BI 3.0 The Journey to Business Intelligence. What does it mean?

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  Today’s niche science of data provisioning, integration and presentation will rapidly become tomorrows commodity. The CIO needs to focus not on IT control for Information dissemination going forward rather, should focus on unshackled Information release and the strategies in which this can be achieved securely, with self-regulation and with simplicity of the consumer foremost in […]


Today’s niche science of data provisioning, integration and presentation will rapidly become tomorrows commodity.

The CIO needs to focus not on IT control for Information dissemination going forward rather, should focus on unshackled Information release and the strategies in which this can be achieved securely, with self-regulation and with simplicity of the consumer foremost in their mind.

Visualisation, anticipation and collaboration through a human-centred UI will be ‘king’, with information strategy and theory focused on self-regulating mechanisms and technology accelerators (think of the emergence of Kalido, Mellmo, Panorama Necto, Goodata and Qlikview here as modern early examples of this trait)

The Business Intelligence Journey thus far

The journey towards the emerging standard of BI 3.0 has been a torturous one. Vendors and clients alike have on the whole have struggled to fulfil the promise of ubiquitous information provision and ultimately widespread end-user adoption.

We could therefore be sceptical and rightly question how BI 3.0 could be truly different and what underlying changes in our field would play the supporting cast in this differentiation?

To understand the potential differentiation, we need to analyse the journey thus far:

BI 1.0 and BI 2.0 were in essence conceptually similar to the Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 standards and this should come as no surprise as these standards focused on enhancing the experience and consistency of web interactions globally.

BI 1.0 – Delivery to the Consumer

‘When will I get my reports then? Thats not quite what I wanted….’

Evolved during the client/server era where mainframes were broken up into mini distributed systems as as such, departments needed to consolidate multiple operational servers; cue the DW 1.0 foundation of data marts and cubes to underpin client BI tools that relied heavily on IT for interpretation of requirements, data foundation and provisioning and of course, report development.

The era of the ‘Data Scientist’ in the department, who rapidly became the bottleneck for timely intelligence and, a constraint on solution uptake across the organisation. The underlying information was locked away in a dedicated and narrow focused Data Mart with focus on the community and task at hand rather than the corporate needs as a whole.

BI 2.0 – Creation and Delivery for Consumers

‘I can explore a wide variety of data assets; I prefer to blend data but my report differs from yours?

Evolved during the web portal era where ERP and CRM centralisation were king (some would argue they still are!) and in consequence, a central data repository was seen as strategic to provide perspectives that the core applications could not provide; cue the DW 2.0 foundation (courtesy of Bill Inmon and Ralph Kimball) of dimensional data warehouses to underpin the new centralised BI tools (schema-based) that could take advantage of, and simplify access to the various structured data repositories of the day.

Here, empowerment of the consumer in the form of exploration and limited predictive capabilities was released from the shackles of the IT organisation but,  data provisioning and foundations were firmly under firm IT control.

This was the era of the ‘Data Explorer’ where business user frustrations at lack of timely access to information were high; this resulted in the ‘bypass of the data warehouse’ with business perspectives of information adopting ‘combine on-the-fly’ BI tools (The CIO versus the CMO/CRO/CFO in the battle of information control stakes).

This dichotomy, was the precursor for BI 2.5 when new simplified BI appliances and tools were sold by the vendors directly into the business areas experiencing data provisioning frustrations and, formed the pre-cursor to the Big Data, Appliance and multi-device era we are now entering.

Solution uptake was wider across the organisation at the expense of information applicability and context to the communities of the BI 1.0 phase. The Data Warehouse permitted a summary of the information as a whole usually as an extension of the core ERP system yet, the detail and perspectives of the information communities whilst in existence, could not be met easily with the emerging corporate data foundation. Unstructured data whilst accommodated in data warehouse theory and approach, was becoming increasingly diverse and difficult to harness.

