Business intelligence (BI) refers to technologies, applications and practices for the collection, integration, analysis, and presentation of business information and sometimes to the information itself.
BI systems provide historical, current, and predictive views of business operations, most often using data that has been gathered into a data warehouse or a data mart and occasionally working from operational data. Software elements support the use of this information by assisting in the extraction, analysis, and reporting of information.
I’m wayyyyyyy overdue in getting my blurb published about my attendance at the Microsoft BI Conference. Thousands have already beat me to it but, nevertheless, below is my summary.
Technology takeaways from the 2008 Microsoft Business Intelligence Conference:
- Project Gemini. Microsoft’s “self service” analytical capabilities that add significant data processing and analytical power to the Excel client experience. Gemini reflects Microsoft’s ongoing efforts to surface integrated BI capabilities to users in a natural manner where users aren’t always aware they’re working with, or doing, BI. Also part of Gemini is the ability to publish the resulting cube to a “Gemini enabled” SharePoint library for sharing, social-style interaction, and performance and usage analysis. This is a significant development along the road of mining those important ad-hoc Excel data analysis sheets that breed and spread like bacteria across an organization. And, with Gemini, they are mined in a very non-intrusive manner.
- SQL Server Kilimanjaro. The next release of SQL Server slated for delivery during the first half of 2010. Kilimanjaro will include Gemini and self-service reporting. Self-service reporting is all about giving workgroups/teams the ability to self-service their reporting needs and to provision security for their reports. Sharing report components, “mashing up” reports, and getting notified about changes to shared components, are part of the self-service reporting initiative.
- Project Madison. Advanced data warehousing capabilities via the integration of DATAllegro’s technology into SQL Server. (DATAllegro is a recent Microsoft acquisition.) Project Madison will allow SQL Server to scale to 100s of terabytes of data with, it is claimed, exceptional data loading and query performance.
- The Microsoft Master Data Management (MDM) stack. Microsoft envision an integrated MDM stack to include an MDM application platform and domain-specific MDM solutions provided by partners. The plan is to ship the MDM platform as part of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server. A working product is expected for next year’s Business Intelligence Conference.
A couple of non-technology takeaways:
- Requirements for successful business intelligence and performance management solutions:
> A culture of performance.
> A culture driven by business value.
> A culture of continuous improvement.
> Incremental delivery.
This really isn’t a takeaway at all because it’s just common sense. Still, many organizations fail to successfully deliver their BI and performance management initiatives (and many other types of IT projects) due to cultural issues. In many cases blame is heaped on the technology or the technologists. Inevitably, properly conducted project retrospectives will highlight that certain leaders, stakeholders and consultants are accountable for not prioritizing their focus on the business climate and business drivers. Without a wide spread cultural shift in support of change (backed, of course, by sound business cases), most projects will fail.
- The importance of deploying your performance management solution to your partner ecosystem to support those that contribute to your bottom line. This speaks to the concept of pervasive performance management which is “enterprise-wide, enterprise deep, and outside-in, and includes unstructured data which is becoming an important component of the BI puzzle“.