Transitioning from Technical BI to Functional BI to Augmented BI

Making BI work for you with AirQuery’s Augmatica

It's easy to lie with statistics but hard to tell the truth without them. - Charles Wheelan

The business world driven by data has seen Business Intelligence (BI) emerge as a significant domain that has transformed data from being just a resource to being the compass that guides decisions, forms strategies, and steers success. As enterprises seek to harness the power of data, there appear two distinct yet interconnected pillars within the realm of BI - Functional BI and Technical BI. Like two sides of the same coin, they work in tandem to transform raw data into actionable insights, empowering businesses to meet their goals and thrive. 

As we understand the crucial role of BI and its part in developing businesses and the economy,  we attempt to bring forth and simplify the distinctive functionalities and features of both these facets of BI, functional BI and technical BI, which could play a key role in identifying the different users within an enterprise, the purposes they serve and the infinite success they are capable of. 

Let’s begin with classifying Technical BI and Functional BI.

Technical BI: Crafting the Data Architecture

While Functional BI serves as the front-end interface, Technical BI works behind the scenes, building the data architecture that fuels the insights. This facet focuses on data integration, transformation, and modeling to ensure data quality, consistency, and accessibility.

As data volume continues to explode exponentially, the International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that the global datasphere will reach 175 zettabytes by 2025. Technical BI tackles this data deluge, employing technologies like Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) processes and data warehouses to organize and prepare data for analysis.

Functional BI: Insights that Drive Action

Functional BI is data translated into meaningful insights that propel business growth. It caters to the needs of various business functions by delivering customized reports, dashboards, and visualizations. These tools empower stakeholders to uncover patterns, track key performance indicators (KPIs), and make informed decisions.

According to a survey by Dresner Advisory Services, over 53% of organizations consider dashboards and end-user self-service as critical functionalities for their BI initiatives. Functional BI empowers individuals across departments to interact with data intuitively, extracting insights without the need for technical expertise.

As distinct as these spheres are, both Technical BI and Functional BI coexist symbiotically. At the core of any BI initiative is Technical BI which is the foundation upon which the entire analytical ecosystem rests. Technical BI professionals are the architects and engineers who design, develop, and maintain the infrastructure and tools required for effective data collection, storage, and processing.

Roles & Responsibilities of Technical BI professionals 

Data Engineers

Responsible for building and maintaining the data pipelines that ensure seamless data extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL) processes, these experts ensure data quality, integrity, and availability for analysis.

Database Administrators

They manage and optimize the databases that store crucial business data and ensure data security, performance and availability, allowing for efficient querying and reporting.

Infrastructure Specialists

These are experts who focus on the hardware and software infrastructure that supports BI operations, including servers, cloud services and network architecture.

BI Consultants 

These professionals offer specialized expertise in BI strategy, implementation, and optimization. They guide organizations in adopting best practices and leveraging BI tools effectively.

While Technical BI sets the stage, Functional BI professionals step into the spotlight, working closely with stakeholders to uncover meaningful insights from the data provided by technical BI experts. 

Roles & Responsibilities of Functional BI professionals

Business Analysts

They understand business needs, define key performance indicators (KPIs), and design reports and dashboards that provide insights aligned with strategic objectives.

Data Analysts 

These experts explore data, identify trends, and generate visualizations to communicate findings effectively. They help in understanding customer behavior, market trends and operational efficiencies.

Data Scientists

Besides organizing, analyzing and extracting big data within an organization, the data scientist also uses business sense and communication skills to decide how the organization tackles business challenges. 

Business Users

Business users are professionals who align BI with business goals, monitor performance, promote data-driven decisions, adhere to security and compliance, and measure ROI. They define their requirements and use BI applications to gain insights that can lead to informed decision-making and improved business outcomes.

When roles and responsibilities are defined, can challenges be far behind? While companies face BI challenges, the challenges of both the Technical and Functional BI teams are distinct. As we explore the hurdles faced, our aim is to provide users an understanding of what to look out for and the possible solutions or best practices to adopt, to overcome the challenges and build a robust and effective BI ecosystem. 

