Business Intelligence Challenge – Understanding Requirements, User Object Analysis

Posted by Muneeswara C Pandian
August 5th, 2008

Let us start with the Law of (BI) Requirements“Requirements can not be created nor destroyed; it can only be transformed from one form to another”. The thought is that in all customer environments the requirements for a BI system are always available in some form or the other. We need to find the ‘base object form’ of the requirement and build upon it for further improvement.

In general data in every transaction system gets analyzed and reported in one way or the other. The BI system is built only to improve that process of analysis to a much easier and sophisticated way. Typical requirements ‘understanding’ has been through the means of Questionnaires, Interviews and Joint Discussions, these kinds of requirements gathering could miss out understanding certain things that the user needs because we might not ask the right questions or the user is not in a good mood during the discussion or the user might just provide details on what he can remember at that point of time. When we are talking about users in thousands and located across globe it becomes much bigger challenge.

The solution to cover all aspects of requirements understanding from a user perspective is by analysis of the objects that a user ‘creates or uses’ in his day today activities, we can call this ‘User Object Analysis’.

A ‘User Object’ is any artifact that a user is creating as part of his data preparation, analysis and reporting, this object could be an Excel, PowerPoint slide, Access database, a Word Document, a notepad or an e-mail.

Following are the steps in ‘User Object Analysis’

  • Collect all the ‘Objects’ from all users, the objects collected can go across years, but the key is to collect all of them which the user feels as relevant and applicable
  • Convert all of the content in each of the ‘User object’ into a relational structure, the conversion process would involve mapping the data in the Objects to its metadata like the business names/elements, tables-columns, username, depart etc
  • Analysis of this collected metadata gives a wider view, enables questioning, makes us understand the needs of the users and enables us to define improvements or provide another perspective to the existing ones
  • Prepare and submit the ‘User Object Analysis’ report highlighting the needs of each user (or user clusters) to get user confirmation

Benefits of User Object Analysis

  • An effective means to understand the needs of a user based on what he does as a daily routine
  • An easy way for the user as he has to just read thru final report for approval and need not work in providing inputs through questionnaire or discussions
  • Easily managed for users in large numbers or multiple locations
  • A good base for us to define improvements for the existing process of analysis
  • Platform to consolidate the needs across multiple users and carve out the user clusters who perform same kind of analysis
  • Enables us to think through the business process and improves business understanding

Next time let us discuss about another perspective to Requirements Understanding called ‘System Object Analysis’.

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