BI 2.5 – Papering over the cracks of BI 2.0

‘I can use any tool,  I can blend data rapidly (if I can find it), it was so simple at first but now……’

The advent of database appliances, in-memory, Agile BI, SOA Data Services, Virtualisation, Enterprise Search coupled with initial attempts at consumer visualisation. These systems provided more power and scale than the BI 2.0 platforms and, provided greater agility and simplicity for the IT developers; but not necessarily the business consumers.

This evolution resulted in data repositories and insight more in line with BI 1.0 (operational silos and tool-centricity) thinking only this time, often under business control, with the scale and power of the BI 2.0 enterprise platforms.

BI 2.5 could therefore be seen as the attempted mash-up between BI 1.0 community focus and BI 2.0 enterprise focus enabling on-the-fly federation of information sources in a more expedient manner

Early solutions grew within the business areas under a collaborative and business outcome-driven approach and in the early months all was rosy. The challenge arose as more data perspectives and more consumers were supported by the platform.

With scale came complexity and diversity of common information viewpoints.

This organic model, light on the alignments of information architecture and IT design, rapidly became the new bottleneck, with solutions increasingly more complex and less scalable that early engagements had promised.

A new federated information architecture was now the key challenge and, was this becoming increasingly multi-format and multi-latency in nature.

BI 3.0 – Creation, Delivery and Management for Consumers

I collaborative via any device with context, harness information on-the-fly and drive outcomes

BI 3.0 will focus on collaborative workgroups which are self-regulated (therefore self-governing in data management terms – think Wikipedia for Information assets) and, which focus on information outcomes within the confines of core business interactions with customers, employees, regulators and third-parties.

Invariably, the user interfaces will need to be socially-orientated with a focus on virtual teams of business consumers and information management practitioners.

These ‘social workgroups’ will be armed with information context not only to source, manipulate and analyse the right data at the right time but, will be able to remediate issues within the process directly with the subject matter expertise required for a given issue or challenge.

In short, this should commence the release of ‘knowledge worker’ from the shackles of data complexity and inavailability.  IT’s role and expertise will become the ‘catalyst’ for a business-outcome driven collaborative workgroup, rather than the bottleneck.

To achieve this aim, the new toolsets will need to be ubiquitous across devices, will need to hold people, process and
data relationships within their design (semantics covering information context) and, will need to increasingly shield the business consumer from the complexity of the cloud and underlying systems.

A tall order but not beyond the realms of possibility if attacked with the right combination of emerging technologies, approach and business information thought-leadership.

So what is needed now to evolve to BI 3.0?

In short, BI 3.0 needs a Big Data foundation, needs to be both social and collaborative in nature and, will rely heavily on the simplification of access to, and management of, data inside and outside the organisation.

This constitutes the Big data challenge and, it poses interesting questions on how modern information strategy and delivery will need to change over the next few years.

In terms of technology platforms, they will need to increasing think of ‘mobile-application-like’ user interfaces and user experiences that are highly focused and yet loosely coupled in nature (and therefore more adaptable).

The data foundations will need to be incredibly scalable and, will require a ‘semantic veneer of simplicity‘ on which data insight and collaboration can be achieved.  Data provisioning will need to subscribe to  ‘a connector for anything’  mindset (think a Salesforce-like BI eco-system).

In short, think agile, mashups, social, semantic and collaboration rather than waterfall, complex-joins, technical, data model and ‘IT vs Business dependencies’ and, we should be nearer what this might feel like to the empowered consumer.

The challenge for the CIO in 2013 and beyond is not how to control information assets but how to release them…..

The largest change is possibly that the BI 3.0 paradigm will challenge our virtues on both data strategy and, on data management and control. Complex structured data modelling and enterprise BI schemas are firmly BI 2.0 and DW 2.0 concepts.

The new BI platforms will need to be self-regulated where the context, quality and applicability of the information is collectively managed to service the business outcome at hand.

My next blogs will look at the concepts of the ‘Big Data Warehouse’ and ‘Big Master Data’ and what that may imply as key foundations to the to the current BI 3.0 aspiration.

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