Gartner BI and Collective Insight

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Jason Rose, VP of BI and Advanced Analytics Marketing for SAP, will be presenting at Gartner BI this week in London, UK. I took the opportunity to find out what he is hoping to get out of the conference.

First, what’s your background?

I started my career in at Arthur Andersen—but I had nothing to do with Enron! I then worked in a series of small software companies including SRC Software who sold a planning and budgeting solution. Then Business Objects acquired SRC and SAP acquired Business Objects.

I now lead the business intelligence and advanced analytics product marketing team globally for SAP. I came up through consulting, working with financial applications, supply chains, and procurement applications, and I’ve always been interested in the value of analytics—not just to executives, but also to the people actually doing the work.

What are you looking to find out more about at Gartner BI?

First, I think the most interesting trend of the year is the flow-through of predictive into standard BI workflows. I want to find out more about how customers are getting the value of predictive as part of a broad program, rather than just being used by “geeks in a corner,” or within specific applications. I’m looking forward to talking to people at the show: are they really starting to realize the value, or is it just marketing talk? And what’s driving the change? Is it driven by big data, or ease of use, or simply more demand?

Second, there’s been a lot of hype around visualization. Having good visualization is a big part of data discovery. I want to see if people are moving beyond bar charts and pie charts and into more interesting advanced visualizations, and to what end: what can they do now that wasn’t being done with excel with bar charts and pie charts?

And the other thing I always find interesting is new vendors and new analytic uses. BI and analytics continues to be a very dynamic market. There’s such a variety of both information and user type scenarios that it’s relatively easy to carve out new niches in an area that is exploding.

What is your presentation going to be about? Why should people come listen?

I think there’s a lot of hype in the business intelligence market. Take the concept of self-service. If you think back to beginning of time, products like BusinessObjects and Cognos PowerPlay provided personal, self-service BI. What we found over the last 20 years is that there needs to be a broader common language across the organization, and there needs to be governance. The technology possibilities have changed, but the market seems very excited about self-service principles and less interested in governance.

According to Gartner the big trend of the year is “governed data discovery.” What I want to present is how we can move beyond the self-centered view of self-service BI and add value to the broader organization. We call this collective insight: there has to be a balance between self-service and the collective knowledge of the organization. I’ll be talking about how to strike that balance today with some strategies and cultural shifts as well as some technology possibilities to navigate that continuum.

What are some of the big shifts you’re seeing in analytics culture and processes?

We’ve been hearing a lot from customers about the shift in the buying power from IT to the business departments. But that doesn’t automatically mean a shift in expertise, so IT needs to bring some of their savvy with information and governance to this new reality where the business simply goes off and buys whatever tools they want and drives a different view from everybody else.

There’s a lot of emphasis on how you do visualization and make data look good. But people don’t necessarily want to address the underlying infrastructure you need to get the right data at the right time—people would rather talk about how to make the curtains look nicer than all the complexity of knocking down walls in your home.

Culturally, you may have people who are be pretty low in terms of BI maturity choosing solutions. The “professional BI community” has to help the business understand the full implications of what they’re buying, and how to harmonize information with other groups. Otherwise it’s like empowering your five-year-old to pick the family car. 

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