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insight Encyclopedia

System Administrator in BI

The system administrator’s roles include connection, security, maintenance and more.

The system administrator has an essential role in business intelligence. Intimately knowledgeable of the IT infrastructure and architecture on which the BI layer is to reside, he is often the one who evaluates and selects the BI solution for the company. His main tasks also include connecting the solution to the company’s data sources, establishing security and maintaining the solution so that it runs smoothly.

Let’s take a closer look at the main tasks of a system administrator, along with the different ways in which various BI models impact them.

Connecting and Integrating BI

When it comes to business intelligence, the first and most important task of a system administrator is to connect the BI solution to the company’s data sources and ensure that it works with the company’s IT architecture. Depending on the BI vendor and the technology behind the solution, this can be more or less demanding.

Some BI solutions–especially those adapted from an older legacy model–are quite demanding in this regard, requiring setup and maintenance of complex meta environment against which reporting and analysis occur. Also, this same type of BI solution may only work with particular database or data source while not working with others–or doing so only when complemented by additional data-integration software.

Conversely, there are BI solutions that are data-source neutral and that can easily be integrated with the company’s current IT environment. This makes the system administrator’s job easier in many regards: integrating the application is quicker and easier, and no resources need to be devoted to meta environments, data warehouses, connectors or data integration tools. Furthermore, this type of solution frees the system administrator to acquire the latest in data-source technology, since data-source neutral BI solutions are as much likely to work with them out of the box.


Maintaining the BI solution and ensuring smooth functioning is another important task of the system administrator. The more “moving parts” IT has–different applications and solutions, databases, data sources or data marts/warehouses, meta environments, etc.–the more complex this task.

A big factor that makes the system administrator’s job easier or harder in this regard is the internal consistency of the BI solution between its components. Naturally, the more complete the solution (e.g. a BI platform), the greater the chance that there may be some inconsistencies between the individual components’ technologies.

The solutions available today range from the seamlessly consistent to the mish-mash of different technologies. For instance, BI solutions that were conceived as Web-based tend to have a single, unified technologies; conversely, BI platforms that are the result of mergers and acquisitions between different companies with different philosophies are often less than consistent, and call for more knowledge and effort on the part of the system administrator and his team.

Data Security

It generally falls to the system administrator to set up data security. The purpose of data security is to ensure that only the designated personnel, roles or departments are allowed to view certain records. The obvious example: general employees are barred from seeing certain financial records such as salaries and bonuses.

Data security is handled differently by different BI solutions. The better solutions enable the system administrator to manage security at the so-called “granular level,” meaning that security can be established not only at the role or report level, but down to the record level. This gives the system administrator a great amount of flexibility in terms of empowering as many BI users as possible while keeping sensitive reports, columns, rows or even records from being accessed by all but the appropriate personnel.