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Business Intelligence & Data Analytics

Business Intelligence (BI) is really the process of taking your raw data and transforming it into useable information. The final outcome is usually a set of data analytics and dashboards that help business experts make informed decisions.

Big data and machine learning technologies and capabilities are very important but the analysis of high volumes of unstructured data does not replace the ‘business as usual’ (BAU) requirement of most businesses satisfied through business intelligence. Neither does it replace the need for financial and legislative reporting. The reality is that organisations need both. Consequently, the concept of the ‘(data) warehouse by the (data) lake is real and is accepted by forward thinking big data vendors like Hortonworks and thought leaders like Dr. Barry Devlin1.

BI System Builders have assisted businesses in the business intelligence and data warehousing space for the last ten years. Contact us if you need guidance through the maize of data technologies and capabilities or if you want help to implement a data warehouse, a business intelligence system, or a set of data analytics. You can read some of our articles below for more information.

Basic BI Terminology

The End To End BI Concept

End To End BI 1

End To End BI 2

Business Intelligence

Avoid BI Breakpoints With Cornerstone Solution®

Business Intelligence Architecture

BI Solutions

Data Analytics

Data Warehousing and Data Pipelines

Cornerstone Solution® 101

Business Intelligence Services

1 Dr. Barry Devlin, April 2017, The EDW Lives On – The Beating Heart of the Data Lake, White Paper sponsored by Hortonworks

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Collaborative Data Modeling

dimensional modeling

Get in touch to discuss your data modeling requirements; we have very high levels of expertise and don’t like to be beaten on price. You can read more on our methods below.

Our approach is called collaborative data modeling; it brings data modelers together with business subject matter experts to collaboratively design data models that work. BI System Builders uses a structured approach known as Business Event Analysis and Modeling (BEAM) to achieve this. We’ve been associated with the author Lawrence Corr for several years, and you can read about the BEAM method developed by Lawrence in his book Agile Data Warehouse Design (ADWD). You can also read our book review of ADWD here.

We use the BEAM techniques in collaborative workshops to identify the data stories within a business. This is achieved through lots of idea generation, whiteboarding and scribing; a technique known as modelstorming. Modelstorming is similar in concept to brainstorming but the effort is aimed at developing data models.

We’ve been operating the collaborative workshops for several years and at the following companies, Volkswagen Group, Dixons Retail, NFU Mutual, Vision Express, and Interflora.

The data models developed are known as dimensional models and are based on Ralph Kimball concepts. The main data modeler is Russell Beech who has twenty years dimensional modeling experience across numerous industries and also took training directly from Ralph.

There are three ways that we can help you:

  1. You’ve already tried modelstorming and dimensional modeling yourself but things are not progressing as you’d hope. Don’t worry, we can come on site and work with you to run some workshops to get you started, passing on our knowledge and experience as we go.
  • You already have reports and analytics but you feel that they are overly complex, they’re difficult to customise and support, and when business users come with new requirements, developing the new reports can be very challenging. The issue here is frequently the underlying data model. We offer a service where we analyse and assess your existing data models against best practice designs and make recommendations. If the recommendation is a new design, we can help you with the new design.
  • You don’t have any data models yet but you would like to. Perhaps your current reporting is based on spreadsheets and you now need more flexibility. You want to get started on the right foot with best practice data models that meet your reporting and analytical needs. We can come on site, take you through collaborative data modeling workshops, and design your data models for you.

If you’re considering contracting BI System Builders please leave your details here.

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The Cornerstone Solution ‘101’

BI System Builders


The Cornerstone Solution® ‘101’

At BI System Builders, our expertise is in helping businesses, small, medium and larger enterprises to get the greatest value from their data by identifying the right business intelligence tools and data warehousing solution for that organisation.  This document introduces the way we work with our clients to achieve this, and sets out the BI System Builders methodology and approach – the Cornerstone Solution® – at a high level.

What is the question that most organisations want our help to answer?

Market environments are changing faster than ever and at BI System Builders we understand that organisations need to manage data in a timely way that helps produce results.  Today’s senior business leaders need metrics, insights and performance indicators that really help to inform decision-making.  We find our customers often ask “how do we join up our different types of data so we can really know what’s happening in our organisation right now?”

How do we get to the answer?

To provide the best answer to this question, BI System Builders has developed the Cornerstone Solution® – a rigorous process where we work hand in hand with customers to really explore their needs and to help them to an end position where they can actually get this intelligence.  Harnessed in the right way, business intelligence can be the key to unlocking how an organisation is performing. (You might see us refer to this approach in other documents as a vendor and technology agnostic framework.)

We find that using this tried and tested methodology is a really effective way of understanding current reality, and of cutting through to what is (and isn’t) needed now and in the future.  We can then build solid recommendations and deliver robust solutions (systems, tools and data warehousing) based on actual business priorities.

