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Skills and techniques trump technology in BI success

By Gill Staniland, principal BI consultant at Synergy.

Technology and data may underpin business intelligence (BI), but more crucial are the right skills and techniques – the keys to unlock a project’s potential and success.

Gill Staniland, principal BI consultant at Synergy, says there are often vital skills missing in large BI projects, which result in expectations not being met.

According to Staniland, three of the top skills needed are requirements analysis, dimensional data modelling, and the ability to design a visual output.

“To get the most out of a project, the BI team needs to be able to conduct interviews with the business user to get a very clear understanding of what is required. This calls for requirements analysis skills.

“As BI teams often battle when designing their own data models, they also need dimensional data modelling skills.

“And then, a BI team has to have the skill to design a visual output. Fancy dashboards may look the part, but a good visual output is more than a collection of elaborate 3D graphs – there are techniques and rules about how they are displayed, and how they are navigated.”

Staniland says while there may be skills shortages in these areas, enterprises can often identify existing staff with a basic understanding of data analysis and the necessary aptitude, who can be trained to fill these gaps. “With some practice and support, they can prove invaluable.”

Once the skills needs have been met, BI's success also rests on the way the enterprise adopts and uses them, she says.

"BI and analytics are not 'projects' with an end date. Instead, BI is an ongoing strategic operation – like HR. You may have individual tasks with deadlines, but overall, it is always a work in progress.”

It is against this backdrop that Synergy has written a BI Masterclass series that offers delegates the opportunity to learn from experienced BI professionals active in the field.

Staniland, who collated the material and will spearhead it, says the course is aimed at those who have been working on BI projects for a while and have some scars.

“The two-day course will focus less on technology and more on those vital techniques and skills that every BI person needs to get to grips with,” she says.

The BI Masterclass will be run in Cape Town (5 to 6 March), Johannesburg (26 to 27 March) and Durban (11 to 12 April).

“The masterclass is packed with relevant content, placing the emphasis on learning through hands-on practice and equipping delegates with techniques to use when back at the coal-face,” says Staniland.

To book a spot in the masterclass or for more information, e-mail Priscilla Doig at or visit the company Web site at

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Priscilla Doig
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