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Wayne Eckerson

Welcome to Wayne's World, my blog that illuminates the latest thinking about how to deliver insights from business data and celebrates out-of-the-box thinkers and doers in the business intelligence (BI), performance management and data warehousing (DW) fields. Tune in here if you want to keep abreast of the latest trends, techniques, and technologies in this dynamic industry.

About the author >

Wayne has been a thought leader in the business intelligence field since the early 1990s. He has conducted numerous research studies and is a noted speaker, blogger, and consultant. He is the author of two widely read books: Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business (2005, 2010) and The Secrets of Analytical Leaders: Insights from Information Insiders (2012).

Wayne is founder and principal consultant at Eckerson Group,a research and consulting company focused on business intelligence, analytics and big data.

April 2013 Archives

Former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner once said, "I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn't just one aspect of the game--it is the game." Likewise, after 20 years of researching and consulting, I can confidently say that the key to success with business intelligence is managing cultural change.

I recently read the book "Switch" by Chip and Dan Heath, and I recommend it to anyone who manages or directs a BI program. It's full of great advice for how get individuals and groups moving in new directions. To crystallize the authors' key messages (which by the way is critical to managing change), the way to get people to change habits is to appeal to their head, heart, and herd.

Appeal to the Head

Any change has to make sense to individuals and be easy to accomplish. The authors recommend establishing a goal that gives people clear direction accompanied by a few simple steps to achieve the goal. The goal motivates and the script activates.

For example, a recently deregulated Brazilian railroad company with minimal cash reserves needed to achieve financial stability quickly. To achieve the goal, the CEO established four clear rules to guide his team's immediate decisions: 1) only invest in projects that generate short-term revenue 2) apply solutions that require the least amount of upfront cash 3) a quick fix is better than a more ideal solution that takes longer to implement 4) reuse materials before you buy new ones. By "scripting the critical moves", the Brazilian company made it easy for employees to make the right decisions to restore the company to financial health.

A corollary to this maxim is to make the change process as easy as possible. For example, Amazon.com made online ordering extremely simple and quick with its "One Click" ordering. Any change initiative should strive to be as effortless and painless as that.

Appeal to the Heart

The Heath brothers say the most critical part of any change initiative is to appeal to people's emotions. Emotions, more than reason, guide our actions, attitudes and decisions. In the battle between one's head and heart (i.e. emotions, desires), the heart usually wins. As the Bible says, "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak."

The book describes the tale of an operations manager at a manufacturing company who wanted to reduce purchasing costs by $1 billion in five years. To implement far-reaching changes required to achieve this goal, he didn't just present a detailed cost-benefit analysis. He also collected 424 different pairs of work gloves the company had bought and tagged each with a price. He then dumped this collection on a conference room table and invited division presidents to come and examine the "glove shrine." By demonstrating the wastefulness of his company in a tactile way that executives could observe and touch first hand, the operations manager triggered a major process reengineering initiative at the company.

The corollary here is to break big projects into small tasks that are easy for people to start working on. The key to any change effort is to achieve a quick win that creates momentum and confidence.

Appeal to the Herd

The final tenet of change management is to leverage group dynamics. To an astonishing degree, humans take cues about how to behave from those around them. For example, research has shown that "obesity is contagious," the authors of "Switch" write.

A research study that was not cited in the book explains that the only surefire way to get kids to eat peas is to socialize them with kids who do. Ordering kids to eat their peas doesn't work, nor does reasoning with them about the health benefits or offering them incentives. And the research shows that what's true with children is also true with adults.

To leverage group dynamics, the authors recommend creating a reform group that exhibits the new attitudes or behavior. From a BI perspective, this might involve implementing a new technology in a single department that is receptive to it and promoting the benefits they received. It can also be done by implementing dashboards that publicize the performance of peers against metrics that represent behaviors a company wants to promote. Dashboards not only get people's competitive juices flowing, they communicate the desired behavior and show people exhibiting it.

So, remember the next time you implement a BI project, devise a change management plan that appeals to the head, heart, and herd.

Posted April 22, 2013 9:36 AM
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Hadoop was designed as a batch processing environment. But oddly, most people view Hadoop as an exploratory environment in which data scientists (i.e. quintessential power users) mine mountains of data and find valuable insights. Many companies are eager to unleash their data scientists on Web logs and Twitter feeds to better understand customer shopping behavior and sentiment, among other things.

The reality today is that Hadoop is too slow to support iterative analysis. It not only runs in batch, but it's not even a terribly efficient batch environment. Hadoop version 1.0, at least, has no concept of joins, so programmers must string together hundreds of MapReduce jobs to execute relatively simple queries. There is minimal workload management so a single query will consume all the resources of a single cluster or partition.(Hadoop 2.0 addresses these and other deficiencies.)

Consequently, most companies today use Hadoop as a gigantic extraction and transformation engine that captures, stores, and processes semi-structured data and pushes the results into SQL-based environments where business users query and analyze the data using familiar SQL-based tools. Interestingly, few companies use Hadoop for other batch-oriented analytical workloads, such as scheduled reporting and data mining. The hype almost exclusively emphasizes exploration and discovery.

Real-time or Bust!

So, Hadoop's analytical mystique belies the facts. This is the primary reason that leading Hadoop vendors have rushed this year to unveil real-time query engines that run inside Hadoop. Cloudera launched Impala, EMC Greenplum announced Hawq, and Hortonworks is betting on Hive. All three not only claim to turn Hadoop into a bonafide, iterative analytical environment, they also support SQL- or SQL-like interfaces to make it easier for non-data scientists to access Hadoop data. Of course, these environments are brand new and relatively untested. The jury is out whether they truly can reinvent Hadoop in the real-time image its ardent supporters envision.

The alternative is to move the data into SQL-based analytical engines, such as Teradata or IBM Netezza, that are designed to run complex queries and analytical functions against terabytes of data. Every database vendor now offers connectors to move data from Hadoop into their proprietary environments. But these systems come with a steep pricetag and require IT administrators to move large volumes of data across thin pipes--not a smart thing to do if we're truly talking about "big data."

Consequently, early adopters of Hadoop have asked vendors to deliver a real-time query engine and they have heeded their calls. If Hadoop truly supports real-time queries, it could reinvent the entire analytical landscape and make investors in Hadoop startups fabulously wealthy. But don't rush to call your broker: Hadoop will have a longer trail to real-time nirvana than the relational database management system (RDBMS), which has been on that path for more than 30 years.

The cynic in me says that the Hadoop community is now trying to recreate the RDBMS on an open source platform. This could take awhile. But maybe it's the journey, not the destination that really counts. We've learned a lot about ourselves by examining and tinkering with this new alternative data processing platform. Hadoop clarifies the strengths and weaknesses of our SQL-based world, putting them in sharp relief. So, I welcome Hadoop and believe it will play an increasingly critical role in most BI environments.

Posted April 16, 2013 1:57 PM
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Every quarter the BI Leadership Forum conducts a survey. This quarter we are exploring the state of adoption of visual discovery tools, one of the fastest growing segments in the BI market.

Visual discovery tools, such as those from QlikTech and Tableau, are powerful self-service and analytical tools but can potentially cause problems for BI managers because they are often purchased under the radar, creating spreadmarts.

Please spend 10 minutes completing our survey so we can better understand the strategies that organizations are using to deploy visual discovery tools.

Here is a link to the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/visualdiscovery.

We will release the raw results of the survey to members of the BI Leadership Forum on our LinkedIn site at the end of April, if not sooner. (See www.bileadership.com/surveys.html for the results of ALL past surveys.)

Posted April 3, 2013 12:09 PM
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