Craft Your Future State BI Reference Architecture

Boris Evelson

In the face of rising data volume and complexity and increased need for self-service, enterprises need an effective business intelligence (BI) reference architecture to utilize BI as a key corporate asset for competitive differentiation. BI stakeholders — such as project managers, developers, data architects, enterprise architects, database administrators, and data quality specialists — may find the myriad choices and constant influx of new business requirements overwhelming. Forrester's BI reference architecture provides a framework with architectural patterns and building blocks to guide these BI stakeholders in managing BI strategy and architecture.

Enterprise information management (EIM) is complex — from a technical, organizational, and operational standpoint. But to business users, all that complexity is behind the scenes. What they need is BI, an interface to enterprise data — whether it's structured, semistructured, or unstructured. Our June 2011 Global Technology Trends Online Survey showed that BI topped even mobility — the frontrunner in recent years — as the technology most likely to provide business value over the next three years.

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BI Adoption In Asia Pacific: Four Factors To Consider

Michael Barnes

As John Brand and I recently wrote, business intelligence (BI) adoption drivers, technology understanding, and organizational process maturity continue to vary widely across Asia Pacific (AP). But there is one constant in this market: the regularity with which BI appears at or near the top of CIOs’ priority lists.

While the gap between global best practices and regional implementations is closing, social, cultural, economic, and underlying technology trends will continue to affect BI adoption in the region for the foreseeable future:

  • Social. The adoption of social computing is expanding rapidly across all AP markets, but is particularly strong in growth markets like China, Indonesia, and the Philippines. As in North America and Western Europe, this adoption is already having profound effects on how organizations identify, understand, and engage with customers and other market influencers. But the lack of significant BI investments means that organizations in these growth markets are far more likely to consider issues like sentiment analysis, predictive analytics, and near real-time data access when sourcing initial BI projects.
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Navigating How To Win With US Banking Customers

Gina Fleming

Recently, Forrester released a report entitled “What Drives Retention and Sales In US Banking?” that tackles this question from the consumer point of view. Using regression analysis, we uncover how these drivers vary for acquisition, retention, and cross-selling in US retail banking.

What did we find? For one thing, consumers value trustworthiness from a bank above all else for both sales and retention. This comes as no surprise to us; with so many financial institutions to choose from, consumers want to do business with a bank that they trust. This finding also supports the key theme that Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine focus on in their recent book, Outside In: Treating your customers well and providing them with a positive customer experience pays off.

The graphic below shows the drivers of retention for the US retail banking customers: The perception of trustworthiness is off the charts as a driver of retention, and offering good customer service is the second-most influential driver. What our analysis shows to not impact retention — and even shows a negative relationship with retention — is having low APR and many locations.

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Big Data At Business School

Mike Gualtieri

Every year the Center For Digital Strategies at Tuck chooses a technology topic to "provide MBA candidates and the Tuck and Darthmouth communities with insights into how changes in technology affect individuals, impact enterprises and reshape industries." This academic year the topic is "Big Data: The Information Explosion That Will Reshape Our World". I had the honor and privilege to kick off the series about big data at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. I am thrilled that our future business leaders are considering how big data can help companies, communities, and government make smarter decisions and provide better customer experiences. The combination of big data and predictive analytics is already changing the world. Below is the edited video of my talk on big data predictive analytics at Tuck in Hanover, NH. 

Mike Gualtieri, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research

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What Do BI Vendors Mean When They Say They Integrate With Hadoop

Boris Evelson

There's certainly a lot of hype out there about big data. As I previously wrote, some of it is indeed hype, but there are still many legitimate big data cases - I saw a great example during my last business trip. Hadoop certainly plays a key role in the big data revolution, so all business intelligence (BI) vendors are jumping on the bandwagon and saying that they integrate with Hadoop. But what does that really mean? First of all, Hadoop is not a single entity; it's a conglomeration of multiple projects, each addressing a certain niche within the Hadoop ecosystem, such as data access, data integration, DBMS, system management, reporting, analytics, data exploration, and much much more. To lift the veil of hype, I recommend that you ask your BI vendors the following questions

  1. Which specific Hadoop projects do you integrate with (HDFS, Hive, HBase, Pig, Sqoop, and many others)?
  2. Do you work with the community edition software or with commercial distributions from MapR, EMC/Greenplum, Hortonworks, or Cloudera? Have these vendors certified your Hadoop implementations?
  3. Do you have tools, utilities to help the client data into Hadoop in the first place (see comment from Birst)?
  4. Are you querying Hadoop data directly from your BI tools (reports, dashboards) or are you ingesting Hadoop data into your own DBMS? If the latter:
    1. Are you selecting Hadoop result sets using Hive?
    2. Are you ingesting Hadoop data using Sqoop?
    3. Is your ETL generating and pushing down Map Reduce jobs to Hadoop? Are you generating Pig scripts?
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BI In Russia And Israel

Boris Evelson

I recently had both the privilege and pleasure to do a deep dive into the cold and warm BI waters in Russia and Israel. Cold - because some of my experiences were sobering. Warm - because the reception could not have been more pleasant. My presentations were well attended (sponsored by www.in4media.ru in Russia and www.matrix.co.il in Israel), showing high levels of BI interest, adoption, experience, and expertise.  Challenges remain the same, as Russian and Israeli businesses struggle with BI governance, ownership, SDLC and PMO methodologies, data, and app integration just like the rest of the world. I spent long evening hours with a large global company in Israel that grew rapidly by M&A and is struggling with multiple strategic challenges: centralize or localize BI, vendor selection, end user empowerment, etc. Sound familiar?

