Thursday, May 22, 2008

Business Intelligence:”I’m not dead.”

If you are a fan of Monty Python, you will recognize this line from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”.

I had a bit of a positive experience today with a client that caught me a bit off guard. It may be because there are times in this industry where you feel business intelligence has become a commodity. Seems like every organization owns at least one, and in most cases, multiple BI tools. There is pressure in the consulting industry from offshore resources, which I am personally not convinced about for BI applications. So needless to say, at times I am a bit jaded.

So that brings me to today. I am working at a client to build out a new reporting architecture. It’s a pretty significant size initiative and will replace numerous disconnected reporting packages that are managed through a hodge podge of manual processes. We are using the Cognos 8 reporting platform, specifically Report and Query Studio. As part of design, we have been prototyping a reporting package that is currently being done in Excel and packaged into PowerPoint. There are a lot of charts, formatting and commentary that goes into the package. Thus far, I have been thoroughly impressed with the Cognos tools to replicate the current set of reports. But the shocker was the level of excitement from business users who are currently saddled with creating these reports manually. And on top of that, the flexibility to expose the dimensional model would support a majority of the ad-hoc requests that the group receives.

So the point is I guess people are still not getting what they can from their investments in business intelligence and corporate performance management technologies. A majority of organizations are still in the 80/20 position of spending 80% of their time gathering data, creating highly formatted reports manually. If that is the case, it is hard to be called a commodity. I guess the software could be since the tools are there, but organizations haven’t yet realized the value from the investments.

There is another scene from the Holy Grail that draws parallels to the current state of BI.

King Arthur: Go and tell your master that we have been charged by God with a sacred quest. If he will give us food and shelter for the night, he can join us in our quest for the Holy Grail.
French Soldier: Well, I'll ask him, but I don't think he will be very keen. Uh, he's already got one, you see.
(Replace King Arthur with software sales rep and Holy Grail with BI tool)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Back in the Saddle

After taking a couple of days off, I have found that I have a bit of writer’s block. Between responding to the mountain of emails that piled up last week and getting back into the blogging groove, I am a bit stuck. That being said, I came across a couple of articles that I wanted to post some thoughts on.

There seems to be a lot of chatter around mobile BI. I came across 3 separate articles in the last week related to analytics being delivered to mobile devices. The first was an announcement by IBM that they will deliver business solutions through new BlackBerry devices. This includes the Cognos 8 Go software. The second article was from Intelligent Enterprise and had three case examples of businesses that are using mobile devices to deliver BI. The interesting thing I found with this was the simplicity of the applications, which seems critical when dealing with a small interface and only needing specific KPIs. The final announcement is a clinical specific application built by Vaultus Partners and Covisint that delivers patient dashboards to mobile devices.

One trend in all three of these articles is that BlackBerry is the device of choice. Not surprising since RIM has a strangle hold on the enterprise mobile market.

If you read through these and are wondering “How the heck can I be thinking about mobile BI?” when you can’t even get desktop-based reporting, don’t worry. Eventually, you will get to the point where these type of solutions will be possible.