The simple answer is that it’s about providing real-time business intelligence to people to support their decisions, not instead of, but in addition to traditional BI analysis of past success or trends. A more complex answer is that this is a completely new environment in every sense of the word meaning how people visually want to see complex information, the device(s) on which they will be working, the types of decisions, and most of all the sources of information becoming wider and more diverse. Unfortunately all of this is coming at a time when existing BI demands and data models are still struggling to reach existing levels of operational efficiency demanded by the business; let alone reaching the necessary levels to support and interface with an entirely new environment as well.
But let’s start with a simple example which is my decision support for what I am about to write; the key starting point was some interesting blog posts from Timo Elliott. If you are interested in BI and where it’s going then I really recommend you to his blogs on the topic. But here is the comparison; Timo works for SAP on the development of SAP Business Objects products, (he was their eighth employee), and of course SAP put out good material on their products. However, the issue is subjective understanding across the topic by an expert as opposed to in depth objective focus on a product and its use.
This simple point illustrates the challenge of using information and sources in a different way. If I had been going to put out a defined specification of what I want to buy then using the SAP data is the right course of action, but if I want to examine the topic and get some real thought shaping input as to what the final choice might be then I need to a different approach. My good friend Chip Saltsman who leads our Accelerated Solutions Environment workshop capabilities describes it as; Scan; Focus, Act, but in that order. Human nature and pressing timescales often cause the reverse; we need to ACT! What shall we focus on? Now let’s scan on this topic.
Traditional BI frequently leads to the identification of the need to act so the rest tends to follow, where as ‘new’ BI should be providing a continuous scanning capability showing what and where to focus on and then act. With these thoughts in mind let’s go back to the topic; ‘where are we going in 2011?’, and the thoughts of Timo Elliott on the three top trends for 2011. I urge you to read his blog to get the full messages and points, but here I will need to highlight his top three by their headlines to make my point in the context of what I have written above. (The text after each headline is my one sentence summary of Timo’s very detailed point and doesn’t convey enough of his comments!).
- Analytics Reinvented; real time interaction around wholly new BI processes and interfaces.
- Corporate and Personal BI come together; mixing corporate and personal data using wholly new techniques with new products.
- The Next Generation of Business Applications; supporting the changing focus to front office flexibility and agility.
It’s his concluding point – the fourth – which he says should happen but probably won’t that really hits it for me, and I hope that if I quote it in full it will encourage you to read the rest of Timo’s posts on what and where good BI is today and heading for tomorrow.
Intelligence = Information + People; successful analytics isn’t about technology – it’s about people, process and culture. The biggest trend in 2011 should be about organisations spending the majority of their efforts on user adoption rather than technical implementation.
I can imagine how many CIOs and IT staff are worrying about this thought! Just remember though that this is from a guy who is driving the development of products and capabilities for SAP Business Objects. SAP are masters of the well managed process and enterprise data so for me this is a remark about ‘how’ we are working to define, capture and build exactly what is required in new ways with new tools.
My additional comment to this is that if the enterprise and IT department doesn’t do it for them, then they will do it for themselves as part of the increasing shift towards consumerisation of IT with users driving the pace around their own choices. Just look at the three change points for 2011, and with that in mind consider how point 3 is happening already, so point 2 is inevitably going to happen one way or another, and the real prize for everyone is in point 1. Time for some more scanning on this shift? Here is a practical example of using a scenario tool with end users to create a highly visual user set of outputs.
At this point I asked two colleagues who head the Capgemini Business Information Management Global practice (note the title to reflect the changes in what and how information is used in business today) for their view. They made some interesting points;
- Business Information product vendors are very keen to increase the numbers of users as it increases either the number of licenses or builds up their ability to provide an ‘as a service’ model. Therefore they are to some extent fuelling the end user driven activity.
- Accuracy of data, in all senses of the term, is still the number one issue for most enterprises, and accelerating the variables is a worrying trend.
- There is a discernable move towards embracing and improving the number of business unit heads in the ‘next layer’ down able to make use of ‘BI’
- The big disruption is the reinvention of analytics in terms of complex new algorithms and relatively unlimited cheap computing resources.