BI Experts: No Time for BI Complacency

Three catalysts that are changing BI and data warehousing.

One of the perks of being a professional involved with business intelligence, analytics, data warehousing, and related endeavors is that you never lack for reassurance about the importance of what you are doing. At least you shouldn't, because the cliché is true: Information is, indeed, the lifeblood of organizations as they try to accomplish ever more ambitious goals.

Companies are in an arms race to advance their abilities to access, analyze, and share information, including new external sources such as social media. Gone are the days when if you told family and friends what you did, they would look back at you confused. Today, they can read newspaper headlines about the role of data and companies that are thriving on data assets. Mention that you are a "data" -- especially "big data" -- professional now and you could find yourself the subject of a lively conversation.

With all this positive reinforcement, professionals have to guard against complacency. As everyone knows, change is the only constant when it comes to information technology. Professionals must keep up not only with changes in software and technologies but also with methods (such as agile), data governance, regulatory compliance, and user requirements for greater self-service.

Just as organizations need to revisit their objectives periodically to make sure they are still relevant, BI, analytics, and data warehousing professionals should check their skill sets to ensure they are prepared to meet evolving demands. Rapidly expanding implementation of mobile platforms, big data technologies such as Hadoop and MapReduce, and data virtualization -- to name just a few -- are shifting the ground beneath the feet of professionals in this industry.

It is with these thoughts in mind that I invite you to attend the TDWI World Conference coming up in Chicago, May 6 - 11. The conference theme is "Validating your BI/DW Direction" and we'll have thought-leadership keynotes and in-depth sessions to help you assess where you need to be with your skill set. There will be opportunities to learn about the latest methods, best practices, and technologies.

We're also excited about the TDWI Forum in Chicago on May 7 and 8. The theme of the Forum is "Cool BI: Leading-Edge Solutions for Business Intelligence." The conference brings together case studies, industry expert sessions, and panel discussions focused on topics that are changing the shape of BI, including cloud implementations, mobile BI, data visualization, advanced dashboards, and big data. Popular TDWI faculty member Cindi Howson, founder of BIScorecard, is the Forum's co-chair and will deliver a keynote presentation, Cool BI: Beyond the Hype.

Three Catalysts for Change

What are some key trends that are driving change in BI and data warehousing? As you seek to validate your professional direction and that of your organization, here are three catalysts that I see shaking the landscape. All will be addressed at the TDWI World Conference and Forum in Chicago.

Catalyst #1: Information chaos is costly

Upper-level business managers and executives at an increasing number of organizations are finally aware that difficulties and confusion in accessing sources and integrating them into a single, high-quality view leads to business mistakes, slower processes, and higher costs. Before organizations can move forward with operational deployment of mobile BI, for example, they need to get their data house in order so that users are not frustrated by data inconsistency and slow or impossible access.

Catalyst #2: Users want personalization and self-service discovery

Organizations are pushing their operations and functions to be data driven. Marketing functions in particular are undergoing a sea change from hunches and tradition to an increase in the implementation of analytics and data science. To be data driven, organizations need to give users the data. They need to move beyond standard reports and give users the functionality to shape their own data discovery, analysis, and collaboration. Adjusting to this new paradigm requires rethinking BI and data warehousing practices and methods across the board.

Catalyst #3: Guidance and governance must be IT strengths

Even as users exercise self-service BI and analytics functionality and are able to personalize their experience with tools and dashboards, they still need guidance from IT, including data analysts and BI directors. Most users are not data experts; their realm is in the lines of business. They need help understanding how data assets can be applied to their functions and responsibilities. They also need governance to ensure data quality and to safeguard sensitive data. IT can play valuable guidance and governance roles for users as they explore data and apply insights to their work.

A Final Word

Business intelligence, analytics, and data warehousing are central to most organizations' effectiveness and competitive advantages today. This means that professionals in this exciting field should never rest on their laurels. We hope to see you at our upcoming TDWI events, where you can refresh your skills and validate your purpose and direction.