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Posts from the ‘Business Intelligence’ Category

Testing Made Simple: 5 Steps to Apply the Scientific Method to Process and Application Development

Discussion
Crash Test Dummies

It’s easy to get swept up in the thrills of new product development and forget that oh-so-essential step: testing.

Testing Equals Confidence

Until you test, your idea is simply that – an idea. Use tests to validate not just the abilities and limits of your product, but the experiences and benefits that your customers can expect.

Failing to Test is Risky

Quality is EVERYBODY’S responsibility. Failing to test can result in a product that:

  • … does not meet customer needs, driving market share to your competitors
  • … does not honor business rules, creating havoc when trying to integrate with existing business processes
  • … does not perform a duty at a rate that is satisfying to customers, causing poor customer reviews of your product
  • … breaks after each new release, leaving customers with an impression that your product is of lesser quality than competitors

 

Scientists recording data in laboratory

The ABCs of Testing (a.k.a. The Scientific Method)

Project teams both large and small have room for testing, and we can keep it simple, yet effective. Here’s a quick way to apply the scientific method in process and application development to ensure your product is both testable and tested:

  1. REQUIREMENTS: Declare your problem statement

Propose the process or application by creating a list of ideas that will make it successful.

  1. TEST STRATEGY: Form a hypothesis

Determine how to test the proposed process or application, how to measure if it is complete or not, and document these hypotheses.

  1. TEST PLAN: Design the experiment

Determine how to create the proposed process or application in a way that can be measured, and write down the specific measures success and failure.

  1. RESULTS: Collect and analyze data

Build and test the process or application, measuring and documenting performance according to the test plan.

  1. QUALITY REVIEW: Draw Conclusions

Determine if the process or application met the list of requirements created in the first step.

 

Test, Retest, Repeat

Plan, schedule, budget, but most importantly perform testing to ensure the best experience for people that use your product or service.

 

Ready to test and looking for tools to help document your test plan? Here are three ideas:

 

Why hire Seabeck Systems? I’m glad you asked.

Discussion
Change Agent

Dear Prospective Client,

You wrote:

>> I’ve talked to lots of qualified people already. Why should I hire Seabeck Systems?

Thanks for asking!

My name is Peter Loos, and I’m an organizational change agent.

For any Seabeck Systems client, our first step is to develop a roadmap of “People, Process, Tools, and Business Value” that is used to align and bring transparency to business and IT priorities, regardless of the industry or political climate. To initialize that roadmap, I ask people in the business what they do with the information they are requesting from IT. This developmental conversation is used to increase awareness of “need vs. want” for information requested. Together we focus on the business questions to be answered, then work backward to the information needed to answer each question. When the business can demonstrate how the information requested is used for decision making, requirements are captured in a new product backlog, and the project management process kicks in.

Sometimes the business may struggle to define (or to reveal) what people do with the information they request. However, my experience has shown me that this (often difficult) discussion with the business is the only way that IT can elevate a practice of reporting toward a true Performance Management Program. Turning the corner from “building tables, ETL packages, and reports” to “an information factory that supports self-serve access to clean and conformed data” is important, but without clear insight into the questions that the business is trying to answer, the technology investment will ultimately be rendered impotent as the business finds newer and more creative ways to avoid working directly with IT to get the information needed.

If your organization is ready to answer the question “what does the business do with the information requested from IT?” followed by willingness and ability to take action to deliver self-service Performance Management to your employees, I hope you will consider Seabeck Systems as a partner for your team.

Regards,
Peter

BI Basics Part 7: Recap and Next Steps

May 20th, 2013

Seabeck Systems, LLC

What do you want to measure?

Here’s a quick summary of what we covered in the BI Basics series:

1. Who needs BI?
If you want to understand company performance, then BI is for you.

2. What is BI?
Business Intelligence (BI) is a set of systems and processes that people can use to understand and adjust company performance.

3. Where is BI successful?
Success is achieved where people know how to (and actually do) use BI information to support daily decision making.

4. When is BI the right approach?
When you need a complete picture to understand trends while they occur, you need BI.

5. How is BI used?
BI information is used to help you understand how your company operates, and why.

6. Why BI?
What do you want to measure? See the first question: if you want to understand company performance, then BI is for you.

A robust BI program helps you understand how your company is doing so you can adapt and adjust. Successful BI requires the support of well-engaged people from across the organization. The fruits of BI (e.g. real-time monitoring, information anywhere) grow from the labors of 1) understanding and defining your business goals, and 2) defining the measurements for each goal.

Business Intelligence is not a far-off destination years down the road, but a method of understanding performance that produces value from day one. Seabeck Systems advocates an incremental approach to BI development, which supports short-term gains in functionality, and promotes long-term program visibility. We also like to have a plan, which brings us to our next point…

Coming up: the BI roadmap. In a future blog series we’ll share planning steps for BI program development. Each phase on the BI roadmap will address the essential elements of people, processes, tools, and benefits. Stay tuned!

Need more? Review the series:

Part 0: Business Intelligence in Plain English
Part 1: Who needs BI?
Part 2: What is BI?
Part 3: Where is BI successful?
Part 4: When is BI the right approach?
Part 5: How is BI used?
Part 6: Why BI?
Part 7: Recap & Next Steps

Got more questions? Tell us in the comments.

BI Basics Part 6: Why BI?

May 6th, 2013

Seabeck Systems, LLC

Why BI?

Short answer: because you want to understand company performance.

Actionable Information

A BI program may include some reports, but it is not reporting–BI is intelligent information. Manual reporting processes are inefficient for gathering, compiling, and producing actionable information, and can produce inconsistent and often unverifiable information. I.e. if the numbers don’t match among reports or departments, then one, some, or possibly all results are incorrect. (We don’t like numbers that don’t match – we like our data real and verifiable.)

Consistent Dataset

BI has the capacity to deliver company-wide concurrency and integration of measurements. A successful BI program begins with creating a model of existing business data and processes, and understanding what your company wants to measure. Next, you can leverage your BI platform to ensure all departments have a common, consistent, and readily available dataset for queries, reports, and analysis.

In the words of Stephen R. Covey: Begin with the End in Mind. If you’re asking yourself, “Why BI?” consider: “What do I want to measure?”

Got more questions? Try the BI Basics index, or share your questions in the comments.

BI Basics Part 5: How is BI used?

April 22nd, 2013

Seabeck Systems, LLC

How is BI used?

We’ve established that BI is a systematic approach to understanding company performance. A mature BI program generates actionable information that people are equipped to use for daily decision-making. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for maturity to get some benefit from BI.

To implement a successful BI program at your company, your first steps are to invest time and brainpower to define your business and how it works. This detailed process of question and answer can be a challenge, but it’s also a great gift. Only by defining your business processes first can you understand how your business performs, and why changes occur.

This crucial process of business and technical evaluation is what we like to call Phase 0 of the BI program. The results of Phase 0 help clarify what a company wants to measure, and how to measure each element. We use Phase 0 to help our clients survey existing architecture, draw up a model of existing business data and processes, and develop a roadmap of measurable objectives.

The BI roadmap is an incremental plan for long-term BI program development. By incremental, we mean each Phase of the BI program is designed to proceed at a sustainable pace, with short-term gains in functionality. The incremental approach favors flexibility to changing business requirements, and fosters long-term company visibility for the BI program. (Remember, people are essential to BI success.)

Every BI program can be leveraged as soon as launched to broaden knowledge about company operations. As soon as you begin asking how your company operates and why, you’ll gain valuable insight. Like the sages said, “Know thyself.”

Got more questions? Try the BI Basics index, or share your questions in the comments.