The BI Solution Architect

An unrecognized orchestra conductor

Gregoris Zikos

The Business Intelligence Solutions Architect: unrecognized orchestra conductor

The role of a business intelligence solutions architect is an overlooked role within many companies while it is the keystone of an efficient system responding to all needs.

An archi-what?

Through various solution auditing mandates, I often find myself asking if the company has someone fulfilling the role of BI architect. Answers go from “what is that?” to “Yes, but mainly for the data supply part” or yet “Is this contagious?”. Generally, I indulge in a little summary of what kind of problems appear when this role is not fulfilled or defined.

(Tick the corrects answers below)

  • My BI solution does not correspond to the user needs
  • I have performances problems with restitution and/or data supply
  • I have several tools doing the same thing in my company
  • I have an almost zero re-use rate of my solution different modules
  • I have mini data store all over my company and my users assemble everything with an Excel
  • I do not have a centralised management of errors, rejections, quality or complying dimensions
  • Others (and the list keeps going)

As in healthcare, the differential diagnosis will help find the disease, you only need a BI architect! Do not worry, it is not incurable and you will live much better afterward!

A solos cacophony at the expense of a symphonic harmony

Once the diagnosis made, we knock on all specialists’ doors. There, we find out that the expertise is not the problem, it’s the global vision. We go from team to team were people excel in their field, but who only have the vision of their technical and/or functional part. They create their part the best way possible, but they cannot see that this part may not be the best one from a global solution standpoint. Imagine a concert for classic music amateurs with an orchestra composed of the best jazz pianist, the best metal drummer, a talented folk guitarist and the best pop singing voice worldwide where everyone play or sing in their own register, you will obtain a series of discording notes, while having the top list of the music world, resulting in a disappointed audience. This is where the BI architect role fits in! It is his role to harmonize the whole thing on a common goal and a common vision, it is him who will take the best from each element in order to produce the best concert and it is him who will have the vision for the global partition.

A square man for a well-rounded business

Not always an easy role to play. Between certain demands brushing the impossible, technical experts constantly calling into question their puzzle piece and a miracle solution request for a discounted price, the mission can be somewhat difficult but it is worth it. If we compare a BI project to children blocks and forms game, we can found ourselves looking at a user wanting a square, a restitution system in a circle, a modelling in a star and a supply in a triangle. Each one is proud of his part, but the user only has what fits into each part which ends up being not much.

The BI Architect has the role of unifying all of this, and, being expert in all the fields or not, he has to be the warrant of the global solution. An expert would encounter many difficulties but has to resist to the temptation to trade his macroscopic view for a microscopic view of technical details. However, he absolutely has to:

  • Question the user on his need to pull him back towards a doable form with the performance and functionalities requested
  • Insure that the restitution contains the user needs
  • Make sure that the modelling supports the restitution need as well as the supply need
  • Ensure (with the data architect) that the informational data requested are there, properly integrated and non-redundant
  • And finally, sprinkle it all with a touch of re-use, industrialisation and centralisation

These few task examples will allow a common form in a solution delivering 100% of its potential.

Do not hesitate to exchange with me if you have questions on this role or a difficult choice to make, I will be glad to help!