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Q&A: Are You Ready for Business-Driven BI?

What is business-driven BI, what technologies are driving it, and which has the most impact on business leaders?

Innovation always forces change and the business intelligence and data warehousing industry has undergone dramatic innovation over the past two years. A power shift is under way and traditional IT professionals are scrambling to adapt to a new set of challenges and a growing gap between themselves and their customers -- the business. New technologies and shifting budgets are putting the power of innovation in the hands of business users and challenging IT to pick up the pieces and meet their new expectations.

[Editor's note: In his keynote presentation at the TDWI World Conference in Chicago, noted industry analyst and author Shawn Rogers will discuss how this culture shift will affect you and your company and illustrate why this evolution is inevitable. Shawn will explore the impact of self serve discovery tools, cloud BI, big data, open source, collaboration, and social tools on today's IT teams and how they need to adapt to meet the needs of a new generation of knowledge worker.]

BI This Week: The title of your keynote is "You Can Run but You Can't Hide! Are You Ready for Business-Driven BI?" Can you explain what business-driven BI is?

Shawn Rogers: There has always been a bridge between the needs of business and the professionals who supply the means to that end. IT by virtue of complexity and specialized skill sets has controlled this supply and demand. Much has been written about best practices and strategies to make this collaboration more seamless and fruitful, but not surprisingly, as business demands a greater level of response and IT resources are stretched to the maximum, contention is created.

Business-driven BI can best be defined at this intersection of demand and resources. The business has become more technically savvy over the past decade as vendors have innovated and delivered easier to use and quicker to implement technology. Armed with these new tools, business users have started to circumvent traditional process and implement business intelligence initiatives on their own. The other shift supporting this change is where the budgets are controlled. Business is funding new projects in the cloud and on big data platforms, and in doing so they have more control over the process, features, and project scope.

Why is business-driven BI so disruptive?

Many companies have a long history of centralized IT. These groups within enterprises manage large budgets and head count. As business users gain more control over projects and technology goals, they are disrupting the power base of IT leaders and are facing resistance in many cases. Innovative CIOs and IT managers take advantage of this shift; short-sighted leaders attempt to slow it. In the end, it's a losing fight. The majority of innovative technology projects are being sponsored by and driven by the business.

How is business-driven BI creating new best practices in the enterprise?

Smart companies are shifting quickly to engage and collaborate with the business to better service needs and drive success. IT leaders are seeking out the innovative executives to partner and create value through new project initiatives. Another trend is how projects are casting a wider net to include a more diverse user community, adding new business insights to business intelligence-driven projects. Many companies have adopted a "cloud first" policy to offload traditional workloads to new cloud-based solutions impacting capital expense as well as engaging new technologies. The bottom line: it's a culture shift that IT can't ignore and one it needs to embrace.

What technologies are driving business-driven BI?

Several technologies are enabling business-driven BI. User-driven or self-serve analytics is an important one. It hands the "keys to the car" to business users who want to explore and analyze their business without being dependent on IT.

Cloud is another enabler that is helping both IT and the business. Cloud often delivers quicker implementation times and an opportunity to stand up a project without the expense of purchasing new hardware and software. Public cloud providers are bringing supplying data warehouses, CRM systems, and business intelligence platforms on cloud architectures with feature sets that rival traditional suppliers.

Big data came into our industry with quite a few technical roadblocks that demanded new skill sets. Over the past 18 months, many vendors have focused on enabling business users with this type of insight, breaking down barriers to what was initially seen as a technical solution. EMA research has shown that marketing, finance, and sales departments are the fastest growing sponsors of big data projects simply because they see the incredible impact these this technology can offer them.

Which of these technologies is most impactful for business leaders?

It is always difficult to identify which technology can be the most impactful on business leaders. It's less about cloud, big data, or self-service technology and more about the way a solution can empower a business person and provide value to their line of business.

Operating at the speed of business is a critical inflection point when deciding how to drive your business. Determining how fast you require insight is almost always tied directly to business impact.

Additionally, most executives are looking beyond insight to action and many of today's new technologies are focused on taking the business all the way to that destination. Simply having keen or innovative insight isn't enough. Being able to take action in a way that supports the business and provides competitive advantage has the biggest impact of all.

Is there a downside to power shifting away from IT towards the business?

The model between IT and the business has been broken for a long time. This shift or change brings more positives than negatives to most companies. I'm not an advocate of a company's IT group standing aside and letting the business dictate overall IT strategy but I do believe to create the highest level of value collaboration and trust are critical to avoid the traditional pitfalls of any project.

Not understanding or planning for the long term, poor scope analysis, and unfocused goals and ROI are all critical issues for the business and IT to work closely to avoid. The best and perhaps most agile companies will benefit from business-driven BI as long as there isn't an extreme power shift and unstructured controls and processes.

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