Six Basic Interrogatives – Part 2, 6BI Design Framework

This is the second part of the original three part article about the “Six Basic Interrogatives” or “6BI” for analyzing the source data for business intelligence solutions.  I this part an example of how to apply the method is given.

This part was first published in March 2004  under the title “Six Basic Interrogatives – Part 2, 6BI Design Framework” on the no longer existing Datawarehouse.com website.

Six Basic Interrogatives – Part 2

In a previous article I discussed a conceptual framework for designing and building databases that support business intelligence and data warehousing applications.  In the article I mentioned the six basic interrogatives, borrowed from journalism, that are the basis for our thinking and subsequent design work in building databases that support the performance measurement and decision support processes.  An interrogative is of course a question and our goal is to answer questions.

Six corresponding categories of business objects were identified that align with these six interrogatives.  These business object categories identify the dimensions of the answers to our business questions.  Our answers come from algorithms based on combinations of measurements set in a context of these business objects.

Each business object category contributes to the production of performance measuring data.  All the categories together provide the different aspects one uses to analyze business performance.  These business object categories therefore form the ‘6BI Design Framework’ that can be used in designing and building databases for business intelligence.

Figure 1 shows the six basic interrogatives and the business object categories they correspond to:

Figure 1. Six Basic Interrogatives and Business Object Categories.

Let’s look at a simple scenario. Alpha Corporation receives an order on 30 October 2003 on their website, for 100 units of Alpha Super Stuff from Bravo Enterprises.  On 5 November 2003 the fulfillment of the 100 units is made.  The payment of $1,000 USD is made on 15 November 2003, via an electronic funds transferCarol Daniels, the customer representative, who covers the sales territory is responsible for writing the contract for the sales process.  She worked on it for one week.  The activities took place in the fourth quarter of 2003.  The business transaction is associated in time with an advertising campaign for Alpha Super Stuff.

Using the 6BI approach we can classify the business objects, each underlined and color-coded in the scenario above, into the categories that form the 6BI Design Framework.  Let’s see how we do this:

First, Alpha Corporation and Bravo Enterprises are Organizations, a type of PartyCarol Daniels is a Person, another type of Party.  This tells us who produces the data we are going to use for our performance measurements.  If we are measuring performance from the perspective of Alpha Corporation we call it the first party in our example.  To accommodate who produces the data we need to create dimensional entities and attributes that describe persons and organizations in our decision support data models.

Second, Alpha Super Stuff is a Product, in this case the Goods which were exchanged between Alpha Corporation and Bravo Enterprises, the second party in our example.  It answers the question of what produced the measurement data.  But Carol Daniels’ Work Effort also produced the data so we need to include that here as well.  To describe what is produced we need to create entities and attributes that describe goods and services in our dimensional data models.

Third, the website tells us the Location of where the process was initiated, in this case in virtual space.  The sales territory tells us where to Place the exchange geographically.  We need to create dimensional entities and attributes to describe where the exchange occurred.

Fourth, the dates above record the Events occurring at different points in time that tell us when the exchange that produces the data occurred.  The fact that Carol Daniels worked on it for one week in the fourth quarter of 2003 tells us the Duration over which some of the data is relevant.  In our decision support data models we need to create dimensional entities and attributes that describe points in time and periods of time.

Fifth, the sales process (including the order, fulfillment and payment) is an Exchange between the parties and tells us how the data that we are going to use for our measurements were actually produced.  The contract between Alpha Corporation and Bravo Enterprises gives us the means by which the data was produced.  To accommodate this we need to create dimensional entities and attributes that describe business processes.

Sixth, the advertising campaign which is a Program, gives us an idea of perhaps why the measurement data was produced.  To accommodate this we need to create dimensional entities and attributes that describe motivators in our business intelligence data models.

Lastly, the bolded items in the scenario above (100 units, $1,000 USD) are, of course, instances of the measurements themselves.  In future articles I will discuss measures and how they fit into the dimensional context we have outlined by the 6BI approach.  I will also discuss color coding and how it helps to document the 6BI Design Framework.

Perspective

At the logical level the 6BI Design Framework forms the basis for the reuse of entities, attributes, value domains, relationships and other logical objects in our data warehouse designs.  When actually implemented in software the 6BI Design Framework is instantiated as tables, columns, constraints, references and other database objects with common features across implementations and across business domains.

This ability to reuse our decision support database objects as widely as possible across many areas of business intelligence reduces the amount of discovery work that is needed for each effort.  It also frees up valuable human resources to concentrate on specializing these objects to meet the requirements of specific business domains.  It is, after all, the problems of specific business domains that we need to solve with our business intelligence applications, and not theoretical or conceptual problems.  Our business intelligence applications can then become more and more aligned with the goals of the enterprise and produce better results faster and more economically.

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