Ready to Roll

Oct 16, 2010

In the model train hobby I enjoy during my spare time, this means "take it out of the package, put it on the tracks and it is ready to go!" There's no assembly, painting, adjusting, setup, muss or fuss. Unfortunately, getting a business intelligence solution ready for production isn't quite so easy.

Lately, I've been working on a solution delivery scheduled for the end of this month. Here are a few key things we've been tracking with this client to ensure a smooth and successful rollout. Some may seem obvious, but it is easy to forget little details:

  • Get the complete list of users who need access. Along with this list, it is important to have planned their access and security credentials. When considering groups and who should have access to what, make sure to assess both the data they should see, as well as the functionality they should be allowed to use in the BI platform.
  • Test using actual user credentials setup as defined in the access plan. Everything can look like it is working great when logged in as the administrator or developer, but as we found out, simple things can be overlooked like the ability to change predefined queries or overwrite a standard report.
  • Ensure there is adequate licensing. Understand the type and concurrency of the license scheme you have. Often the first couple of days will see a lot of activity from the curious users. If they have trouble logging in because of limited licensing, you may have a hard time coaxing them back to the BI system again.
  • Prepare a quick start or user's guide. As much as you might think "it's all intuitive," for many users new to BI, it's not so obvious. List explicitly the steps they need to take and use screen shots of the actual system with actual data so they know they are doing things correctly. There can be a lot of useful tips and tricks for navigating around reports and analyses they'll appreciate too. It helps build confidence and buy-in to using the system.
  • Validate the reports and analytics one last time. What worked a week ago or a month ago might not necessarily work today. Like the security and access plan, the report design can sometimes be affected by little things like a changeover in a month or business cycle. A back end data source may not be updated as it should have been and no alert was in place to raise the flag. New data may not fit the original formatting if boundary values weren't well understood. There are many possibilities to keep an eye on. While it is unlikely all issues will be caught, one last review is a good idea.

I am looking forward to the end of the month to see how well things go. Things should be ready to roll!