As I have remarked before Business isn’t run by the IT Department it is run by the people who hire and fire the IT department i.e. the Finance Director (FD).  Given the current economic climate now would be a perfect time to see what you can do to help, so I have spent the morning listening to my FD (.. of Microsoft UK), Toby Wilson at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England & Wales (ICAEW).  He joined a round table on Business Intelligence hosted by Andrew Sawers the Editor of Financial Director. I thought some of the discussions although often repeated would be worth repeating because these are straight from the men with the cheque books, and their number one priority is:

One Version of the Truth. Often repeated mantra perhaps because it is so rare in many organisations.  Toby deals with this in a two key ways:

  • Challenge any other report that cannot be reconciled with his own data.  The main UK scorecard and financial data at his disposal has been rigorously tested and so is the accepted truth.
  • Data provided by third parties e.g. PC sales from the Dixons Group needs to be accurate and timely and this can be relied because that reporting mechanism is how third parties get their incentives and discounts.

One really obvious point is the need to snapshot your data at point in time so all reports from it are based on the same set of data.  Several technical approaches can help to achieve this

  • database snapshots, although this is quick it is fragile as snapshot are dependent on a database and if the version of this database is lost the snapshot are useless and cannot be easily recreated.
  • Type 2 slowly dimensions (see this post on type 2 dimensions for more info), can have extra attributes to marked when a row is in force or not, as can the fact table.  This can be important to rule in or rule out financial adjustments reversals etc. applicable to a particular scenario.
  • A special scenario dimension which allow fact to be included in certain scenarios and not in others. This allows for multiple budgets and forecasts to be sotred alongside the actuals. 

My other top tip is to ruthlessly ensure that every reports contains  a header with the all the details of how filters are set the date it was published and by whom etc.