But it was not all business as usual. A few interesting regional peculiarities did come out. For example, the "BI as a key competitive differentiator" message fell on mostly deaf ears in Russia, as Russian companies don't really compete against each other. Territories, brands, markets, and spheres of influence are handed top down from the government or negotiated in high-level deals behind closed doors. That is not to say, however, that BI in Russia is only used for reporting - multiple businesses are pushing BI to the limits such as advanced customer segmentation for better upsell/cross-sell rates. 

I was also pleasantly surprised and impressed a few times (and for those of you who know me well, you know that it's pretty hard to impress the old veteran):

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The Changing Landscape Of Data Visualization Requires A Radical New Approach

In a recent media interview I was asked about whether the requirements for data visualization had changed. The questions were focused around whether users are still satisfied with dashboards, graphs and charts or do they have new needs, demands and expectations.

Arguably, Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics were probably the first real "commercial" examples of data visualization (though many people before the Egyptians also used the same approach — but more often as a general communications tool). Since then, visualization of data has certainly always been both a popular and important topic. For example, Florence Nightingale changed the course of healthcare with a single compelling polar area chart on the causes of death during the Crimean War. 

In looking at this question of how and why data visualization might be changing, I identified at least 5 major triggers. Namely:

  • Increasing volumes of data. It's no surprise that we now have to process much larger volumes of data. But this also impacts the ways we need to represent it. The volume of data stimulates new forms of visualization tools. While not all of these tools are new (strictly speaking), they have at least begun to find a much broader audience as we find the need to communicate much more information much more rapidly. Time walling and infographics are just two approaches that are not necessarily all that new but they have attracted much greater usage as a direct result of the increasing volume of data.
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What Does R Integration Really Mean For BI Platforms?

Boris Evelson

I just received yet another call from a reporter asking me to comment on yet another BI vendor announcing R integration. All leading BI vendors are embedding/integrating with R these days, so I was not sure what was really new in the announcement. I guess the real question is the level of integration. For example:

  • Since R is a scripting language, does a BI vendor provide point-and-click GUI to generate R code?
  • Can R routines leverage and take advantage of all of the BI metadata (data structures, definitions, etc.) without having to redefine it again just for R?
  • How easily can the output from R calculations (scores, rankings) be embedded in the BI reports and dashboards? Do the new scores just become automagically available for BI reports, or does somebody need to add them to BI data stores and metadata?
  • Can the BI vendor import/export R models based on PMML?
  • Is it a general R integration, or are there prebuilt vertical (industry specific) or domain (finance, HR, supply chain, risk, etc) metrics as part of a solution?
  • What server are R models executed in? Reporting server? Database server? Their own server?
  • Then there's the whole business of model design, management, and execution, which is usually the realm of advanced analytics platforms. How much of these capabilities does the BI vendor provide?

Did I get that right? Any other features/capabilities that really distinguish one BI/R integration from another? Really interested in hearing your comments.

The State Of Customer Analytics 2012

Srividya Sridharan

I’m excited to announce that our new research on how firms use customer analytics was just published today.  The new research reveals some interesting findings:

  • Customer analytics serves the customer lifecycle , but measurement is restricted to marketing activities. While customer analytics continues to drive acquisition and retention goals, firms continue to measure success of customer analytics using easy-to-track marketing metrics as opposed to deeper profitability or engagement measures.
  • Finding the right analytics talent remains challenging . It’s not the just the data. It’s not the just technology that hinders analytics success.  It’s the analytical skills required to use the data in creative ways, ask the right questions of the data, and use technology as a key enabler to advance sophistication in analytics.  We’ve talked about how customer intelligence (CI) professionals need a new breed of marketing scientist to elevate the consumption of customer analytics.
  • CI professionals are keen to use predictive analytics in customer-focused applications,  Forty percent of respondents to our Global Customer Analytics Adoption Survey  tell us that they have been using predictive analytics for less than three years, while more than 70% of respondents have been using descriptive analytics and BI-type reporting for more than 10 years. CI professionals have not yet fully leveraged the strengths of predictive analytics customer applications.
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COTS Vs. Home-Grown BI Apps

Boris Evelson

Wanted to run the following two questions and my answers by the community:

Q. What is the average age of reporting applications at large enterprises?

A. Reporting apps typically involve source data integration, data models, metrics, reports, dashboards, and queries. I'd rate the longevity of these in descending order (data sources being most stable and queries changing all the time).

Q. What is the percentage of reporting applications that are homegrown versus custom built?

A. These are by no means solid data points but rather my off-the-cuff – albeit educated - guesses:

  • The majority (let's say >50%) of reports are still being built in Excel and Access.
  • Very few (let's say <10%) are done in non-BI-specific environments (programming languages).
  • The other 40% I'd split 50/50 between:
    • off-the-shelf reports and dashboards built into ERP or BI apps,
    • and custom-coded in BI tools

Needless to say, this differs greatly by industry and business domain. Thoughts?