Challenges Faced by Technical BI Teams

Data Integration Complexity

There are diverse data sources that need to be integrated to provide a cohesive view. This involves challenges related to data quality, data transformation, and handling different data formats. 

To solve this, BI teams should implement a robust ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) process using modern ETL tools and creating data pipelines that automate data extraction, transformation and loading, while ensuring data quality through validation and cleansing routines. Automated testing is the way to go. 

Scalability and Performance

As data volumes grow, ensuring the scalability and performance of BI solutions become challenging. Complex queries, slow loading times, and unresponsive dashboards can hinder user experience. 

The Technical BI team should use cloud-based solutions to scale resources as needed, optimize database performance by indexing, partitioning, and using in-memory databases. Also, implement caching mechanisms and utilize data warehouses designed for analytical workloads.

Data Security and Privacy

Protecting sensitive data is crucial, especially as BI systems often handle confidential information. There are unique enterprise data security and privacy challenges that are industry specific (banking, healthcare, pharmaceutical, etc).  Moreover, ensuring  compliance with government regulations like GDPR or HIPAA adds complexity. 

A possible solution is implementing data encryption both at rest and in transit and applying role-based access controls to restrict data access based on user roles. 

Data Governance and Documentation

Managing metadata, data definitions, lineage, and documentation becomes challenging as the BI ecosystem grows. Inconsistent or missing documentation can lead to confusion.
To resolve this, the team should implement a data governance framework to establish data ownership, standardized naming conventions, and metadata management. Also utilize data cataloging tools to document data sources, transformations, and relationships.

Challenges Faced by Functional BI Teams

Understanding Business Needs

Functional BI teams need to translate business requirements into technical specifications accurately. Misunderstandings can lead to delivering BI solutions that don't align with business needs. Hence, it is crucial to establish strong communication channels with business stakeholders and conduct thorough requirement gathering sessions and document use cases to ensure clarity.

Change Management

Implementing BI solutions often requires changes in business processes. Resistance to change from end users can impact adoption and success. It is important to involve end users early in the process, provide training, and highlight the benefits of the new BI solutions. All concerns should be addressed and feedback gathered during the implementation phase.

User Adoption and Training 

Even the most sophisticated BI system is ineffective if users don't know how to use it effectively. Hence it is necessary to have comprehensive user training sessions and provide user-friendly documentation. Dashboard designs should be intuitive and easy-to-navigate to encourage adoption.

Data Visualization and Interpretation

Poor data visualization can lead to misinterpretation. So, the solution is to focus on telling a clear and concise data driven story by using appropriate charts and graphs and considering the audience's level of data literacy. User-centric BI interfaces should be designed, keeping the user experience intuitive and prioritizing the most relevant information.

Augmented BI - The Final Frontier

Amidst the challenges arising from a system’s limitations or intricate business requirements or human factors, how do you make a BI software work for you?

This is where Augmented BI is finally changing the game. BI has evolved from Technical to Functional to Augmented which signifies a shift from data infrastructure and technical processing to user-friendly analytics and finally to advanced AI-driven insights. Augmented BI represents the most advanced stage of BI evolution, incorporating artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP), and other advanced analytics techniques.

A great example of Augmented BI is Chat GPT which has revolutionized the data world. Chat GPT is a powerful tool that can augment BI by helping users quickly access data, gain insights, receive recommendations, and improve decision-making within the organization. However, it is important to note that CHAT GPT has its limitations and biases with reliability and accuracy. 

With Augmatica, we are entering a new era of data analysis where machine learning, artificial intelligence, and human expertise seamlessly converge. Designed to solve problems accurately and empower businesses, Augmatica from AirQuery is creating an orbital shift by adopting AI to augment BI activities by creating customized solutions. 

We invite you to explore AirQuery’s Augmatica for its remarkable features, real-world applications, and the transformative impact it can have on your business.