Friday, February 27, 2009

DW-BI and agile

Kaushal Karnad asked on LinkedIn whether DW/BI projects can be run in an agile manner, as he points out that outputs are mostly reports and extracts and continuous integration would be an issue, having to move data across various DW layers every now and then.

Of course they are! DW/BI projects are, by their nature, to be run in incremental and iterative mode, as the risk associated with a full blown solution is way too high, even more that in traditional software development because of all the non-technical issues related to them. The best approach is to start from the core part of the business, which has the highest priority, and iteratively add new areas and refine what has been released so far, always trying to maximize the value for the customer. And that sounds like agile.

Outputs might be "only" reports and extracts, but what is important is the way you figure out the data and the paths you follow during your analysys: the more you use the system, the more you might feel the need to link apparently unrelated data to gain a deeper understanding of what you're delving into, thus requesting something more (or something different) iteration after iteration: not only new reports, but also new combinations and possibile paths. That sounds like agile too.

Continuous integration is normally about code, not about data, so maybe this is a false problem; anyway, the frequency of updates strongly depends on the real needs of the knowledge workers and often one update a day will suffice.

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