Data and the Web

Moving Toward Business Intelligence 2.0

Elephant Crossing SignI just read a pretty interesting article by Neil Raden called “Business Intelligence 2.0: Simpler, More Accessible, Inevitable” (HT: Snaplogic) and would recommend giving it a read.

Historically, business intelligence hasn’t been all that its cracked up to be. Very expensive data warehousing systems are put in place. Existing reports are re-created and all kinds of new objects/reports are added. Everyone is thoroughly trained on the system. Pretty 3D graphics are added to the dashboard. The project goes over budget. Users revert to using Excel.

Some would say that BI is just a fancy way to do organizational reporting. There’s a lot of truth to this; why else do people continue to rely on their spreadsheets when they need to do some quick and dirty analysis? I think the answer is that there is a substantial ad hoc component to the “intelligence” part of business intelligence that will never be captured by a large, centralized system.

Having a few BI gurus setting up reports for everyone just isn’t an efficient use of resources. Nor does it capture the collective brain power of the organization. And there is quite a bit of this power ready to be tapped, even in the deepest corners of a company.

For example, we’ve done a lot of work with folks in the accounts payable industry. AP is not what you’d call a very sexy part of the organization — however, billions of dollars flow through it each year, as the keepers of the company checkbook. There are efficiencies to be gained, analyses to be done and, in our experience, a whole slew of people eager to do a bang-up job. However, when an AP manager needs to get something from the legacy system or just wants to create a new type of report they have one of two options — either go to IT and hope they can get a report created within the next couple weeks or go to mattresses with Excel/Access and do what they need to do themselves.

Neil echoes this when comparing BI 1.0 to BI 2.0:

BI 1.0 Fallacy: Most users want to be spoon-fed information and will never take the initiative to create their own environment or investigate the best way to get the answers they need.

BI 2.0 Reality: The Consumer Web invalidates this idea. When given simple tools to do something that is important and/or useful to them, people find a way to “mash up” what they need.

We’ve seen people’s initiative on display time and again and are really happy that Kirix Strata is playing a part in making this type of ad hoc analysis, integration and reporting easier than ever.

So, give those articles a read and see what you think. Also, please consider joining us on Wednesday at 1 PM EDT for our free hour-long web seminar with Snaplogic called “BI 2.0: Data Visualization and Spreadsheets on Steroids.” All the pertinent details can be found here. Hope to see you then!

2 Responses to “Moving Toward Business Intelligence 2.0”

  1. Ted Cuzzillo says:

    The “1.0 Fallacy” and the “2.0 Reality” don’t necessarily contradict each other. Behavior at work is often different from behavior at home. What we think of as “spoon feeding” at work might actually be the safest or most efficient behavior, while safety and efficiency at home are much less important. At home, we’re much less restricted. There will be far greater resistance to 2.0 at work than there has been at home.

  2. Ken Kaczmarek says:

    Hi Ted,

    I’d agree that that there may not be an inherent contradiction between the two; the consumer web is not completely relevant within the confines of a business. Security of my profile information on Facebook is a bit different than the security of my marketing, HIPAA or financial data.

    However, I believe the core idea here — if you give people the tools to do stuff, they’ll do stuff — rings true. In practice, this is backed up by the pervasiveness of Excel/Access as the corporate go-to BI tools.

    I’d also agree that there will be resistance to giving power to the users — we see this in the “one version of the truth” IT struggles with currently. But, as we see in the consumer space (and the web in general), there is a lot of innovation to be had when users are given tools and a little freedom to explore.

    Businesses potentially have much to be gained by unleashing the innovation and efficiencies of their employees, and some of these web 2.0 technologies seem like they would fit the bill. However, it will probably take a few brave companies to push the envelope and prove that it is beneficial prior to the rest of the market joining in. We’ll see. :)