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The Growing Use of Storyboarding in Business Intelligence Design

By: , Posted on: February 10, 2015


What do movie-making and business intelligence (BI) have in common? They both use the technique of storyboarding in their design phases.

In movie-marking, the storyboarding technique is used to design both live action and animation movies. Sketches are created to represent scenes in the movie; they are then laid out in scene sequence, illustrating all the major changes in action.

Similarly, the BI storyboard lays out all the major actions that occur when business people are performing analysis in the BI application. The scenes that are used in the BI storyboard are each analytical process the business person performs in the BI application.

Storyboarding recognizes how business people actually work with BI applications such as a dashboard in order to gain insight into the business. Business people will typically perform several analyses, some of which are dependent on each other, in order to determine if they need to perform some action and what that action is. The storyboarding technique enables the BI designer to gain a better perspective on how each type of analysis is related and enables the development a more effective layout.

Typically, BI applications are designed and built on a piecemeal basis. Either an IT person gathers the requirements for a specific dashboard or report, designs and builds it, and then hands it off to business people to figure out when and where to use it, or the business people create their own dashboards or reports using self-service BI tools.  Regardless of who creates it, the deliverable is a specific BI dashboard or report.

The most successful BI programs have come to realize: (a) that the true business value of BI is derived from the action(s) taken as the result of the analysis enabled by the BI application and (b) most business decisions are based on a business process that involves multiple analyses (often in workflow). These two insights have resulted in a best practice to design BI applications to enable the multiple analyses and workflows of the business process, rather than focusing on piecemeal BI deliverables.

Just as it would be premature for a film director to start filming without a storyboard showing the flow of scenes, cranking out dozens or hundreds of individual dashboard or reports without a clear recognition as to how they all fit together is not a wise move. The best practice is to use storyboarding to determine the data and analytical needs of the business process along with the workflow.

I discuss storyboarding, along with many other aspects of designing BI solutions, in Chapter 14, BI Design and Development in my book Business Intelligence Guidebook – From Data Integration to AnalyticsYou can read the full PDF chapter below:

Download (PDF, 1.01MB)

Rick’s book Business Intelligence Guidebook – From Data Integration to Analytics is available for purchase on the Elsevier Store. Use discount code “STC215” at checkout to save up to 30% on your very own copy!

About the Author

rick shermanRick Sherman (@rpsherman) is the founder of Athena IT Solutions. Rick has over twenty years of data warehousing and decision support systems experience and has been an expert instructor and speaker at numerous data warehousing conferences and seminars. He also teaches at Northeastern University’s graduate school of engineering and at client sites. He is the author of Business Intelligence Guidebook – From Data Integration to Analytics.

Connect with Rick online here:

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