Posts Tagged ‘ gartner ’

Data Discovery – The BI Mojo

Gartner’s Q1-2011 Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence was recently released.

Without much surprise, the four quadrants hosted some of the best BI offerings. As expected, QlikTech moved to the Leaders’ Quadrant thanks to its growing customer base, bigger deployments and a successful IPO back in October last year.

Other players also shone, inlcuding the likes of Spotfire (TIBCO) and Tableau earning the challengers title. This is what we see a trend of the Magic Quadrant, no vendor directly moves to the Leader’s box without entering the Challengers zone first. It is well expected that sooner or later, Spotfire and Tableau will join the ranks of the leaders while it is also quite possible that one or two existing leaders might start fading in history.

The Zeitgeist:

Data Discovery tools have the greatest mind share, success and momentum. They have proved to be highly disruptive and have pushed aside slowly moving elephants aside. Although elephants might be able to dance, tools like Qlikview, Tableau and Spotfire represent the new wave of BI both from both adoption and approach perspectives.

These vendors are business friendly, analyst-savvy, agnostic to (traditional)reporting and have very agile development approaches. That is why the buying criteria are reporting to be

1. Ease of Use

2. Rapid Deployment

3. Functionality

These in-memory offerings compete on OLAP’s limitations and thus add a value addition to functionality, which is pretty much appreciated by IT as well.

However, this addition to the Leaders and Challengers quadrant by these new wave BI tools have caused a chain reaction resulting in SAP, Microsoft and Cognos innovating with their own in-memory offerings and interactive visual discovery tools. However, the post-2007 acquisition hangover lingers on and still customer dissatisfaction caused due to these acquisition and merger into larger product and services suite of the mega-vendors is the cause of concern for these players.

For these new wave BI tools, old adage problems are surfacing including Data Governance, Data Quality, Master Data Management, Single Version of the Truth and the curse of the information silos. Some of these new age vendors  are solving this by having a larger portfolio of products to cater to this, like TIBCO while others focus more on OEM partners to deliver these important facets, like QlikView, while still others rely on a symbiotic relationship with existing (traditional) BI deployments like Tableau.

The Observations:

  1. Both Traditional BI and Data Discovery tools are required, therefore, saturation in the Leaders Quadrant is far from reality while emergence of new vendors will still be observed.
  2. The overall BI maturity is being observed with the trend shifting from measurement to analysis to forecasting and optimization
  3. Cost is an increasingly important factor in purchasing and thus alternatives like open source offerings and SaaS deployments are gaining potential.
  4. Niche players will continue to flourish but need to have a viable road map amidst constant threat from mega-vendors to replicate or acquire (similar) technology.
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BI Competency Centers – A Program Management approach towards delivering excelling BI

I recently came across a client whose need’s where genuinely overwhelmed by a bit of frustration and a lack of solution partners who are not just technology implementers. The company had consolidated a lot of software solutions from various vendors, with overlapping features and functionality and had multiple departments participating in a tug of war for taking their departmental (and individual) BI ventures, enterprise wide. Interestingly, there was the case of an orphaned BI initiative there as well, the sponsors of that project had gone elsewhere!

The company came up with the idea of an excellence center (or a competency center) to try to standardize people, processes and technology. Easier said than done, the whole concept IS highly Utopian and is usually touted as a single solution to this fairly universal problem. But to achieve this”excellence”, a lot of background work is required which besides being costly is also time consuming.

To start with, a vision of an excellence center has to be developed. First of all, what DO THESE TERMS REALLY MEAN? Excellence Centers, Competency Centers, Strategy and Delivery Groups etc.It is one of the curse of hypes but a fairly reasonable mapping exists……”Program Management”

A Business Intelligence Program Management which sees BI implementations not just as a technology with limited business benefits but a business initiated venture with a targeted growth plan providing further services, features, ROI and sanity has a very strong case to sell.

According to Gartner Research, “A BICC is a cross-functional team with specific tasks, roles, responsibilities, and processes for supporting and promoting the effective use of Business Intelligence across the organization.”

BI Projects should be looked as ongoing, cyclical and iterative BI processes providing an improved delivery at each iteration. A Competency Center can provide the framework for measuring BI projects and their implementation, it also lets the company experience the cultural and operational transformations taking place as a result of a systematic and pervasive BI establishment. However, considering the different organizational behavior at different sized companies, operating in various verticals in diverse cultural backgrounds cannot be a single, enlightening offering.

It has to be Tailored for each concern whether a corporate or a department. But in general, a few set of services are considered core to the BI concerns in a company, namely,

  1. The Periodic Assessment of ROI and Cost vs Benefits.
  2. The standardization of processes and technology, whcih includes an enterprise level integration infrastructure again for both business and technology.
  3. A well defined and controlled Risk Management perspective on the BI space.
  4. A carefully crafted Knowledge Management initiative including organizational change.
  5. A focused and prioritized agenda on Business User “Buy-In” into the BI environment.

Several companies provide their BICC setup and operations competencies and consultancies these days.  However, there aren’t many best practices or guidelines in choosing the right partner for establishing one. Minimum requirements could be the ability of execute BI projects and programs, strong Human Resources, Business Processes and Systems Integration skills etc.

Although BICCs are ongoing programs, they should be highly target oriented. These milestones and performance targets are based on various assessment calculators which usually come as part of a BICC setup.

A very creative way to visualize the progress and understand the whole philosophy behind the BICCs is wonderful BI Maturity Model for demonstrating the characteristics of a BI program or project, developed by TDWI.

