by Kaan Turnali, Global Senior Director, Enterprise Analytics

Proof of concepts (POC) specifically designed for business intelligence (BI) projects can be invaluable because they can help to mitigate or eliminate the risks associated with requirements whether we’re working with a new BI technology, asset, or data source.

POCs (sometimes referred to as proof of principle) may be presented with slightly varying interpretations in different areas of business and technology. However, a BI POC attempts to validate a proposed solution that may cover one or more layers of the BI spectrum through a demonstration with a small number of users.

There are many reasons why a BI POC may be needed, and they may come in different shapes and sizes. Some focus on the end user; others may deal with data or the ETL process. BI POCs can be small, quick, and even incomplete. Or they can be involved, measured, and lengthy. Some are initiated ad-hoc and executed informally while others may require a process as strict as a full-scale project and the same level of funding as a formal engagement.

Here are five ways to drive value with your BI POCs.

1. Focus More on the Value and Less on the Mechanics

You can’t lose the sight of the big picture—it doesn’t matter how simple the BI requirement may appear or how informal the process may be that you’re asked to follow. Often BI teams concentrate on the technical details (a necessary step), but you need to go beyond just the mechanics and think about the value. Sometimes, a technical solution alone may not be adequate because technology is only half of the solution. And BI is no different.

2. Identify All of the BI Layers in Question

In a typical BI project, there are usually several layers involved: data, ETL, reports, access, and so on. Depending on the size and/or scope of your BI project, identifying the correct BI layers that need validation becomes critical. For example, you may be looking at a report design, but you can’t simply ignore the underlying data source or required data transformation rules.

3. Cheat on Sample Data, but Not on the Logic

Time is an extremely scarce resource in business, and POCs are often executed at a higher velocity. As you manage the process, it’s completely acceptable to cut corners such as hard coding a value in a report instead of fully defining the formula or building an integrated process to calculate it. But if you cheat, you should always cheat on time and not on concept.

4. Define and Manage the Scope

No matter how informal your BI POC may be, you need to define and maintain a POC scope. Open-ended or prolonged efforts result in waste. And BI POCs are not immune to this virus. It may not require intricate project- or change-management processes, but you still need to have a plan and execute around that plan.

5. The Right Talent Matters

Identifying the right talent with the right background is critical to your BI POCs success. It goes without saying that subject matter expertise around BI as well as areas related to business content and processes is a prerequisite. However, equally important are the soft skills, starting with critical thinking.

Bottom Line

If our goal is to enable faster, better-informed decisions, technical know-how alone won’t guarantee successful outcomes, because a POC is only as good as its assumptions and the BI team that’s executing it.

It all starts and ends with leadership that can pave the way for executing a BI vision where technology becomes a conduit to delivering business growth and profitability through the talent and passion of our teams.

What other ways do you see that can drive value with BI POCs?