A quick look back from Gartner BI Amsterdam

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Recently, the European leg of Gartner's BI Summit series wrapped up Amsterdam. With the crazy pace of vendor consolidation and the release of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for BI Platforms Q1 2008 on the Friday prior to the conference, everyone wanted to hear what the folks had to say about this super-crazy market we are in (and love).

Basically no big surprises at all and I'll provide some quick bullets:

1) There are four BI mega vendors (OMG!) building out stacks that were incomplete
2) Companies like SAS and other non “MEGA” vendors will drive innovation
3) Performance management and BI are converging
4) Operational embedded BI growing

That pretty much summarizes the conference’s session kick off last week but in reality these themes ran through all three days.

The second keynote of the conference's first day was from a McKinsey partner, Janaki Akella. Actually McKinsey and Gartner collaborated on several sessions in the program - and a couple of those sessions were interesting. Her presentation "The Top CEO Priorities - how BI can Help" had some salient points.

A CEO's role is value creation and to run the company. IT is most comfortable with the data and what is capable from the data to drive the business. (Here's the part I love)... bits and bites convert to information, information into insights, insights into knowledge and knowledge into VALUE. How has IT helped drive that value? Akella shared some interesting historical performance info.

The largest 150 US companies have seen revenues per employee increase by over 11% in the past 20 years. This runs amuck of the typical economist view that large companies = greater complexity = decreased productivity per employee. Thus the advent of more knowledge workers and the technology to make them more productive has resulted in a disproportionate value of knowledge workers relative to revenue per employee. By 1990, revenue per employee was 3x what it was in 1970.

This leads to a different paradigm that I felt Akella did a great job explaining. No longer is it "the brain at the top" thinking and expecting workers downstream to execute. Now organizations have "the brains in the ecosystem" where workers, not just executives, are creating value and not just executing. So how do you continue to increase productivity and incorporate new collaboration tools for workers whose interactions are transforming the organization?

IT must align with the business objectives and provide the ability for knowledge workers to use data to drive the insights and value. Four dimensions are involved in this process: organizational performance and mindset, decision making process, information sources and the technology & tools to enable it.

Akella provided many examples of the types of questions that organizations need to answer - suggesting next purchase, predicting manufacturing component failure, optimizing supply chain, etc. But key to this is looking at data being used as a predictor. Is your organization willing to experiment - to do it, fix it and try again in a reiterative fashion to improve fact based decision making - to look forward, not backward.

Of course that last bit works well for SAS and we are strong advocates of the forward thinking view and supporting any organization that needs to glean predictive insights. For a great base line on how folks are using analytics to compete , to differentiate, check this out.
The major fun started in the next session as the Premier Sponsors of the conference, IBM, Cognos, BOBJ and HP, participated in a panel moderated by two Gartner analysts.

There were some feisty exchanges especially regarding integration. When asked about the impact of integration Cognos said there were no issues because there is no overlap between the two organizations or "zero overlap, pure innovation". Business Objects focused on that statement for clarification and that was really fair.

Telling an audience of BI professionals that there is no overlap, no integration issues gave me pause. We know there are issues so just recognize it without telling me a bundle of existing non-integrated products and offerings equate to problem solved. IBM and Cognos said they had been "dating a long time" so this was very well planned and integrated.

Marriage is different than dating – all of a sudden I care a great deal about the little things when you start sharing a permanent habitat with me…

I just hope customers don’t get caught in the marital cross fire.

So on to the Chicago event. SAS will be there and I hope to hear more at that event about ….

  • Quantifying the TCO, investment considerations and risks for these very expensive BI and PM initiatives.
  • Assessing the real multi- faceted market picture – not just mega vendor fever.
  • Competing on analytics that allow organizations to actually predict, optimize and act on what WILL happen NEXT February…. not just year to date comparisons on a dashboard.
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Tammi Kay George

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