Reflections on the practice of business intelligence.
by Wayne Eckerson Eckerson is the author of many in-depth reports, a columnist for several business and technology magazines, and a noted speaker, blogger, and the author of the best-selling book Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business (John Wiley & Sons, 2005) and TDWI’s BI Maturity Model.
Let’s face it. Most of our BI programs could use a little boost. Despite our best intentions, our BI programs aren’t getting the traction we (or our sponsors) anticipated. Performance is too slow or the data is suspect or we didn’t deliver exactly what users wanted. Or maybe, after years of disappointment, bungled communications, or cost overruns, the business simply doesn’t trust IT to do anything right.
If this describes your situation, it’s time for a quick win. You’re stuck in a perpetual negatively reinforcing loop and you need something dramatic—but quick and cheap—to get you and your team out of its rut. You need to do something that will bring a smile to their face and make them see you as an ally who can solve their problems. If your quick win succeeds, the business will shower you with money to fund more projects, including extensions to your data warehouse.
Posted on July 10, 20090 comments
While teaching a course on performance dashboards recently, I had a minor epiphany. The reason key performance indicators (KPIs) are so difficult to create is because you need a degree in sociology to predict the impact they will have on human and organizational behavior. My advice to the class was: Don’t try to design perfect KPIs on the first try; rather put them in play, see what behaviors they drive—both good and bad—and then adjust quickly.
Interpreting KPIs. The first challenge with KPIs is that without adequate training and socialization people will interpret results differently. For example, if a KPI’s status is red but its trend is positive, what should a user think? Perhaps, someone already spotted the problem and applied a remedy which is now working. Conversely, what if a KPI’s status is green but its trend is downward? A green light indicates performance is above average, but should you take action now before the green light turns yellow? Tools that let users annotate KPIs can help users take the right action and teach novices how the company works.
Posted on July 2, 20090 comments
America’s biggest problem today is glut. The recession notwithstanding, we are saturated with stuff. I was heartened to read in the Wall Street Journal recently that supermarkets and discount retailers are cutting back on the number of items per category and brand that they carry. For example, Walgreen Co. is cutting back the number of superglues it carries from 25 to 11. Of course, 11 items is still an over-abundance but at least it’s a start.
Posted on July 1, 20090 comments
The BI/DW market has flowed quite independently for more than a decade, but increasingly it’s converging with other software streams, including ERP, MDM, search, and content management. This makes for an exciting, if not confusing, marketplace.
For example, what does BPM stand for? Business performance management or business process management? Well, technically it stands for both, but the identical acronyms have caused heartburn for those who have tried to evangelize, analyze, buy, or sell software in these two rapidly converging domains.
Posted on June 24, 20090 comments
Cloud computing offers a lot of promise. By virtualizing hardware and software infrastructure and paying a third party to deliver services as you go on a subscription or usage basis, companies can save a lot of money and time, and speed the deployment of business solutions.
Initially, cloud-based solutions were designed for small- to mid-size companies that didn’t have available IT resources or capital to spend on creating and managing a software and hardware infrastructure. Today, many large companies are investigating the cloud as a way to add new business solutions quickly and augment existing data center capacity. But cloud computing isn’t for everyone, especially in the BI space.
Posted on June 23, 20090 comments
This past week, I learned that two BI startups—Dataupia and LucidEra—lost their funding and will soon fade from the limelight. In normal times, investors would have considered both companies good bets to achieve an IPO or major acquisition. Both had gained traction in the marketplace: Dataupia, a data warehouse appliance, had five customers and many prospects in a hot market, while LucidEra, a first mover in the BI software-as-a-service market, had a strong pipeline of customers.
Posted on June 22, 20090 comments
TDWI Germany had its annual conference in Munich this week. Defying the economic downturn, the conference drew 450 attendees (same as last year) and 36 exhibitors (more than last year.) It is now the biggest BI/DW event in Germany and Austria.
I sat down with Guenter Fuhrmeister and Lars Tams of SIGS Datacom, which puts on the TDWI Germany conference, to ask them how they pulled a rabbit out of a hat. Their initial explanation, “We’re not sure!!”
They said they suspected the downturn isn’t quite as severe in Germany as in the U.S., although they said major German companies have frozen travel and training budgets. One major change is that they merged with a competing BI conference run by BARC, a research firm that does hands-on product evaluations. BARC now offers a track of sessions at the conference. Also, the conference has expanded to seven tracks of half-day classess plus sponsored case studies during lunch. With a total of 45+ topics, the conference offers enough varied content to interest everyone.
Posted on June 15, 20090 comments
I love software that I can download from the internet, implement without reading a manual or attending a training class, use in production free of charge for 30 days, and then purchase with a credit card at bargain basement prices.
I did just that recently with Citrix’s GoToWebinar software. I even conducted a very successful live Webinar for 300 people before the trial period ended. For a fraction of the price and with almost all the same bells and whistles, GoToWebinar puts competing products to shame, such as On24, WebEx, and LiveMeeting.
Posted on June 12, 20090 comments
BI environments are like personal computers: after a year or two, performance starts to degrade and you are never quite sure why. The best explanation is that these systems start accumulating a lot of “gunk” that is hard to identify and difficult to eliminate.
Personal computers, for example, become infected with viruses, spyware, and other malware that wreak havoc on performance. But we cause many problems ourselves by installing lots of poorly designed software, adding too many memory-resident programs, accidentally deleting key systems files, changing configuration settings, and failing to perform routine maintenance. And when the system finally freezes up, we execute unscheduled (i.e. three-finger) shutdowns, which usually compound performance issues. Many of us quickly get to the point where it’s easier and cheaper to replace our personal computers rather than try to fix them.
Posted on May 6, 20090 comments