Defining requirements for business intelligence projects is critical. Most BI projects fail because of poor requirement gathering. If your BI Project cannot fulfill the reporting requirements of your end users, then all your efforts will go in vain. You should gather business intelligence reporting requirements comprehensively to make your BI project a success. Here’s how to gather business intelligence reporting requirements.
How To Gather Business Intelligence Reporting Requirements
The best way to capture business intelligence reporting requirements, is by asking the right questions. Here are the main questions you need to ask when you embark upon collecting BI reporting requirements.
1. Who is your target audience?
Every business intelligence project is meant to satisfy a set of end users. So find out who all will access your BI project, as well as your business intelligence reports. You will find that a single BI project is used by multiple departments as well as functional roles. Make a list of all users for your BI project.
Reports & Dashboards are the final outputs of every business intelligence system. Find out who will need a BI project deliverable such as reports, graphs, dashboards, presentations, etc. End users such as senior management and department heads will need you to give them a report. On the other hand, advanced users such as data analysts won’t need a deliverable, since they will be using your BI solution on a daily basis, and will know how to find information on their own.
So now you know for whom you need to create BI deliverables.
2. What are the business questions/problems to be solved?
Next, ask your target users as to what business questions they are trying to answer, or solve. Find out
- Why can’t they be answered at the moment?
- What are the deficiencies with the existing tools & system?
- What are the problems with their existing data sources?
3. Identify KPIs & Metrics
Once you have identified the business problems troubling your target users, and the deficiencies in your current system, it’s time to quantify them. Ask your target users the following questions to understand if they are already receiving any deliverables, and how they can be improved.
- What reports do they use at present, if any? Is there a way to build better dashboards & reports?
- What is the frequency and format of these deliverables?
- How do they access reports? How to they use this information?
- Are there any third-party reporting tools and people involved presently? Get their details.
- Which KPIs & metrics do they track to do their job better? At what intervals?
- What additional metrics do they want to track, that are absent in their present reports?
If they are already using a report, then make sure your new report contains most of its KPIs. This will lead to a smoother transition.
Also, keep in mind that any change in report frequency, report format and report access methods, will require fresh training and communication. So it is advisable to design dashboards & reports that have a similar format, frequency and access methods, as the old ones, unless your business has decided to take a different route altogether.
Check out How to Make Your Dashboard Look Professional.
4. Create a List of Deliverables
Create a simple spreadsheet which lists all the types of business intelligence reports your BI Project needs to deliver. For each report, mention
- Report Title & Description
- Target Users
- Report Format – CSV files, Spreadsheets, Web reports, PDF, Presentations, etc
- Report Frequency – daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly. Also mention on which day the reports need to go out
- Metrics & KPIs to be measured. Data Visualization to be used for each metric.
When you make this list, you’ll find that some reports share many metrics & KPIs, and can be merged into a single report. Similarly, you’ll find that different target users require similar reports, with minor difference.
Consolidate such reports after discussing with the appropriate stakeholders.
This is one of the key steps in gathering business intelligence reporting requirements.
For example, here’s a sales dashboard deliverable built using Ubiq BI Software for your reference
5. Identify Data sources
Each report works on a set of data sources. Find out how to calculate each KPI & metric. This will tell you which data sources are required for each KPI.
For each KPI, list input data fields required and calculation steps.
Find out which data sources are presently available in-house, which ones are third-party data. Also, determine if you need ask for additional data. If so, whom to approach in this regard. What is the cost of getting additional data?
Document these as a BI reporting requirements template and share them with your team.
Once you have a clear idea about all the target users, list of deliverables and list of data sources. Only then you will be in a good position to come up with intuitive business intelligence reports that fulfill all the business intelligence reporting requirements of your target audience.
Needless to say, gathering business intelligence reporting requirements is an iterative process and involves some trade-off between value and feasibility, that varies from organization to organization.
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