Monday, June 23, 2008

Worst Practices in Business Intelligence

I came across this white paper from Information Builders on worst practices in BI. Aside from having to register to download the white paper, Kevin Quinn does a good job highlighting the 4 key areas of failure:

Worst Practice #1: Assuming the Average Business User Has the Know-How or Time to Use BI Tools

This issue is very accurate. Even with the advances in user interfaces and hiding of the complexity to aggregate and join information, the tools are still overwhelming. What is interesting is what people are usually migrating from is desktop productivity tools like MS Access or Excel (see worst practice #2).

Worst Practice #2: Allowing Excel to Become the Default BI Platform

Excel becomes the default BI platform inherently because of worst practice #1, meaning the tools are too complicated. The simplicity, flexibility and ease of use along with the overall ubiquitous familiarity of Excel makes it the default tool of choice. Typical organizations at some maturity point will move from something like Excel to a standard tool (see worst practice #4). Nothing can be more frustrating then purchasing a BI platform and having to fall back to the legacy solution, which can be error prone and unmanageable.

Worst Practice #3: Assuming a Data Warehouse Will Solve All Information Access and Delivery

Data Warehouses are meant to store data, in whatever preferred design approach that makes sense (hub and spoke, data marts, enterprise warehouse, federated, etc). The BI application implementation should leverage this single view of the organization's data. The point that is made in the white paper is that the information needs typically go beyond what is housed inside the warehouse. The BI platform should have the flexibility to consume these non-warehouse sources. As much as I agree with this point, it can be inherently dangerous to use sources of "unknown nature". That's not to say that all data outside the warehouse is not trusted, but consistency in the usage of this information across the enterprise needs to be assessed.

Worst Practice #4: Selecting a BI Tool Without a Specific Business Need

Absolutely (see worst case #1 and #2). From my experience, the most successful selection and implementation processes have happened when both the business users and the IT group run the selection process together. I have also seen where one group runs the process independently from the other, the "opposing" group rejects the selection. So it is not just the business users that need to make the selection.

What additional worst practices have you encountered? The list is endless, but it would be great to start sharing other experiences individuals have.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Calling all data quality software vendors….TDWI needs your help

I couldn’t resist posting this one, but I want to start off by saying that I am big fan of The Data Warehouse Institute. They provide great information, their conferences are extremely valuable and their training classes provide the right level of practical learning.

But, their CRM system is in desperate need of some cleansing. Much like how Glyn Heatley discussed Data Quality Going Green (btw – until that post I didn’t realize that Glyn was a tree hugger. You think you know someone), TDWI needs to clean up their registration records. I received 3 emails from Wayne Eckerson (it wasn’t really from Wayne Eckerson) asking me to participate in a TDWI Benchmark survey. The emails all arrived within a few minutes of each other. The first one starts by addressing me as “Dear Graham”, while the second two start with “Dear Peter”. Now, on further inspection it is clear that this is partly my own doing. Each email was sent to a different email address since over the last 3 years we have internally changed our emails here at Palladium. But, that is the whole purpose of organizations house holding their data and identifying duplicates. I just find it entertaining that the organization (TDWI) that espouses having quality data is an offender. And it’s costing them money.

I did a quick search on the TDWI site to see if I could find any whitepapers or studies that I would recommend they take a look at. I found the following best practices report on taking data quality to the enterprise. The great thing is that if they are looking for some software vendors who can help, they can just take a look at the sponsor list for the best practices report.

I am hoping they won’t take away my membership based on this posting.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

DIG Bits & Bytes

Some items that have fallen on the blogging scraps floor from the last couple of weeks:

BEA AquaLogic Product Future

There have been a lot of rumblings of the future of the AquaLogic product suite, primarily because of the rumor that the professional services group from BEA is folding into WebLogic team. A component of the platform, among other things, is a set of Web 2.0 technologies and Enterprise social computing. It would be surprising to see these products go away based on the current market, but stranger things have happened.

Sharing Information to Make Decisions

After September 11th, the intelligence community was chastised for their lack of information sharing. The “need to know” culture impeded sharing nuggets of knowledge that could help the different intelligence departments make better decisions. To change this mentality, the CIA developed the Intellipedia platform. The CIA will be sharing their story at the Enterprise 2.0 conference this week in Boston. It is certainly an interesting case study of how an organization, public or private, can leverage social computing to improve information sharing and collaboration.

