When it comes to data technology, are you lost in translation? What's the difference between data federation, virtualization, and data or information-as-a-service? Are columnar databases also relational? Does one use the same or different tools for BAM (Business Activity Monitoring) and for CEP (Complex Event Processing)? These questions are just the tip of the iceberg of a plethora of terms and definitions in the rich and complex world of enterprise data and information. Enterprise application developers, data, and information architects manage multiple challenges on a daily basis already, and the last thing they need to deal with are misunderstandings of the various data technology component definitions.
The battle over customer versus internal business processes requirements and priorities has been fought — and the internal processes lost. Game over. Customers are now empowered with mobile devices and ubiquitous cloud-based all-but-unlimited access to information about products, services, and prices. Customer stickiness is extremely difficult to achieve as customers demand instant gratification of their ever changing needs, tastes, and requirements, while switching vendors is just a matter of clicking a few keys on a mobile phone. Forrester calls this phenomenon the age of the customer. The age of the customer elevates business and technology priorities to achieve:
Business agility. Forrester consistently finds one common thread running through the profile of successful organizations — the ability to manage change. In the age of the customer, business agility often equals the ability to adopt, react, and succeed in the midst of an unending fountain of customer driven requirements. Forrester sees agile organizations making decisions differently by embracing a new, more grass-roots-based management approach. Employees down in the trenches, in individual business units, are the ones who are in close touch with customer problems, market shifts, and process inefficiencies. These workers are often in the best position to understand challenges and opportunities and to make decisions to improve the business. It is only when responses to change come from within, from these highly aware and empowered employees, that enterprises become agile, competitive, and successful.
BI is no longer a nice-to-have back-office application that counts widgets — it is now used as a key competitive differentiator by all leading organizations. For decades, most of the BI business cases were based on intangible benefits, but these days are over — today 41% of professionals, with knowledge of their firm's business case, base their business case on tangible benefits, like an increased margin or profitability. As a result, BI is front and center of most enterprise agendas, with North American data and analytics technology decision-makers who know their firm's technology budget telling Forrester in 2014 that 15% of their technology management budget will go toward BI-related purchases, initiatives, and projects.
But taking advantage of this trend by deploying a single centralized BI platform is easier said than done at most organizations. Legacy platforms, mergers and acquisitions (M&A), BI embedded into enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications, and organizational silos are just a few reasons why no large organization out there has a single enterprise BI platform. Anecdotal evidence shows that most enterprises have three or more enterprise BI platforms and many more shadow IT BI platforms.
“Business Intelligence in the cloud? You’ve got to be joking!” That’s the response I got when I recently asked a client whether they’d considered availing themselves of a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution to meet a particular BI need. Well, I wasn’t joking. There are many scenarios when it makes sense to turn to the cloud for a BI solution, and increasing numbers of organizations are indeed doing so. Indications are also that companies are taking a pragmatic approach to cloud BI, headlines to the contrary notwithstanding. Forrester has found that:
· Less than one third of organizations have no plans for cloud BI. When we asked respondents in our Forrsights Software Survey Q4 2013 whether they were using SaaS BI in the cloud, or were intending to do so, not even one third declared that they had no plans. Of the rest, 34% were already using cloud BI, and 31% had cloud in their BI plans for the next two years. But it’s not a case of either/or: the majority of those who’ve either already adopted cloud BI or are intending to do so are using the SaaS system to complement their existing BI and analytics capabilities. Still, it’s worth noting that 12% of survey respondents had already replaced most or all or their existing BI systems with SaaS, and a further 16% were intending to do so.
Since Tibco acquired Jaspersoft on April 28th, 2014, I keep being asked the question: “Will this deal change the BI and analytics landscape?” (If you missed the announcement, here’s the press release.)
The short answer is: it could. The longer answer goes something like this: Jaspersoft and Tibco Spotfire complement each other nicely; Jaspersoft brings ETL and embedded BI to the table, whereas Spotfire has superior data analysis, discovery, and visualization capabilities. Jaspersoft’s open source business model provides Tibco with a different path to market, and Jaspersoft can benefit from Tibco’s corporate relationships and sales infrastructure. And with its utility-based cloud service, Jaspersoft also adds another option to Spotfire’s SaaS BI offering.
But that’s only the narrow view: once you take into consideration Tibco’s history (the hint’s in the name - “The Information Bus Company”) and the more recent string of acquisitions, a much larger potential story emerges. Starting with Spotfire in 2007, Tibco has assembled a powerful set of capabilities, including (but not limited to) analytics, data management, event processing, and related technologies such as customer loyalty management and mapping. If Tibco manages to leverage all of its assets in a way that provides enterprises with a flexible and agile integrated platform that helps them turn their data into actionable information, it will be a powerful new force that has the potential of changing enterprise BI platforms market.
