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Determine business data and business intelligence needs

Office 2007

Updated: February 26, 2009

Applies To: Office SharePoint Server 2007

Updated: 2009-02-26

In this article:

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 includes business intelligence capabilities that can help you preserve data integrity throughout your organization while enabling powerful search, data integration, data analysis, data rendering, and data sharing scenarios.

The business intelligence functionality in Office SharePoint Server 2007 enables centralized management and control of shared resources that can include reports, forms, documents, spreadsheets, and data connections.

As part of planning for your initial deployment of Office SharePoint Server 2007, you should understand business intelligence and how it relates to the processes and conditions of your organization. This will enable you to identify specific business intelligence needs in your organization, and to use those needs to identify which features of Office SharePoint Server 2007 to implement to improve your business processes over time.

About business intelligence

Business intelligence, sometimes known as business performance management, is a set of technologies used to increase the understanding of business processes and their associated data. Good use of business intelligence helps you organize data about your organization so that it is useful, actionable, and capable of transforming your underlining business processes. These goals are achieved through the following processes:

  • Gather data   The first step in building business intelligence is to create and store data that accurately represents what is happening in your organization. Databases are only useful when the data they are tracking is representative of business processes and business conditions. It can be difficult to determine what is missing from data sources, so that additional data can be gathered to improve business processes.

  • Turn data into useful information   Data is typically represented as sets of fields that have corresponding values. By itself, data is neutral and not inherently useful. When you use tools and business processes to make data useful, you create information. One key way to create information is to create a view into data that contains a subset of data that is useful for one or more groups of users in your organization.

  • Use information to impart knowledge   Knowledge is created when you provide actionable information to the people who can use that information. Having a list of data that might be interesting to a particular group of people is better than having raw data, but it does not actually enable you to do anything. By personalizing information, targeting audiences and groups, and providing a way for people to analyze and interact with data, you create actionable information that is the basis for knowledge in your organization.

  • Turn knowledge into action   As you build a base of knowledge in your organization, knowledge workers act more efficiently in pursuing key business goals and managers can identify opportunities for improvement and make decisions based on that knowledge to improve business processes.

Business intelligence provides an effective set of solutions that correspond to each of these steps in an integrated process that enables you to continually improve business processes. Starting with data, you create information that can help you achieve an understanding of the processes. Then, you act on that information to build a base of knowledge and update information, while also changing business processes. These changes produce new data and information that you can use to deepen your knowledge and continue to change your business processes in the future.

Business intelligence includes several strategies and techniques that are designed to improve business processes:

  • Data integration   This includes data storage and warehousing, data mining, and data consolidation. Data integration involves collecting information from various structured and unstructured sources, and consolidating it into a single data source that can be used to create meaningful information by using the business intelligence tools of an organization. Information presentation enables users to query data sources and find usable information that can be analyzed against business goals, while ensuring security and data integrity in a collaborative workspace.

  • Information presentation   This includes information discovery, visibility, analysis, and collaboration.

  • Reporting   This includes the use of scorecards and other tools used to compare information across multiple business processes. Reporting tools, such as scorecards, enable knowledge workers to evaluate information and act on it, thereby creating a base of knowledge for your organization.

Each of these strategies corresponds to an essential step of business performance. Using all of these techniques together creates positive feedback loops of increasing knowledge that can be used to improve your organization and its business processes and associated data over time.

Plan Office SharePoint Server 2007 features for business intelligence

Office SharePoint Server 2007 provides many tools that enable you to display information and build knowledge in your organization. You can use the personalization and targeting features of Office SharePoint Server 2007 to increase the usability of your data and enable knowledge workers in your organization to act on the information built on that data. You can aggregate content across many sources and find it more easily by using search features. Office SharePoint Server 2007 supplements these features with an important set of features for business intelligence.

These features include:

  • Data integration features, such as data connection libraries, the Business Data Catalog, business data profiles, and business data lists.

  • Information presentation and reporting features, such as reports, key performance indicators (KPIs), and dashboards.

Plan data integration features of Office SharePoint Server 2007

Data warehousing and data mining are techniques for gathering useful information from your existing data sources. Business intelligence solutions frequently use online analytical processing (OLAP) tools to provide meaningful data and expose underlying patterns that might not be otherwise apparent. Office SharePoint Server 2007 uses Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services. OLAP and SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services are preferred for large data sources that have relatively stable and unchanged data. That data is then used to create information in processes that change more quickly.

