Gartner BI Summit: Business intelligence benefits lie in orchestration

The Gartner Business Intelligence Summit opened with a message to organizations: To reap the rewards of BI, you have to ensure that everyone is playing the same tune.

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LOS ANGELES – Less than a 50% satisfaction rating. That was the sobering statistic that came out of the Gartner Business Intelligence Summit’s keynote address here Monday morning.

The speech and the statistic were delivered by Gartner Inc. analyst Bill Hostmann, who said that while the business intelligence software market reached $10.5 billion in revenue last year, many of the users on the receiving end aren’t very happy with the results they’re getting from their BI systems.

“When I ask for you to go out to what I call the thinkers and deciders inside your organization and do a survey of what their level of satisfaction is with respect to the timeliness, the accuracy, the relevancy and the consistency of the information and analysis they get, the typical scores that come back are about a 4.5 on a scale of 1 to 10,” said Hostmann. “I find that to be phenomenal.”

In his speech, Hostmann tried to answer the fundamental question of how to “confront” that level of dissatisfaction and ensure that an organization is getting the promised business intelligence benefits.

His advice to conference-goers echoed what Gartner has been recommending at these conferences for years: Start small by creating a common data vocabulary, and then build what he called a “performance metrics framework” that incorporates BI, analytics and corporate performance management (CPM) tools and can tell users what is happening, why it’s happening and what will happen in the future.

Composing a strategy to achieve business intelligence benefits

Hostmann began his speech by asking this question: Can you tell the difference between a violin and a fiddle?

“For those of you who have played a violin or a fiddle, there are endless conversations about the differences – and those differences are very subtle,” he said.

Similarly, terminology alone can be a stumbling block on BI projects, Hostmann cautioned. He advised moving beyond the minutia of such differences and looking at the bigger picture of how musical instruments – or BI tools – fit together.

“You want to understand what they’re orchestrating,” he said. “So, what are we doing with these instruments? What kind of music are we trying to play?”

To help end users make better business decisions, organizations will need different kinds of analytics tools, ranging from diagnostic to descriptive and from predictive to prescriptive in nature, Hostmann said. He added that the various tools should piggyback off of each other as part of a unified BI architecture.

All the different pieces – from data management to performance management – need to be aligned and integrated with one another, according to Hostmann. Getting to that point may seem complicated, but creating a well-orchestrated process in which everyone in an organization is playing off of the same sheet music is the most viable way to produce tangible BI benefits, he said.

Find the gaps in your existing BI framework

For businesses that have yet to reach that point, Hostmann advised that they look at their current BI systems, deconstruct the various pieces and figure out what is needed to move forward. The idea, he said, is “to define your current state, to figure out and get agreement on where the gaps are and to define your future of BI.”

A key part of successful BI projects involves being able to cope with the amount of relevant data being generated both inside and outside of organizations nowadays, Hostmann said, pointing to “the volume and velocity of information” as a contributing factor in the relatively low user-satisfaction levels that he cited. When you’re building or expanding a BI system, it’s important to think about data management capabilities as well as scalability and adaptability, he said.

And don’t expect to see results overnight, Hostmann noted. Establishing the kind of BI framework that he described requires patience – and in many cases, whole new ways of thinking about BI and analytics.

“Organizations will say, ‘I have a bunch of information, but where do I use the information to make better decisions,’” Hostmann said. “I say turn it around. Start by looking at important business processes, at the important decisions, and by looking at the important information and the analysis that can be associated with those.”

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