To get there, Tibco has a number of challenges to address. On a tactical basis, it’s all about making the Jaspersoft acquisition work:
Retaining the talent
Making it easy for clients and prospects to engage with both companies
Management consultants and business intelligence, analytics and big data system integrations often use the terms accelerators, blueprints, solutions, frameworks, and products to show off their industry and business domain (sales, marketing, finance, HR, etc) expertise, experience and specialization. Unfortunately, they often use these terms synonymously, while in pragmatic reality meanings vary quite widely. Here’s our pragmatic take on the tangible reality behind the terms (in the increasing order of comprehensiveness):
Fameworks. Often little more than a collection of best practices and lessons learned from multiple client engagements. These can sometimes shave off 5%-10% of a project time/effort mainly by enabling buyers to learn from the mistakes others already made and not repeating them.
Solution Accelerators. Aka Blueprints, these are usually a collection of deliverables, content and other artifacts from prior client engagements. Such artifacts could be in the form of data connectors, transformation logic, data models, metrics, reports and dashboards, but they are often little more than existing deliverables that can be cut/pasted or otherwise leveraged in a new client engagement. Similar to Frameworks, Solution Accelerators often come with a set of best practices. Solution Accelerators can help you hit the ground running and rather than starting from scratch, find yourself 10%-20% into a project.
Solutions. A step above Solution Accelerators, Solutions prepackage artifacts from prior client engagements, by cleansing and stripping them of proprietary content and/or irrelevant info. Count on shaving 20% to 30% off the effort.
To jump on this R feeding frenzy most leading BI vendors claim that they “integrate with R”, but what does that claim really mean? Our take on this – not all BI/R integration is created equal. When evaluating BI platforms for R integration, Forrester recommends considering the following integration capabilities:
The majority of large organizations have either already shifted away from using BI as just another back-office process and toward competing on BI-enabled information or are in the process of doing so. Businesses can no longer compete just on the cost, margins, or quality of their products and services in an increasingly commoditized global economy. Two kinds of companies will ultimately be more successful, prosperous, and profitable: 1) those with richer, more accurate information about their customers and products than their competitors and 2) those that have the same quality of information as their competitors but get it sooner. Forrester's Forrsights Strategy Spotlight: Business Intelligence And Big Data, Q4 2012 (we are currently fielding a 2014 update, stay tuned for the results) survey showed that enterprises that invest more in BI have higher growth.
The software industry recognized this trend decades ago, resulting in a market swarming with startups that appeared and (very often) found success faster than large vendors could acquire them. The market is still jam-packed and includes multiple dynamics such as (see more details here):
All ERP and software stack vendors offer leading BI platforms
. . . but there's also plenty of room for independent BI vendors
Departmental desktop BI tools aimed at business users are scaling up
Enterprise BI platform vendors are going after self-service use cases.
Cloud offers options to organizations that would rather not deal with BI stack complexity.
Hadoop is breathing new life into open source BI.
The line between BI software and services is blurring
Rather than going with the usual, ubiquitous, and often (yawn) repetitive “top 10 BI predictions” for the next year, we thought we’d try something different. After all, didn’t the cult movie Highlander prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that “in the end there will be only one”? And didn’t the Lord Of The Rings saga convince us that we need one prediction “to rule them all”? The proposed top BI prediction for 2014 rests on the following indisputable facts:
Business and IT are not aligned. Business and IT stakeholders still have a huge BI disconnect (after all these years — what a shocker!). This is not surprising. Business users mostly care about their requirements, which are driven by their roles and responsibilities, daily tasks, internal processes, and dealings with customers (who have neither patience nor interest in enterprises’ internal rules, policies, and processes). These requirements often trump IT goals and objectives to manage risk and security and be frugal and budget minded by standardizing, consolidating, and rationalizing platforms. Alas, these goals and objective often take business and IT in different directions.
Requirements are often lost in translation. Business and IT speak different languages. Business speaks in terms of customer satisfaction, improved top and bottom lines, whereas IT speaks in metrics (on a good day), star schemas, facts, and dimensions. Another consideration is that it’s human nature to say what we think others want to hear (yes, we all want our yearly bonus) versus what we really mean. My father, a retired psychiatrist, always taught me to pay less attention to what people say and pay more attention to what people actually do — quite handy and wise fatherly advice that often helps navigate corporate politics.