I’m currently at the TDWI Conference in San Diego with several members of the @AdaptivePlans team. And within all the lively discussions and genuinely educational sessions, the conclusion remains steady: There has never been a greater need for analytics.
The conference theme is “The Agile Enterprise” – accelerating teams, faster data warehousing, efficient analytics. The consensus here is that Business Intelligence needs to move faster because businesses are moving faster. And BI can’t succeed if business users can’t get the metrics they need, when they need it. They’ll fall back to “old-faithful” – the common garden spreadsheet. And that BI tool will end up on the shelf.
Data warehouse projects are regularly taking 18+ months for businesses to complete. Often by that time, business requirements have changed. BI projects are notorious for being slow to deploy, and even slower to meet end-user ongoing analytic requirements. Tools like SAP Business Objects, SAP Cognos, and Oracle Hyperion (etc.) have become too complicated to keep pace. They’ve evolved into complex beasts.
It’s interesting. When the aforementioned tools were first developed in the 90’s they were focused firmly on business users. They were built for departments to quickly get the reports they needed without worrying about IT. They could buy licenses, install the software on a server, and create reports. The solutions were easy to deploy. They increased productivity. So business users bought more and deployed more of them.
Fast forward 20 years later. These products are now firmly in the hands of IT. They’ve just become large and unwieldy – multiple administration consoles, application servers, additional modules, patches, etc. Business users want a level of agility that these legacy tools cannot offer. It really is the epitome of the Innovators Dilemma.
I spoke with one IT executive at a large financial services company here at the conference. He mentioned already having Oracle Business Intelligence, and a bunch of other BI tools. There was limited adoption, limited success. Why?
Business users had taken a different road, independently. They were moving faster than IT would enable them to, and they. wanted to analyze and discover data 100% on their own. Over 500 users were already working with business-focused, self-service tools like Tableau and Adaptive Discovery. The result? There was much greater adoption compared to traditional BI, and they all basically went “viral”. Now that’s really agile.
The secret is to give business users real ease of use and real self-service. It’s the same way the original BI tools from Cognos, Brio, Applix, Hyperion, and Business Objects were developed. At some point, those solutions lost sight of the real users. People without Degrees in Computer Science.
It’s time for a new generation of BI that gets back to basics and helps business users get analytics on their own, when they need them.