Need Of A Future-Ready Business Intelligence Framework

Nikhilesh

Implementing a BI solution along with a data warehouse is a costly affair for any company and the costs runs in many thousands of dollars. In the last 2 decades what has been observed is that the tools are not able to match up to the rapidly changing technology landscape and often gets outdated resulting in tool/technology. The same is now being observed in BI space with the current set of BI tools offering the same set of out-of-the-mill features which are more or less generic in nature. What all of the current set of BI tools lack is a FUTURE-READY ARCHITECTURE.

With what BI tools offer, clients can only use that. There is heavy dependence on BI vendor for any feature request. Often a business user has to adjust his requirements when ideally it should be the other way round!

Ideal would be to have a BI framework empowering the developers to build functionality, thus with some development BI tool will be able to adjust to ever changing requirements or technology landscape.

Below mentioned are some of the instances wherein such a need is felt:

New data source type or API addition

Generally BI tools support limited number of databases/API support. For adding a new database or API to fetch data reliance is either on DB vendor or BI vendor. With a developer-friendly BI framework a developer himself can build required connectors to take care of the same.

Usage of advanced scientific and statistical charts

Aside from normal charts like pie, bar etc at times the requirement is for advanced charts like bubble chart, sankey chart, sunburst chart, radial etc. This is mainly needed for data analytics and advanced usage. A BI framework can allow addition of any kind of charts with its inherent functionality like export, email intact.

Ways to represent data

What BI tools offer is generally reports and dashboards. But with a BI framework, a developer can act as an artist, and with data he can create reports, dashboards, what if, infograph, mashup, cubes, scorecards, geographical dashboards and any other type of representing data which might come up in future.

BI Software UI looks so very alien!

BI has its own UI. It offers some white labeling capabilities but that’s primarily on the header, footer, color, text which is very superficial.

A BI framework could empower the end customer to customize absolutely anything, right from colors, header, footer, text, icons, navigation, way of accessing repository, context menu, logo etc. It could go to the extent of customizing the extensions of the inherent files generated by the BI too.

Browser could be used to for creation and consumption

All the BI tools currently use different tools, one as the server, one for designing the solution, ETL separate, community plugins, extensions etc. Hence an end customer often has to download many different components. In some cases what is observed is the components because of mismatch in versioning, doesn’t work seamlessly.

It would be ideal to use browser as a single place to create solution, edit solution, access solution. No need to download umpteen number of different components and worry about bandwidth, costing and compatibility issues.

Complex licensing mechanism

Different BI tools have different and complex licensing mechanism. After purchasing the tool there always seems to be a need to purchase more license for cores/users/data/developers etc.  If everything can be accessed/created via browser these situations could be avoided.

Adhoc BI capabilities for business users

Adhoc capabilities allow business users to drag, drop and create their own reports and dashboards. Many BI tools are extremely limited here, not allowing or extending features to write custom scripts, add html, add visualization for adhoc, add custom calculated columns, etc.

Extending the core functions of the BI tool

With a BI framework, we can empower the end user to literally do anything. He/she can add any kind of functionality and add features by writing code on top of it. Examples of extending functionality could be things like outlook plug-in of BI, offline viewing, introducing new exporting options, rule-based system, custom alerting notifications and triggers, custom business processes, etc.

An inbuilt workflow engine inside BI tool

An integrated workflow inside a BI tool could help in defining business processes and thus enhancing capabilities. Examples of workflow could be like ‘run ETL AND create report AND mail to one set of users when value is between 0-50%, AND send it to other set of users when value is greater than 50%’.

BI Resource crunch

Having worked in BI domain, the most challenging problem we and client faces is in terms of skilled BI resources. For open source BI tool this problem is much more severe. Why can’t BI tools be simple enough for a HTML/Java resource too to be able to work on the tool?