Le Plus Ca Change: Business Intelligence Evolves

September 29, 2009
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Old Metro Sign in Paris (via Flickr)

I’ve been in and around Paris and consider myself pretty Paris-savvy. But Paris has changed. For instance, there was a used bookstore in the 8th arrondissement that would provide a cool haven and a thick black coffee on Saturday afternoon. It’s gone now. And my old apartment, owned by the ex-ambassador to Liberia, has been recently renovated, no longer one of the Seine’s grande dames but more like a sterile government building. Then there was my favorite brasserie, Le Verneuil, tucked deep in the heart of the 16th, its surly waiters insisting that the salad arrive après the oysters. Le Verneuil was a respite for French women doing their daily shopping, expatriate hipsters, and urbane professionals, all seeking a hearty prix-fixe lunch and a chilled Sancerre. It’s gone now, but it was there. I have the ashtray to prove it.

I’ve been in and around business intelligence, and consider myself pretty BI-savvy. But BI has changed. For instance, there are new dashboard tools now that are more user-friendly and efficient than ever. Open source has dramatically reduced the cost-of-entry, and applications can be just as complex and differentiating. Columnar databases have also



Old Metro Sign in Paris (via Flickr)

I’ve been in and around Paris and consider myself pretty Paris-savvy. But Paris has changed. For instance, there was a used bookstore in the 8th arrondissement that would provide a cool haven and a thick black coffee on Saturday afternoon. It’s gone now. And my old apartment, owned by the ex-ambassador to Liberia, has been recently renovated, no longer one of the Seine’s grande dames but more like a sterile government building. Then there was my favorite brasserie, Le Verneuil, tucked deep in the heart of the 16th, its surly waiters insisting that the salad arrive après the oysters. Le Verneuil was a respite for French women doing their daily shopping, expatriate hipsters, and urbane professionals, all seeking a hearty prix-fixe lunch and a chilled Sancerre. It’s gone now, but it was there. I have the ashtray to prove it.

I’ve been in and around business intelligence, and consider myself pretty BI-savvy. But BI has changed. For instance, there are new dashboard tools now that are more user-friendly and efficient than ever. Open source has dramatically reduced the cost-of-entry, and applications can be just as complex and differentiating. Columnar databases have also delivered cost savings and increased processing speed. New development methods are emerging. And BI is in the cloud, offering targeted solutions for companies short on resources or thin on development chops.

Back to Paris for a minute. While the city has endured changes, many of them ill-advised, certain stalwarts persist. My Passy metro station is exactly as I left it (minus a few cigarette butts). The M6 train still deposits me at the Saturday market at Corvisart, itself a decades-old presence, right down to the goat heads suspended from the butcher’s stall and the white asparagus abundant in spring. The Hotel de Ville, the Arc de Triomphe, the Tour Montparnasse—itself a controversial and unwelcome symbol of change in the 1970s—and the venerable Eiffel Tower endure. Indeed, they are part of the permanent Parisian landscape.

And so it is with BI. Whatever evolution occurs, there are certain principles—best practices, if you like—that live on. Creating a sustained development pipeline based on business requirements is a BI staple. So is managing diverse BI development efforts under one program umbrella. Acquiring and retaining BI-specific skills, and enhancing them over time, is a proven best practice. And delivering data that is truly integrated—not just co-located—to support evolving analytic capabilities is critical, as is the ability to manage and support ever-growing data volumes.

The fundamentals that have shaped BI are consistent, no matter what side of the firewall you’re on, no matter what tools you use, no matter what neighborhood you live in, no matter how you eat your oysters. There may be changes, or even wholesale replacements. Consider them carefully and adopt them when the time is right. But just in case, be sure to steal the ashtray.

photo by pedrosimoes7 via Flickr

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