Art of BI: Review of Lyndsay Wise’s Book – Using OS Platforms for BI

I have always been a fan of Open Source technology and the Open Source Software initiative. I’ve contributed to several OSS projects in the past and continue to do so today.  We have even launched several small OSS projects over at the artofbi github repository.  I’ve always found that OSS innovation is usually a smart means to reaching a solution.  Another perspective I am lucky to have is that of consulting in the realm of Data Warehousing, Business Intelligence, and Enterprise Performance Management through a variety of industries.  Often, with clients, I am privy to BI tool selection conversations which can bring into question Commercial Enterprise software vs. Open Source Software and all of the standard comparisons that an IT and/or business team can consider to determine the best tool for the job (for them, of course).

So, when I got my hands on a copy of Lyndsay Wise‘s book (admittedly months ago, but just now having the time this last month to read it), Using Open Source Platforms for Business Intelligence, I was actually impressed that someone  would take the time to write a book combining two of my favorite things: OSS and BI. Combined that equals, OSBI, by the way. I had a fleeting thought that the book might be full of fluff as the topic itself is fairly straightforward (at least to me) and there wouldn’t be a way to write enough content without getting product specific or technical.  I was wrong, of course, after thumbing through the index and several chapters.

I’ve chatted with Lyndsay before and if you listen to our conversation you can tell that she has a very concise way of delivering a message.  So, the fact that she wrote a great thought-leadership book on OSBI shouldn’t be surprising.  It is clearly just another outlet for her to deliver insight from a sector she clearly knows better than most.lyndsaywiseI’ll break it down like this:

  • Lyndsay does a good job of laying out in the beginning what to expect from the book.  But my only criticism around this point is I think she didn’t give the book credit for the larger audience the book could enlighten.  I see this as a crucial bookshelf piece for all Application Development Managers, any IT Project Manager, and any one who is trying to understand ROI in a Business Intelligence implementation (OSBI or otherwise).
  • Lyndsay did her homework on this book conducting case studies with several groups and companies using OSBI. She even gets some advice from market research alumns Cindi Howson and Howard Dresner as mentioned in the book’s acknowledgements.
  • The book goes into short but concise explanations about core concepts to OSBI and even standard BI which could be applied to any BI vendor.  This is worthwhile just for reference and regurgitation sake working with clients new to BI.
  • Having chapters focused on user adoption and selling the business on OSBI is excellent.  Again, the application here could be against Open Source or Commercial BI offerings. The common sense is not so common adage is in play here.
  • The coverage from looking at a BI from end-to-end is just what any BI manager needs. Nowhere have I seen the full picture in one place, and drumroll….at under 250 pages.  Even for a slow reader like me this was only a couple of flights worth of reading.

One of my favorite things that Lyndsay does in this book is that she provides a “A checklist for OSBI Readiness” highlighting technical and business considerations and their respective impacts.  I wish I had done something like this in my book (next time).

The other brilliant outpouring of genius are the two chapters on Return On Investment (ROI) and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).  The fact that she literally goes through the math of cost benefit analysis for purchasing, time to implementation, and all of the other things that get taken for granted in some implementations is eye-opening if not pure perspective.  The additional formulas for calculating these often used acronyms that I’ve gotten from this part of the book are going to get a lot of mileage.

Wrapping things up, I would not have written this post if I didn’t feel the book should be looked at. This a great book for those of us who enjoy the art of business intelligence. I actually think the book could have had a more in-your-face title like, “Dancing with Open Source BI”, or “Conquer you BI Program through Open Source BI methodology” as I think it is much broader than just “Using OS…BI”. Anyways, I’m looking forward to Lyndsay’s next book already.

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Christian Screen
Christian is an innovator in analytics and data warehousing design, best practices, and delivery. With more than fifteenyears of decision support and data warehousing with key experiences at Office Depot HQ, Sierra-Cedar, and Capgemini, he oversees the Oracle Analytics Practice which includes the technical development and delivery of Oracle BI collaboration software, data warehouse solutions, Oracle BI/EPM projects, and packaged analytics solutions at Datavail.

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