Business Intelligence - The Reusability Gene

Posted by Karthikeyan Sankaran
September 30th, 2008

One issue that confronts me time and again while executing BI projects is “Reusability”, actually the lack of it. Let me give an example. 

In the many migrations and upgrade projects that Hexaware (my company) has executed, I always find that the number of reports finally migrated/upgraded to a new environment is only 40-50% of the number that is provided to us by the customer initially. Report Rationalization has become such a critical step that we have developed many specific metadata tools that helps rationalize the reporting environment.  Coming back to the topic – The reason for such a divergence between the final number of reports and the initial number is lack of ‘reusability’. Business users have their own versions of standardized (?) reports stored in their desktops which are nothing but small variations (usually with a new filter added) of an already existing report.

Another similar example on the data integration side is the creation of ad-hoc ETL routines as and when required. This results in duplication of ETL jobs and also results in a non-standard BI environment.

Lack of re-use causes two major problems:

1) BI environment becomes bloated with the increase in the number of unwanted components that use valuable computing resources, resulting in delays for availability of more important information.

2) Any attempt at upgrading/re-engineering the existing system results in high costs and undesirable heart-burn among business users

The Prescription:

1) Establish a corporate level BI team whose primary responsibility is to ensure that any component addition (ETL, Reports, and Models etc.) is justified based on its purpose. This team has to ensure that existing standards and components are reused to the maximum extent.

2) Strengthen the “Business Metadata” architecture within the organization. In one of my earlier posts, I had explained my view of BI metadata and that is very relevant to the task of improving reusability.

Basically, the “Reusability gene” seems to be a little muted in its functioning among BI practitioners. It is time that BI teams within organizations and system integrators like Hexaware look at reusability as a critical parameter while developing and deploying BI solutions.

Thanks for reading. Please do share your thoughts!

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