Office SharePoint Server 2007 can also use data from other business applications, known as line-of-business applications. Although not part of the core business intelligence functionality, the data from these applications can be displayed and analyzed in similar ways as the data in data connection libraries, providing an integrated view of all business data in the organization. Line-of-business applications manage data about people and business operations and are widely used within large organizations and enterprises. Examples of line-of-business applications include:

  • SAP Business Information Warehouse or mySAP ERP

  • Siebel eBusiness Applications

  • Attunity Legacy Data Access Solutions

  • Microsoft BizTalk Server

These applications are registered in the Business Data Catalog. Data from the Business Data Catalog is used by Office SharePoint Server 2007 to create additional kinds of information for the knowledge workers in your organization. That information can be easily integrated with the other features of Office SharePoint Server 2007 site collections.

Data consolidation is the process of grouping data in meaningful ways so that it is useful. The key data consolidation features of Office SharePoint Server 2007 are data connection libraries, business data profiles, and business data lists.

A data connection library is a library of connections to data sources that can be analyzed by using SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services. This allows the data to be analyzed and displayed by using the business intelligence features of Office SharePoint Server 2007. Data connection libraries include links to data sources, such as SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services cubes, that are relevant for a particular site or site collection.

Business data profiles are lists of properties associated with business data types from line-of-business applications registered in the Business Data Catalog. Each business data profile is a meaningful consolidation of relevant data for key business processes to create usable information for users in your organization. For example, you can have a business data profile for customers that tracks telephone numbers, addresses, e-mail addresses, and locations for each customer.

Business data lists are SharePoint lists that gather one or more columns directly from the data of one or more business applications. Each list has a collection of items with several columns that represent properties for each item. Lists can contain information similar to the information in business data profiles. You can also create lists for KPIs, another important business intelligence feature.

Plan information presentation and reporting features of Office SharePoint Server 2007

After data is consolidated in a meaningful form, additional business intelligence tools enable knowledge workers to query and analyze the resulting information and act on it as quickly and effectively as possible.

You can query business data by using the business data features of Office SharePoint Server 2007 search. You register applications in the Business Data Catalog, and then you crawl content sources for those applications. The subset of data selected by administrators for the Business Data Catalog is then available for administrators for search to map to managed properties that affect the results of search queries.

Users in your organization can search for business data and find meaningful and useful results. For example, the administrator of the Business Data Catalog registers a sales application and selects business data types for customers, product lines, and sales associates, and also selects the properties for the business data profiles associated with those business data types. The Shared Services Provider (SSP) administrator who is responsible for search then creates a content source for the application. After crawling the content source, the SSP administrator for search maps selected crawled properties to managed properties used by the system during search queries. Users who search for a customer based on the customer name, location, or address are more likely to find the customer if the customer name, location, and address are managed properties. These managed properties can also be used to create search scopes.

You can analyze business data by presenting it within sites in your site collection. Business data stored as information in lists or business data profiles in the Business Data Catalog can be used in several technologies designed to enable analysis of information so that knowledge workers can act on information and create knowledge.

For example, you can create KPIs, which calculate a value from a range of data, and compare that data against a target to indicate the performance of key business processes. By analyzing a list of related KPIs, you can see how different business processes interact.

You can also create reports that take KPIs or business data lists by using properties in the Business Data Catalog and display that information with related SharePoint information, such as documents or workspaces.

Dashboards display several business data Web Parts for different data sources and business processes in one place. The Web Parts on dashboards are connected to filters so that the dashboard owner can limit the scope of the data presented across all Web Parts. Users can apply one or more filters to analyze the data in a way that is more relevant to each person. Within dashboards, users in your organization can also use Excel Calculation Services and Excel Web Access Web Parts to look at data sources and filter them based on one or more columns in each workbook.

Each of these analysis tools creates more actionable information. To complete the business intelligence cycle, there are several methods provided by Office SharePoint Server 2007 for acting on information immediately after analyzing data. If you are using Microsoft Office Excel 2007 and have the appropriate permissions, you can start an Office Excel 2007 client to directly edit the underlying workbook. You can add business data actions that appear in search results, the business data profile, reports, and dashboards that directly relate to the information in each of these presentation options. You can edit business data profiles as new information about your business is collected. Knowledge workers in your organization can act on information as they see it, immediately providing feedback that improves productivity. They can also detect underlying patterns to business processes, which can be used to improve your processes, data collection, and information presentation.

Plan business data scenarios

Business intelligence features are deployed as part of larger business data scenarios. These scenarios can be defined in several ways, including:

  • By the purpose of the organization and site collection that is using business data.

  • By specific business processes within a larger scenario for your organization.

  • By information technology infrastructure, deployment, and security concerns.