And Finally, For the Artistic Crowd

I happened across this site “Dashboards by Example”, which provides a wealth of information for those considering implementing a dashboard within your organization. There are some great examples and best practices crossing a broad range of subject areas including web analytics with Google Analytics (we are a user and big fan) to an IT related dashboard. The author provides his perspective on Dashboards versus Scorecards which is always an interesting topic for debate.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Making Business Intelligence more “Social”

A couple of months back, I had written a post on the idea of Using Business Intelligence in E2.0. In the post I discussed how to bring BI into the social aspects of Enterprise 2.0. George Veth also posted on the topic of Social Objects, which is the concept of the “topic” that two people have a conversation about, opposed to the discussion just being about two people talking. There are many examples of this, both in personal and business settings. Wine is a good example of a social object that spurs a lot of dialog. My wife and I had dinner on Saturday night at a Portuguese restaurant, where a good amount of the discussion with our friends was on the topic of the sangria that we had ordered.

So, in the continued quest to figure out how to enhance the value of Business Intelligence I am looking for suggestions, comments and ideas on how to make BI more “social”. Much of today’s BI systems are what I would consider one-way, meaning a majority of solutions produce content to consumers and it stops there. There is no doubt that people are socializing what they are seeing, but not in a way that we are seeing other social computing being applied inside the enterprise. It can thus be said that BI is like Web 1.0 in the sense that a majority of the content is produced by a small group of “users” and consumed and that’s it.

So how can we make BI social?

The Bloglines are open and there are no bad ideas here. I am hoping to spur some discussion and ideas to advance the cause. Maybe we can get to BI 1.5 by the end of the summer.

Friday, May 30, 2008

For those interested in the topic of Enterprise 2.0....

I just received the final evaluation from the DIG conference and the feedback was great. Across the board we had positive scores and commentary from attendees. Here are a few snippets that I wanted to share:

What valuable insights are you walking away with?
  • I now understand E2.0 and its possibilities- Andrew McAfee was excellent.
  • Predictive markets, social networks can have lots of potential positive impacts, could use it to solve a MDM problem.
  • I have learned master data management concepts. I wanted to get a better understanding of how business intelligence fit into their organization. Learning about enterprise 2.0 and making me aware of some of the new technologies.

Did the Conference Exceed/ Meet / Not meet your Expectations” Why:

  • It met my expectations on the first day and exceeded on the second day. I was looking for new things and found it the second day with E2.0.
  • I would have liked to have some formalized network opportunities with other speakers wither during or prior to the conference.
  • This met my expectations, although I wished there were more technical components and that the attendance was higher.

All great feedback and certainly will help us shape next year’s conference. Any additional thoughts from those who attended would be appreciated.

One of the big takeaways for me was the level of excitement on the topic of Enterprise 2.0. Going into the final day, I was a bit concerned. Not because of our speakers, but instead based on our preconference survey results. We had asked our delegates two questions prior to the conference on the topic of Enterprise 2.0.

As you can see from the results of the first question, we had a limited number of organizations (<5%)>

For those still interested in the topic of Enterprise 2.0, there is an E2.0 conference in two weeks here in Boston. I believe this is the second year (I could be wrong, so don’t hold me to that) and they have a great lineup of speakers, including Andrew McAfee who was our keynote on Day 2. Professor McAfee will be moderating a panel discussion on the topic of “Enterprise 2.0 Reality Check”.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dashboard Competition

For all of those Tufte wannabes out there, BonaVista Systems has created an interesting dashboard competition. There are some requirements to enter, such as the dashboard must be developed in Excel and use their Microcharts product (great marketing move). Seeing that I am like a caveman when it comes to visually designing a business dashboard, I figured I would share the competition with others since there is no chance I can win the first place prize, an Apple iPhone.

Let me know if anyone submits an entry. I will provide some free publicity to those daring enough to jump into the competition.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Example of Data Quality Gone Bad

At the DIG conference, Glyn Heatley introduced our data theme with an entertaining example of data quality gone bad. The story was told through a YouTube video. I had stumbled across this story in an industry magazine a few years ago, but I can’t seem to find the original article. Thought I would share the video so people can use it any time someone questions the quantifiable value of data quality initiatives.