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Gartner BI Summit 2012 to take swipe at 'big data,' highlight BI basics

Gartner Inc. is getting ready to host its 10th annual Gartner BI Summit. Find out what you're likely to see and what sessions you shouldn't miss.

A telling example of the growth of the BI and analytics market can be found on the show floor of next week’s Gartner Business Intelligence (BI) Summit.

The top two tiers of vendor sponsors for the event are typical -- SAP, IBM, SAS, Microsoft and Oracle. Surprises, though, can be spotted further down the list among the tertiary-level sponsors.

“We have more sponsors than we budgeted for,” said Bill Gassman, chairman of the summit and a research director at Connecticut-based research group Gartner. “Some I’ve never even heard before.”

Gartner Business Intelligence Summit timeline

2011: Gartner BI Summit: Business intelligence benefits lie in orchestration

2010: Gartner analyst and users discussed new technology vs. old-school strategy

2009: While a priority for most businesses, Gartner looked at how BI was falling short

2008: Sessions at the summit investigated how to embed BI within business processes

2007: The summit’s keynote speech focused on redefining BI

Vendors like Actian, Appfluent and Datameer. They will take part in the exhibition portion of the 10th annual Gartner BI Summit, slated to get under way April 2 in Los Angeles. While he may not be able to describe what all 25 of the smaller sponsors do right now, Gassman believes their presence -- which account for almost twice the number of the premier sponsors -- is a sign that BI and analytics are in the midst of another wave of innovation.

“We had a big consolidation a few years ago where the more classic BI vendors got absorbed,” he said. “Now it’s as though the grass is growing again.”

In addition to the vendor exhibition, conference goers will have opportunities to attend a slew of analyst presentations on BI-specific topics and hear real-world examples from guest speakers.

Here’s a preview of what to expect from this year’s Gartner BI Summit.

Big buzzwords
A great deal of the innovation Gassman refers to is tethered to “big data.” The term has taken the vendor community and the industry by storm, building momentum in the last year. One of Gartner’s goals is to provide conference goers with a framework to help break down the big data market.

“We saw an article from a venture capital firm recommending that if a vendor put the word analytics into their prospectus, they could get twice the amount the money than if they didn’t. And if they included big data analytics, they could get 10 times the value,” Gassman said. “So everyone’s putting big data analytics into their company summary. We’re trying to debunk some of the buzz.”

Big data is becoming more commonplace, Gassman said, but it’s not the most popular BI and analytics term out there. Based on Gartner BI Summit literature and course descriptions, that distinction falls to the term analytics itself. Gassman said this was for two reasons: First, the language marks a divide between the BI team and business departments.

“When you dig into what it really means, business analytics is what the BI group won’t do for you,” Gassman said. “They don’t want to call that BI. Analytics has, instead, become the term.”

Second, BI tends to refer to reporting, a basic style of analysis, while analytics goes further into prediction, root cause and prescription.

Back to basics
When building the schedule around this year’s theme “Analytic excellence: Transforming data-driven decisions,” Gassman said the analysts thought about how the conference could meet what he describes as the three types of BI constituents: Enablers, or the classic BI team in charge of managing the platform and data quality; producers, or the business analysts who can tell stories with data; and decision makers.

“As more data becomes available, as processing capabilities become more capable, decisions are made with data rather than gut feel,” Gassman said. “That’s not a monopoly.”

BI and analytics are becoming increasingly pervasive and more readily available, leading to business analysts and the decision makers clamoring for more functionality.

“So many vendors teach their salespeople how to sell around IT,” Gassman said. “To solve a specific problem, that might be OK, but we still think businesses need to bring it back to the big picture on where to integrate data together. That’s what BI is all about.”

That’s why, Gassman said, Gartner wants to target its IT-oriented audience during the keynote address on how it can be more relevant, especially with trends like big data, cloud and mobile BI kicking around.

“You can’t survive with the old skills,” Gassman said. “It takes a sense of renovation.”

Case studies
The summit will also feature some sessions on real-world experiences with analytics.

Case study speakers include Mohammad Rifaie, vice president of enterprise information management for Royal Bank of Canada.

“He’s done what I didn’t think was possible,” Gassman said. “He’s created a data warehouse that is indeed an enterprise data warehouse and everything goes into it.”

Judah Phillips, senior director for global site and business analytics reporting at, will talk about creating value with global business analytics.

“He’s taken the digital exhaust of his business, which is basically an online headhunter or job site, and using that to help companies relocate or build a new facility based on the skills and salary demands in the area,” Gassman said.

Kiril Evtimov, director of business intelligence for eBay, will also speak on “extreme analytics.”

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