  You may want to keep this sort of activity to your point person or super-user because changes here can affect many users.  Once again, though, that super user does not need to be an IT person and you won’t need a consultant.  The BIO design and development platform is designed to allow full use of your system by your users.

Does that mean you won’t ever need to contact your business intelligence consultant again?  Probably not.  If you want to expand or extend your solution by adding customizations or integrating additional systems or applications to your solution, your BIO business intelligence consultant can help you get your project completed quickly and accurately.  If you need help troubleshooting, BIO consultants can help you pinpoint any issues and of course, you’ll have to upgrade your system sometime and BIO’s business intelligence consultants can bring you up to date on all the latest and greatest versions of software in your solution.

Call us at 203.327.0800 to discuss how we can help you achieve your self-service business intelligence goals.  To see BIO in action, join us for a complimentary webinar.  Contact us by phone at 203.327.0800 or email at [email protected]

By Sandi Richards Forman of BIO Analytics, Corp., Microsoft Dynamics Business Intelligence (BI) Solution Provider