Successful Business Intelligence

Cindi Howson is back with a second edition of Successful Business Intelligence.

Successful Business Intelligence, Second Edition by Cindi Howson (Mcgraw-Hill Osborne Media,
ISBN 978-0071809184) is a significant revision to the first edition, which was published in 2007. Cindi Howson is well known in the SAP BusinessObjects community as the author of SAP BusinessObjects 4.0: The Complete Reference as well as earlier editions for XI R2 and 6.0. But she is also a lecturer for The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI) and publishes research on multiple business intelligence tools at BIScorecard.com.

Successful Business Intelligence by Cindi Howson

The book is organized around the results of The Successful BI survey conducted in 2012. Although several of the case studies will mention specific tools, the book is intended for BI practitioners regardless of the tools that they are using. The book is written in a manner that can be understood by anyone working with business intelligence, whether business or technical, staff or management.

Books such as Successful Business Intelligence can be tricky to read because we are all tempted to underline or quote passages that reinforce our built-in biases about what “successful” BI looks like while ignoring other passages that highlight deficiencies in our approach. This isn’t a flaw of this book or its author, but of ourselves— the readers. Successful Business Intelligence provides a descriptive narrative for multiple approaches to business intelligence, rather than a single prescriptive method. No silver bullet exists because there are so many variables that make every organization’s BI implementation unique. But the successful implementations profiled in the book have found some fundamental principles that have allowed their BI implementations to achieve significant business impact. As the author suggests:

There is no clear yardstick for successful business intelligence. While the industry would like to give a single, objective measure— such as return on investment (ROI)— the reality is that ROI is derived from imprecise inputs upon which few stakeholders agree. Interestingly, the most successful business intelligence deployments don’t use ROI as a measure of success. Instead, there are multiple measures of success, with varying degrees of importance and accuracy.

While most organizations struggle with both technical challenges and organizational or “people” challenges, my personal bias is that the latter presents more obstacles to successful BI than the former. Fortunately, this book deals with both sets of challenges and provides thought-provoking material to discuss with your BI peers, hopefully over some good coffee.

At this time of year, Successful Business Intelligence makes a great stocking stuffer and a good read to curl up with over the winter holidays. It will definitely provide some new ideas to try out in 2014.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 The Complete Reference, Third Edition

The best published resource for universe design with the Information Design Tool.

Cindi Howson BusinessObjects Complete Reference Third EditionI started using BusinessObjects in February 2003.  As a newbie, I was so grateful that Business Objects: The Complete Reference was published later that year. According to Amazon.com, I purchased the book on August 21, 2003. I always kept the copy handy until I replaced it with Business Objects XI Release 2: The Complete Reference.  McGraw Hill did not publish an edition for XI 3.0/XI 3.1, but Cindi Howson and co-author Elizabeth Newbould have returned with SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0: The Complete Reference, Third Edition.

SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0: The Complete Reference is a book that almost did not get published- Ms. Howson provides the back story on her blog (see The Never Ending Story).  The SAP BusinessObjects product portfolio is substantially larger than the one that was covered in the first edition nearly 10 years ago, which creates challenges for any author. From the book’s introduction, “The Complete Reference brand does not imply the complete SAP BusinessObjects product line, but rather, a complete reference for certain modules… We have tried to focus the content of the book primarily on what business application designers, business analysts, and power users need to know. Software engineers and system administrators were not the intended audience for this book”. The 752-page book is organized into four parts: Getting Ready for Business Intelligence (three chapters), Universes and the Information Design Tool (twelve chapters), Reporting and Analysis (seven chapters), and Dashboards and More (six chapters).

While the book is excellent from start to finish, what really sets it apart are twelve chapters devoted to the Information Design Tool, the semantic layer design tool that replaces the classic Designer tool (now known on the BI 4.0 platform as the Universe Design Tool). SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0: The Complete Reference is currently the best published resource for universe design with the Information Design Tool. My favorite chapter is chapter 13, Design Principles: Where to Put the Intelligence, which helps the reader understand the tradeoffs between placing intelligence in the database, the universe, or the report. The book also covers lifecycle management (known on the BI 4.0 platform as Promotion Management and Version Management), use of the project synchronization features for team-based development, and maintaining and monitoring the universe after it has gone into production.

I’ve been well served by having Cindi Howson’s books on my shelf for the past decade. If you’re a business application designer, business analyst, or power user working with the BI 4.0 platform, you’ll appreciate having this book. It’s available in paperback form or on the major ebook platforms (Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Apple iBook).

Resources

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from McGraw-Hill, the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

I am also an unpaid contributing expert for the BI Scorecard.