Plan purpose-based scenarios

Examples of scenarios based on the purpose of an organization and site collection include:

  • Call center   Find open customer service requests (CSRs) in the CSR database from the Search Center site, update CSRs by using InfoPath Forms Services forms tied to business actions, and view performance of front-line technicians by using KPIs.

  • Employee records and personalization   Target data to employees in portal sites based on their Siebel or SAP properties, and allow employees to update their information by using Web-enabled forms.

  • Customer facing   Use Web-enabled InfoPath Forms Services forms to provide a way for customers to personalize account information, update insurance claims information, or submit government forms.

These types of scenarios are useful to consider when you are planning the business intelligence needs of your site structure.

Business intelligence needs can be much more diverse than these few examples, and every organization is unique. For your organization, it is a good idea to state the broad scenario that is relevant before you begin specific planning to deploy a solution for that scenario. For each site collection in your organization, identify those that are using business applications, and identify which applications are central to the purpose of each site collection. Think of the features you will use in broad terms.

Plan process-based scenarios

Examples of scenarios based on more focused business processes within a larger business data and business intelligence framework include:

  • Prediction analysis   Show additional items that might be of interest to people buying a displayed item. For example, display additional products created by the same person or organization.

  • Cross selling   Offer discounted services and products in conjunction with a purchase. For example, offer an item for free with the purchase of two similar items.

  • Data mining   Find and use hidden data. Build behavioral models based on tracking. For example, find card-key access by time of day, by date, by building, or by event to determine traffic patterns.

  • Sales forecasting   Review current account status or customer characteristics and make adjustments based on live data.

  • Purchase order approval   Check current budget status and other data before approving a workflow-generated purchase order.

You can identify similar scenarios to represent different sets of business processes within your organization. Then, you can plan for the specific features you need to address each set of business processes.

You should also consider the planning for infrastructure, security, and other information technology considerations. The business scenarios and business process planning within each scenario that you identify are affected by the environment in which you deploy, and similar overall scenarios that have different deployment scenarios will be planned differently.

These types of scenarios are useful to consider when you are focusing on business intelligence planning and want to determine the appropriate scope of your business intelligence solution.

Plan IT-based scenarios

Examples of scenarios based on deployment and security considerations include:

  • Human resources site collection   One source, one consumer. The application administrator uses business data features to construct a site collection that displays human resources data from a data warehouse. The data on the site collection is sensitive, and is displayed only on that site collection.

  • Expense reports across sites and site collections   One source, many consumers. Team site owners want to display a list of pending expense reports for their teams. Individuals want a My Expense Reports Web Part on their personal site home pages. Expense data changes frequently, so the data is collected from SAP by registering the application in the Business Data Catalog and then by using that data in multiple sites.

  • Product issues databases   Many sources, many consumers. Team site owners want to include live data from a product issues database application on their team sites. There are many databases for different products and teams.

  • Product issues data is provided to an external partner   A business partner uses an extranet that has access to a subset of relevant product issues.

These types of scenarios are useful to consider when you are planning the architecture and deployment of your business intelligence solution.

Whatever your deployment considerations, the people on your planning teams should consider each business scenario and feature in the context of the supporting infrastructure of your organization.

Determine business intelligence needs for your organization

One or more of the scenarios described above, or similar scenarios, can exist within any organization that is deploying Office SharePoint Server 2007. When you plan for business data and business intelligence, consider the scenarios that apply to your organization, and then select the features of Office SharePoint Server 2007 to use that correspond to those scenarios.

Scenarios will revolve around distinct business processes, each of which is built on one or more data sources. These sources are used by features that present that data as information to knowledge workers, who then act on that information. Your business intelligence needs for each business process will correspond to the essential steps of business intelligence: The essential steps of business intelligence are:

  1. Connect to business data sources and collect data.

  2. Present business data as information.

  3. Query and analyze data.

  4. Act on data.

The corresponding feature planning steps are:

  1. Plan line-of-business applications and the Business Data Catalog and SQL Server databases.

  2. Plan business data profiles and business data lists.

  3. Plan business data search, KPIs, and reports.

  4. Plan dashboards, the Report Center site, and business data actions.

If you consider these points when planning the initial deployment of business intelligence features of Office SharePoint Server 2007, you are much more likely to create a business intelligence solution that accomplishes your goals.

Worksheet action

Use the Business data worksheet (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=73271&clcid=0x409) to record your decisions. For more information, see the worksheet actions described in the planning topics for particular business data and business intelligence features.

Worksheets

Use the following worksheets to determine business data and business intelligence needs:

Download this book

This topic is included in the following downloadable book for easier reading and printing:

See the full list of available books at Downloadable content for Office SharePoint Server 2007.

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