The Emergence of Hybrid Business Intelligence Consultants and Three Key Benefits

One-dimensional BI resources meet deliverables, multi-dimensional BI resources shape and drive initiatives. Historically, BI Consultants have been an IT-centric (and funded) function, brought on to do ‘B’ while receiving input from ‘A’ and ‘C’. While this has been a tried-and-true model, the need for a specialist who can traverse from business process to BI technology (and all points in-between) has become an increasing sought out skillset in the marketplace. This is partially attributed to the arrival of Big Data, Data Science and Advanced Visualization, adding to the appetite of the business undertaking traditional IT responsibilities.  However, the value of a hybrid BI consultant has always been present, BI practices may not have always seen the advantages unless they’ve had one in the midst of their team.  The following are three key benefits of hybrid BI consultants.

1)      The Ability to Traverse From Frontend to Backend

A BI consultant who is both an expert in technology implementation and business functions is worth their weight in gold. Starting on the tech side, being able to fully comprehend the business requirement will allow for smarter and more scalable designs, decrease the amount of back-and-forth & ultimately mitigate the margin of misinterpretation and  re-work.  From a business standpoint, they can truly act as the first line of defense, capable of troubleshooting problems without having to open the ever so notorious ‘IT ticket’.  Being able to address reporting issues immediately builds a strong rapport with your internal customers, which results in a higher level of engagement in your BI investment.  In addition, a hybrid BI resource is able to add the desired finesse when it comes to handing over requirements or functional specifications. Not to mention the additional benefits an organization can reap when this same resource understands the security model and other admin areas.

2)      Leveraging a Hybrid BI Consultant in a Project Manager Role

Having the option of leveraging a hybrid BI resource in a Project Manager role can not only ensure project success, but can set an organization up for long term stability and future wins and here's why - experience.  More often than not, the hybrid consultant has been hands-on, on a similar implementation and will bring a keen knack to understand the effort involved to properly build out a project plan and accurately report status to senior management.  This resource will naturally possess the capability to analyze the project from a 10,000 foot view and dive down into the trenches when necessary, being able to lend a helping hand when the going gets tough.

For all of you who have been on a project or transformation of any kind, you know how important the blueprint stage is. Having the right blend of technical & functional background will ensure you’re suited to involve the appropriate SME's at the right time, and pair up your Business and IT BSA's accordingly. Projects are team efforts, bringing together the right skill-sets is vital in setting the foundation. On the technical side, with a lot of BI systems (in particular with SAP) implementing the right service pack and patch level are important to delivering key functionality. Without hands-on experience, the right amount of buffer time and attention to detail can be easily overlooked, resulting in delivering an unfulfilled product. Leading a BI project is more of an art, and you’ll need the right balanced individual to paint the canvas.

3)      Embedding a Hybrid BI Resource Within the Business

When it comes to on-boarding consultants, KT is a big part of any engagement. The client should always build in a plan for KT to ensure their employees are in the right position when the company wants to move on from outside help.  A hybrid BI resource can easily be plugged into a business team and be engaged with ‘business like’ tasks while still carrying on their IT responsibilities. This makes for an organic KT situation, where you can start building your business team’s skill-set through day to day interactions rather than through a run-of-the-mill training session.  

While KT is important, there are other advantages of having a hybrid resource sit with the business. One of them is in regards to the relationship with the internal customer and knowing their strengths, current pain points and patience threshold.  Business only BI resources are more often than not close enough (and have the right level of relationships) where they have a good pulse on their internal customers. However, where the gap tends to fall, and where a hybrid resource can step in, is the inability of a business BI resource to influence technology (and leadership) to ensure all things are considered in rolling out the next implementation or transformation.  Also, setting technology expectations and not providing open-ended promises to your customer will become second nature when you have a hybrid resource who knows what’s feasible with the technology in the current infrastructure.

Another value add comes into play in testing. With QA generally not supported like the PRD box (in contrast to what IT may convey), testers churn to find the right data that will suffice for the given test scenario.  Also, QA systems may be missing key backend configurations, which would lead the business to believe their test is successful, or on the flip side, they get an error message(s) that isn’t applicable and further delays progress. And yes, you might be thinking that technology will be able to communicate all of this, however, that’s not always the case. A hybrid resource will be able to pin-point exactly where to look, quickly fix the system to get past errors, and can just simply be there to help out in lieu of battling with IT’s resources for priority.

In conclusion, hybrid BI resources will bridge the gap between a business and their IT team, making any organization more successful in the reporting space.  Leadership can have a vision, but without the right resources to execute, the vision will remain a dream and always out of reach. As more companies shift to a hybrid model in staffing, they will begin to benefit from efficiency in the workplace and reduce costs of their BI implementation or support model.