There is also a fairly detailed book on the topic of establishing and developing a BICC, published from SAS and Wiley and Co, Titled:

“Business Intelligence Competency Centers: A Team Approach to Maximizing Competitive Advantage (Wiley and SAS Business Series) by Gloria J. Miller, Dagmar Brautigam, Stefanie V. Gerlach

Although the book is written by one of the BICC consultancy firms, the ideas presented are applicable universally. Their interpretation of the core services offered (or should be) by a BICC have been widely adopted by both the industry and the academia.

Source: Business Intelligence Competency Centers, a Team Approach to Maximize Competitive Advantage" SAS and Wiley Co.

Source: Business Intelligence Competency Centers, a Team Approach to Maximize Competitive Advantage" SAS and Wiley Co.

All of these services are interrelated and each serves as an input to others. Each service also serves more than one goal of the BICC.

For example, the Advanced Analytics service besides providing a greater usability of BI and its infrastructure also increases the ROI. It also presents a strong case for evangelizing BI. It gives the business users an insight on what CAN happen from your BI environment. For organizations not having a sound infrastructure in place, an aggressively advertised advanced analytics service can form the motive to invest in a holistic enterprise information architecture, for example.

Establishing a BICC is a highly subjective matter and varies substantially from case to case. However a template based road map can be followed as one provided in the referred book. Primarily it depends on the existence of a similar setup already in the company, the maturity of the company in terms of its processes and policies for change management and technology, the type of people in terms of domain expertise and skill levels, the budget and time constraints etc.

As part of a general best practice, it is ideal to grow the BICC organically, meaning from bottom up with sponsorship from the top. A departmental wide BICC prototype which is planned for the enterprise but services one smaller concern at a time, like a department and then growing gradually into covering more departments and offering richer services.

Having a centric approach towards managing the concerns of BI is a daunting task but has its dividends promised if done well. The success of BI projects heavily rely on their continuity, reliability, flexibility, visibility and scalabiilty. BICCs offer just that.

Gartner 2009 Strategic Technologies

Although a slightly old post, but here is an interesting article by Gartner on the 2009 Stratgic Technologies. A motivation to relook at this Oct, 2008 vision a quarter later reveals the accuracy of the vision.

2009 began with a downturn economy and sales strategy focusing on fixing things, a rather reactive approach but in the world of information technology, things are getting better. Lots of convergence, huge strides in maturity, increase in motivation and an aggressive roadmap.

Gartner presents the top 10 Strategic Technologies enlisted here:

Virtualization
Cloud Computing
Beyond Blade Servers
Green IT
Web Oriented Architectures
Enterprsie Mashups 2.0
Specialised Systems
Social Software and Social Networking
Unified Communications
Business Intelligence

My understanding of the list actually streams Gartner’s choices into three:

Infrastructure
NextGen Applications
Business Intelligence

Infrasructure:
Virtualization is a massive stride forward in server consoildation and to an extent lowering licensing costs of software for organisations. As the usage of virtualization increases within companies, the need for virtualization management and security has increased. Enterprises already at a mature state of virtualization will further focus on collaboration of their virtual platforms with existing physical infrastrcture, more invisibility of virtualization on networks and capabiliites to take snapshots for cloning physical servers arrangements and configurations including software.
Pain points for the year will be virtualization security as the need for bringing virtualization into mainstream environments will reveal aspects of security specific to this line of technology.

Cloud Computing will further SaaS models and the business model’s appeal will increase in emerging markets like the Middle East and the Far East. This is coupled by the reason of increased investments in telecommunication backbones and greater awareness of outsourcing IT maintaince to service providers offering services on the cloud.
However, there are many pain points ranging from raising costs of telecom and sporadic skepticm in TCO of the SaaS business model in markets like the Middle East. Pain points remain the height of exceeding expacations and lack of best practices to adopt for most organizations.

Green IT and Blade dissappearance can be duly served by the changing trends in the software consupmtion behavior from products to services) where service providers determine these initiatives. However, Green IT  will not be adopted widely during this continued recession phase.

Next Gen Apps:
SOA is reaching its plateau of productivity on the Gartner’s Hype Cycle and will further enterprise mashups. This technology has already given a direction to evolve web standards and architectures influenced a wider range of application connectivity leading to benefits harnessed by other technologies and applications including social networking applications, collaboration and business intelligence. However, with the emerging trends of converged networks, pervasive computing applications including location aware, embedded systems will increase as well. Companies already having a level of this will continue to invest in application semantics using BPM automation, service orchestrations and semantic web services. Certain vendors have already started to bring forward their product offerings in these areas.

Business Intelligence:
It is prime time for BI to flourish, already aggressively growing in 2007 and 2008 according to both Gartner and TDWI, BI makes its justifaction for greater compliance, visibility, transparency, something whcih the post-recession period demands. This period also serves the motivation for organsiations to focus on their performance management. Business Intelligence offerings has a wider portfolio to offer this year with many vendors offering (or acquiring) data management appliances including Teradata, Greenplum, Microsoft etc. Last year vendor consolidation has brought greater strength to individual portfolio of each BI provider. SaaS models are also avaiable as alternatives giving customers much flexibility and even possiblity to mature their BI initiatives. Costs of implmementing Business Intelligence will go down for organisations with experience in consuming SaaS and those ready to invest in open source BI which has reached impressive maturity.
However, Predictive Analytics is still to go mainstream this year but is a probable reality in coming years.