While Social Business continued to evolve in 2012, 2013 will see the emergence of digital business as a new strategic theme for many firms. What's driving this shift and what does it mean for CIOs, CEOs, and chief digital officers?
The Communications Evolution
Communications continue to evolve. Consider how humans have transformed communications over the centuries: signal fires; semaphore; Morse code; the telegraph; the telephone; telex; fax; email; SMS; Facebook; and Twitter. I have no doubt that this evolution will continue in 2013 and beyond. Perhaps beyond 2013 we will eventually achieve the ability to communicate our thoughts directly — whether we’ll want to is a different question. As people the world over learn to use new social networking tools, they drop older tools that are no longer useful to them. Regardless of where you are in your personal communications evolution, the undeniable truth is that over the past decade we have significantly changed how people communicate; we are no longer dependent upon email. But social tools and 24/7 mobile access have not removed the complexity or decreased the volume of information we must process. Time remains our most precious resource and we’ll always seek ways to use it more effectively — but social tools are not necessarily the silver bullet we might think. In 2013 we need to rethink business processes to take this new communications paradigm into account.
Rowan Curran, Research Associate and TechnoPolitics producer, hosts this episode to ask me (your regular host) about The Pragmatic Definition Of Big Data. Listen (5 mins) to hear the genesis of this new definition of big data and why it is pragmatic and actionable for both business and IT professionals.
Podcast: The Pragmatic Definition Of Big Data Explained (5 mins)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Which specific Hadoop projects do you integrate with (HDFS, Hive, HBase, Pig, Sqoop, and many others)?
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?
Do you have tools, utilities to help the client data into Hadoop in the first place (see comment from Birst)?
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:
Are you selecting Hadoop result sets using Hive?
Are you ingesting Hadoop data using Sqoop?
Is your ETL generating and pushing down Map Reduce jobs to Hadoop? Are you generating Pig scripts?
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):
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.
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.