The Cornerstone Solution® explained

The Cornerstone Solution® is a way of lifting the lid on an organisation’s existing data management today and its future requirements, and then moving through the logical steps required to get to a working solution.  It’s a fully integrated and thorough end-to-end process and is ideal for ‘green field’ projects.  Its modular approach also makes it directly applicable to existing data warehouses and business intelligence solutions that require updating and improving.  We know that by laying a strong cornerstone in a structure, you can build out from it to get a solid, robust house – and we believe it’s exactly the same with business intelligence.

The Cornerstone Solution® has four key elements to the process and within these there are a number of sub-systems or modules.  These comprise:

  1. Strategic Requirements System – At this stage we take a look at the long term business intelligence vision for an organisation; so what do they need and across what timescales. We ask what must the solution look like? What’s the Corporate strategy it needs to support? Is there anything else that the solution will need to fit with?  We identify and understand who are the senior stakeholders (along with their wants and concerns), so that the context and requirements for the work are really understood.
  1. Solution Architecture System – Once the first element is complete, it’s possible to move onto looking at the architectural solution that’s needed (the recommendations for what is to be put in place). This is a comprehensive piece of work which includes seven key modules. (If you’re short on time, take a look at sections on Business Architecture, Data Architecture and Service Architecture.)

One of the most important things is to get under the skin of the business; what are its objectives, capability and the existing ways of working (the Business Architecture work).  Understanding what this means we can ensure the solution is really focused on moving the organisation forward.

We look at what data exists and what information is being managed today and how (Information Architecture).  What are the data flows, how is data captured and who owns it?  Is data managed internally or externally and how should this be approached? Where and show should this data be optimally stored? With this knowledge, it’s possible to look at what applications might be best to provide what’s needed in the future and how these will need to work together (the Application Architecture)It’s then a clear next step to look at what IT Infrastructure (Infrastructure Architecture) is needed to support these applications and how it will be made ‘fail safe’.

Through Data Architecture, we get to the heart of what’s really needed in terms of data warehousing, specifically what drives data requirements and how the data itself should be managed.  We use Business Event Analysis Modelling (BEAM) for this and it involves some detailed workshops.  This is a really useful opportunity to get stakeholders to engage in to the future by stating how things work and need to work.

All the modules of the Architecture must work effectively together such as the data models and the BI tools set (this work is Integration Architecture).

However ultimately, all this work needs to deliver a service to internal customers, and it’s essential that their needs are addressed – so what will they need? What service level agreements does the organisation require to make use of the data? (For example what time is the data wanted and how frequently?)  How will upgrades and back-ups be managed so that minimum disruption is caused?  How the essential platforms and systems are to be supported in the future.  (This work is Service Architecture and it’s fundamental that the final business intelligence solution delivers this.)

Some of the information needed here may already exist in an organisation. In other cases we’ll need to carry out interviews and workshops with key stakeholders.

  1. Control System – Delivering complex projects on time, to quality and to budget is essential for every organisation. To achieve this we use a rigorous project planning and governance framework.  It’s tailored to fit with the needs of each organisation so that interdependencies and risks are all handled in the right way.  Our customers can be confident about how the project is being managed, what it’s costing and on the progress being made.  An experienced project manager is in place to manage the project delivery.
  1. Delivery System – This is where the planning comes together and actual products are created; source data is mapped to target data (raw or legacy data to new style data targets), data models and databases are built, software is installed and the required analytics, reports and dashboards are created. The project is carefully brought to life and released into production through the live environments in a way that works for each organisation.

Programmes run in an ongoing review process to ensure that learnings are continually captured, documented and handed over to the customer with appropriate training and orientation.


As you might imagine carrying out this work is a sizeable task, but the methodical approach of the Cornerstone Solution® has been shown to work across larger enterprises with complex operations.  Backed up by the ‘know how’ of the BI System Builders team, this really is a logical way to make sure the resulting business intelligence solution delivers what’s needed.

Focusing on the bottom line

By using an established methodology where we’ve already developed templates, tools and plans, we can swiftly customise to fit each project.  This saves our customers cost as we’re not ‘re-inventing the wheel’.  Overall, using the Cornerstone Solution® lowers the total cost of ownership for customers.  Once new systems are in place costly legacy systems can be decommissioned.

Why choose BISB and the Cornerstone Solution®?  

  • With the Cornerstone Solution®, we provide a complete end-to-end integrated business intelligence solution, meaning we have a holistic approach that ensures all the appropriate areas are covered.
  • Our ways of working are tried and tested and have been used to contribute heavily to successful business intelligence solutions for organisations such as Vision Express, NFU Mutual and the VW Group UK.
  • We’re not tied to one specific technology or application provider – one size does not fit all and we will identify the system that’s right for you.
  • As a niche business intelligence consultancy we’re able to draw on the right skills, expertise and knowledge without our customers needing to pay for large consultancy overheads.
  • We’re interested in building a long term relationship with our customers, where we help to build your capability in managing your own data and business information
  • We expect high standards of ourselves and we believe our customers can see this in the results they experience.