Posted by: pauditore | March 20, 2013

Enterprise Business Intelligence


Our society has evolved into an analytic one, it seems like everything we do revolves around some kind of analysis, whether it’s baseball statistics and predictions or the analysis of the recent debates. Analysis can also lead to what I call “analysis paralysis” and unfortunately much of our analysis, especially that of the “analysts” is rear view mirror. Now there is big data, which will drive the creation and innovation of analytical tools and interfaces to new levels of visualization especially on the plethora of new innovative mobile devices that are overwhelming the market.

The business intelligence market defies the laws of technology market evolution where several large vendors normally dominate the landscape holding 70-80% market share within a ten year or so period. The business intelligence market is like the energizer bunny, it keeps going (innovating) and going (innovating) and seems like it will never stop. We have all read Geoff Moore’s famous high tech marketing  book, Crossing the Chasm and remember the maturity bell curve, but the BI market in many ways has not followed this pattern. In the last ten years a number of new vendors have come to market all with new semantic layers that appeal to business users that are frustrated with information technology departments, and also the difficult and non-intuitive user interfaces of legacy business intelligence analytical tools.

This special interest group was graciously hosted by Agilent Technologies and Method 360, a local BI services integrator. Several case studies of business intelligence and data warehouse implementations were discussed and the most interesting insights were presented by Intuitive Surgical a local robotics company.

During the course of this meeting guest speakers focused on:

  • Enterprise wide business intelligence implementations and issues associated with delivering BI tools to a wide spectrum of business users.
  • Developing and implementing an open source BI implementation.
  • And the state of Social Media monitoring and business intelligence.

Intuitive Surgical provided the group with excellent insights into the challenges they encountered when deploying enterprise wide analytical (mostly query and reporting) business intelligence tools.  Their hope was to deliver self- service business intelligence to approximately 1200 users in the organization and classified non-IT users or line of business users as “super users.” IT developed the data models and extracted the data from relevant data sources for business analysis. During the first phase they asked business how many employees wanted to be “super users” and had an overwhelming response.  Their hope was that self-serve BI would allow users to do analysis without going to the IT department; it didn’t work out that way.

They ran into an interesting set of challenges in this effort and learned quickly from that not everyone is a scientist and has an analytical mind. This is not surprising because business intelligence tools are statistical in nature and many users have no clue about data models, ETL tools and/or universes.

Key insights from the enterprise-wide BI implementation

  • Ended up with a proliferation of redundant data sets and redundant universes that exceeded 200.
  • Ended up with the wrong people, with what they called the wrong aptitude, not everyone was a “Super User.”
  • Many of the infrequent report writers didn’t develop the skills because they weren’t using the tools frequently enough.
  • User’s blamed the current BI tool from SAP-Business Objects and looked at other tools like Tableau.
  • They needed an easy to understand abstract layer and a common terminology across data sets.
  • Advanced Excel users where more likely to successfully become a super users


In learning from their initial approach of classifying everyone as a super user the IT team decided to divide “super users” into distinctive groups depending on their knowledge and use patterns:

  • Guru
  • Expert
  • Super User
  • Consumer

This was well received and enabled the IT department to better serve and train business users.  Business intelligence tools have been inherently difficult to use since the early days of SAS and SPSS, two of the early computer software programs that we used at Woods Hole in doing statistical analysis of oceanographic data and fisheries populations dynamics for example; but then again we were all scientists and accustomed to the rigors of the scientific method.

In summary, not everyone is an analyst and/or thinks like a scientist with a statistical view and perception of reality.  This is a primary reason that the new wave of BI tools, like Clickview, Pentaho, Pivotlink, Tableau, RoamBI, Yellowfin and others has resonated with the line of business community and beyond traditional business analysts.  As the world moves to mobile BI interfaces and ease of use will become even more paramount. Until next time I wish you great selling and marketing in the millennium.



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