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Barry Devlin

As one of the founders of data warehousing back in the mid-1980s, a question I increasingly ask myself over 25 years later is: Are our prior architectural and design decisions still relevant in the light of today's business needs and technological advances? I'll pose this and related questions in this blog as I see industry announcements and changes in way businesses make decisions. I'd love to hear your answers and, indeed, questions in the same vein.

About the author >

Dr. Barry Devlin is among the foremost authorities in the world on business insight and data warehousing. He was responsible for the definition of IBM's data warehouse architecture in the mid '80s and authored the first paper on the topic in the IBM Systems Journal in 1988. He is a widely respected consultant and lecturer on this and related topics, and author of the comprehensive book Data Warehouse: From Architecture to Implementation.

Barry's interest today covers the wider field of a fully integrated business, covering informational, operational and collaborative environments and, in particular, how to present the end user with an holistic experience of the business through IT. These aims, and a growing conviction that the original data warehouse architecture struggles to meet modern business needs for near real-time business intelligence (BI) and support for big data, drove Barry’s latest book, Business unIntelligence: Insight and Innovation Beyond Analytics, now available in print and eBook editions.

Barry has worked in the IT industry for more than 30 years, mainly as a Distinguished Engineer for IBM in Dublin, Ireland. He is now founder and principal of 9sight Consulting, specializing in the human, organizational and IT implications and design of deep business insight solutions.

Editor's Note: Find more articles and resources in Barry's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel and blog. Be sure to visit today!

Having worked with CEO, Scott Davis of Lyzasoft and produced a white paper on Collaborative Analytics in the first half of 2009, it came as no surprise to me that version 2.0 of Lyza had a major emphasis in the same area.  What did surprise me, however, was how far they have advanced the concepts and implementation in such a short timeframe!

Successful collaboration between decision makers requires an environment that facilitates a free-flowing but well-managed conversation about ongoing analyses as they evolve from initial ideas to full-fledged solutions to business problems.  Consider a common scenario.  The first analyst gathers data she considers relevant and creates an initial set of assumptions, data manipulations and results.  She shares this via e-mail with her peers for confirmation, and she receives suggestions for improvement, some of which she incorporates in a new version.  Her manager reviews the work personally and makes further suggestions; a new version emerges.  She also shared the intermediate solution with a second department, and the analyst there created another solution based on the original.  Meanwhile, the first analyst finds an error in her logic buried deep in cell Sheet3!AB102...

We all know the problems with multiple unmanaged copies, rework, silently propagated errors and so on in the usual spreadsheet- and e-mail-based business analysis environment.  Lyza and Lyza Commons together address these issues by creating a comprehensive tracking and auditing mechanism for every step of an analysis and providing an integrated environment for sharing and discussing work among collaborators.  Integral metadata links all copies derived from an initial analysis.  Twitter-like conversations (called Blurbs) about an analysis are linked to the referenced object creating a comprehensive context for the conversation and the underlying analysis.  The folks at Lyzasoft have also come up with a security concept for sharing analyses they call Mesh Trust that should make sense in most enterprise collaboration environments.

My bottom line?  Lyza and Lyza Commons 2.0 provide a seamless blending of analytic function, managed and controlled access to information resources and enterprise-adapted social networking around analytic results and their provenance.  This is precisely the type of function needed by businesses who want to regain control of spreadmarts that have run amok.  This is the right conceptual foundation for real, meaningful business insight and innovation going forward.

Posted February 25, 2010 2:58 PM
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