Waterfall is dead, long live
agile BI

William van Zweeden
16 Sep, 2021

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” We are all familiar with Henry Ford's quote, which is also applicable to software development. When building a solution, it is normal that we do not know what we want, until we see it. In other words, we humans are being unconsciously incompetent.

This is why the traditional waterfall method is a major stumbling block, its only along the way in software development that we become aware of what we ultimately want. Rigid development will only lead to disappointment, which is why agile BI is the way to work.

The waterfall versus agile BI approach

It can be frustrating when it takes a long time to define and create the solution you need. And its true that it is not always the best idea to have a fully detailed plan, to get bogged down in “analysis paralysis”. In this quickly evolving world, you want to respond to change and see results instantly, instead of simply and always following a plan. Because having insights means being able to act, deal with problems, and take advantage of opportunities.

Furthermore, in agile BI there is no room for silos. Business and IT should work closely together. This is a massive change, moving from “I do not know what I want” to a more data literate business who understand what they want. From here it is important to keep asking why you need this data, what decisions you want to make and how you know this data is the right data. New methods like agile development are closing the loop between IT and business and encourage adaptive planning and evolutionary development.

Get right into working software

To help the customer in defining and also discovering data requirements, it is best to get to working with the software quickly and deliver early. However, it is easy to be tricked into old habits. When a customer asks for a solution with specific functionalities, the typical approach might be to write a statement of work and deliver a full plan of action with all the details that are required. Agile development therefore requires a change in mindset of both the customer and supplier. To do this, a Proof-of-Concept is a nice way to avoid comprehensive documentation, and deliver early insights and customer value.

Agile BI delivers customer value

Customer collaboration is a vital part of agile BI. Bringing in ideas, best practices and working with the customer: that is where the magic happens. To bring the know and do not know together. And not to focus too much on processes and tools, but on achieving results and objectives. Agile is an iterative approach which keeps the end-user close to the development process, e.g. with user stories. It provides the opportunity to close the gap between IT and business to solve things together.

Therefore, an agile approach is very suitable for co-creating BI. It helps you build the first trench of delivery. Once you get your first insights you can evolve your data and analytics and make your BI even more advanced. In comparison to the waterfall method, Agile BI is the way to bring value to the business significantly faster.

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