The explosion of information from across the Web, from mobile devices, inside of social networks, and from the extended business processes that organizations are now employing, all provide an opportunity, but they also provide a challenge.
This information can play a critical role in allowing organizations to gather and refine analytics into new market strategies, better buying decisions, and to be the first into new business development opportunities. The challenge is in getting at these Web data services and bringing them into play with existing BI (business intelligence) tools and traditional data sets.
So, what are Web data services and how can they be acquired? Furthermore, what is the future of BI when these extended data sources are made into strong components of the forecasts and analytics that enterprises need to survive the recession and also to best exploit the growth that follows?
Here to help us explain the benefits of Web data services and BI is Howard Dresner, president and founder of Dresner Advisory Services. We’re also joined by Ron Yu, vice president of marketing at Kapow Technologies.
Listen to the podcast (33:11 minutes).
Howard, let me start with you. We’ve certainly heard a lot about BI over the past several years. There’s a very strong trend, and lots of investments are being made. How does this, in fact, help companies during the downturn that we are unfortunately still in and then prepare for an upside?
Howard Dresner: BI is really about empowering end users, as well as their respective organizations, with insight, the ability to develop perspective. In a downturn, what better time is there to have some understanding of some of the forces that are driving the business?
Of course, it’s always useful to have the benefit of insight and perspective, even in good times. But, it tends to go from being more outward-focused during good times, focused on markets and acquiring customers and so forth, to being more introspective or internally focused during the bad times, understanding efficiencies and how one can be more productive.
So, BI always has merit, and in a downturn it’s even more relevant, because we are really less tolerant of being able to make mistakes. We have to execute with even greater precision, and that’s really what BI helps us do.
Dana Gardner: Well, if we’re looking either internally at our situation or externally at our opportunities, the more information we have at our disposal the stronger our analytical return.
Dresner: Certainly, one would hope so. If you’re trying to develop perspective, bringing as much relevant data or information to bear is a valuable thing to do. A lot of organizations focus just on lots of information. I think that you need to focus on the right information to help the organization and individuals carry out the mission of that organization.
Gardner: And that crucial definition of “right information” has changed or is a moving target. How do you keep track of what’s the right stuff?
Dresner: It is a moving target, because the world continues to evolve. There are lots of information sources. When I first started covering this beat 20 years ago, the available information was largely just internal stores, corporate stores, or databases of information. Now, a lot of the information that ought to be used, and in many cases, is being used, is not just internal information, but is external as well.
There are syndicated sources, but also the entire World Wide Web, where we can learn about our customers and our competitors, as well as a whole host of sources that ought to considered, if we want to be effective in pursuing new markets or even serving our existing customers.
Gardner: Ron Yu, we’ve certainly seen an increase in business processes that are now developed from components beyond just a packaged application set. We’ve seen a mixture of Web, mobile, and other end points being brought to bear on how people interact with their businesses and these processes.
Give me a sense on the extended scope of BI and how do we get at what is now part and parcel with the extended enterprises.
Ron Yu: I fully agree with Howard. It’s all about the right data and, given the current global and market conditions, enterprises have cut really deep — from the line of business, but also into the IT organizations. However, they’re still challenged with ways to drive more efficiencies, while also trying to innovate.
The challenges that are being presented are monumental where traditional BI methods and tools are really providing powerful analytical capabilities. At the same time, they’re increasingly constrained by limited access to not only relevant data, but how to get timely access to data.
What we see are pockets of departmental use cases, where marketing departments and product managers are starting to look outside in public data sources to bring in valuable information, so they can find out how the products and services are doing in the market.
Gardner: Howard, we began this discussion with a lofty goal of defining the future of BI. I wonder if you think that the innovation to come from BI activities is a function of the analytics engine or the tools, or is it a function of getting at more, but relevant, information and bringing that to bear.
Dresner: It’s an interesting question. One of the things that I focus upon in my second book, which is about to be published next month, is performance-directed culture and the underpinning or the substrate of a performance-directed culture. I won’t go into great detail right now, but it has to do with common trust in the information and the availability and currency of the information, as a way to help the organization align with the mission.
The future of BI is not just about the tools and technology. It’s great to have tools and technology. I certainly am a fan of technology, being somewhat of a gadget fiend, but that’s not going to solve your organization’s problems and it’s not going to help them align with the mission.
What is going to help them align with the mission is making sure that they have timely, relevant, and complete information, as well as the proper culture to help them support the mission of the enterprise.
Having all the gadgetry is great. Certainly, making the tools more intuitive is a useful and worthwhile thing to do, but it’s only as good as the underlying content and insight to support those end users. The future is about focusing on the information and those insights that can empower the individuals, their respective departments, and the enterprise to stay aligned with the mission of that organization.
Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, which tracks trends, delivers forecasts and interprets the competitive landscape of enterprise applications and software infrastructure markets for clients. He also produces BriefingsDirect sponsored podcasts. Follow Dana Gardner on Twitter. Disclosure: Kapow Technologies sponsored this podcast.