Blog: Laura Madsen Hello and welcome to my blog! Copyright 2011 Wed, 12 Jan 2011 11:51:20 -0700 40 iPads and endless possibilities Recently, Lancet appeared in a article about our iPad revolution.  You can read it here.  We continue to find new and innovative ways to use the technology to make us more productive.  But, Lancet isn’t the only ones.  The iPad continues to garner a lot of attention, and this week, in an article entitled ”Why we think it’s a fantastic idea to give iPads to our employees” Michael Saylor, Chairman and CEO of MicroStrategy said this about the now ubiquitous technology:

”The tablet computer is revolutionary because for the first time it embraces a multi- touch interface in an electronic device light enough to hold in one hand. In doing so, it replaces paper as a delivery mechanism for information and, as a result, stands beside the invention of paper, the printing press, the laser printer and desktop publishing in the history of technological innovation.”

You can read the rest of the Business Insider article by Saylor here.

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What Does Failed Mean? There was a LinkedIn discussion posted a few weeks back asking why BI deployments so often failed.  After a number of comments on things like "poor requirements" and "lack of project management" I had to chime in, after all, I have never really seen a BI deployment fail because my project manager missed the deadline, went over budget or under/over scope. 

First, it begs the question:  "What does failed mean?"  If, to you, failed means it costs more than you originally thought then yes, perhaps project management is to blame, or your expectation setting on estimates (another post for another time).  If failed means that you released reports that missed the business users needs then perhaps you can blame poor requirements, but how about looking to your dynamic business model, or the change that has taken place since the last time you actually asked the business what they wanted.

In truth, I wish that it were that easy.  I wish that all I would need is a rock-star project manager and BA to address these relatively simple aspects of BI deployments and all would be grand.  Frankly, I have worked with rock-star project managers and BA's (you know who you are) and the deployment still 'failed'. 

You can't handle the truth

The truth is much harder than that.  The truth is so much more multi-faceted than that it's almost hard to conceive.  And for many of those that commented on LinkedIn with something like "bad requirements" I am just not sure you can handle the truth (forgive me for quoting a Tom Cruise movie).

BI lives in the juxtaposition of IT and business, some of my peers lovingly call it purgatory.  But, as many of you know, that's not an easy place to reside.  The gap is large and the bridge built between it is often poorly constructed.  You cannot simply request better requirements or more aggressive project management and go home thinking you have it nailed, I assure you that you have not.

BI is a living breathing thing that resides within a larger culture of your business.  The challenging thing about BI is that you have to know how to manage both IT concepts like data modeling, ETL and application development as well as knowing, balancing, predicting and managing the needs of your business.    

If I have convinced you that there is more to the success than requirements and project management, start here.  Then if you are interested in finding a way to improve BI deployment stats go here

Go boldly.

]]> Tue, 04 Jan 2011 10:53:08 -0700
The Year in Review BI Goes Mainstream

Never before has BI been so mainstream as it was in 2010. I envision a day, very soon, when someone outside the industry asks me what I do and when I answer ”Business Intelligence” they will know what I mean.

This year both USA Today and The Economist put the spotlight on BI. USA Today did a multi-page article on Business Intelligence on November 17, 2010. Both USA Today and The Economist included statistics about exploding data volumes. Byron Acohido of USA Today wrote ”This year the amount of digital information created and replicated is expected to hit an astounding 1.2 zettabytes. That’s one trillion gigabytes. That number will approach 35 zettabytes by 2020.”

In the section titled: ”Business Intelligence can help improve efficiency” Acohido includes the

Forrester estimates: global spending on BI software will ring in at $9.4 billion this year and rise to $14.1 billion by 2014. That does not include a comparable amount likely to be spent on BI consulting services.

The method of delivering data to end-users has changed dramatically in the last few years. Innovations around visualization of data have changed users from an average consumer to a sophisticated analyst, with the ability to find nuggets of value in what were once obscure data points. ”We look at pictures rather than reports,” says Martin Click, recently retired UPS Senior Director for transportation planning. ”By applying the tool and seeing the data visually, we saved $2.5 million.” (November 17, 2010; USA Today).

In a well considered and researched report, The Economist tackles the primary areas of data, data consumption and data challenges put forth by the data deluge. From "new rules for big data" to "A different game: Information is transforming traditional business" the Economist dissects the companies that are doing this work well, and the instances where it all come crashing down (i.e. security breaches and storage issues). Covering everything from data warehouse appliances to metadata, ”Data, data everywhere: A special report on managing information” sums up the work of every BI professional and took it to the masses.

M& A

As I predicted last year ( , this year was a big one for acquisitions. IBM went on another spending spree picking up Netezza and SPSS. As USA Today wrote in their article in November, ”IBM in particular is betting big on BI. In the past five years, it has spent $14 billion to make 24 BI acquisitions. Its payroll includes 10,000 BI software developers, 8,000 BI consultants and 200 BI mathematicians. ”

EMC acquired Greenplum, the Big one of the year was the acquisition of Sun by Oracle. There are many others not listed here.

All of this activity prompted Gartner to warn of an innovation stale-mate.

Gartner analysts warned that the tech industry is caught in a “vortex of insatiable mergers and acquisitions” that is creating a category of “super vendors” selling highly integrated offerings. Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president of research, offered an audience at Gartner’s annual Symposium a particularly blunt critique of the accelerating trend by tech firms to acquire innovation though mergers and acquisitions. “Acquiring innovation is one thing, maintaining it is completely different,” said Sondergaard. (October 18, 2010; InfoWorld).


Probably the biggest innovation this year was the move to mobile. Lancet participated in the trend when in an all-team meeting in August; Tom Niccum (Lancet’s President) told us that all Lanceteer’s would get iPads. Lancet blogged about our experiences with our iPads in a blog series in October, you can read it here. Our main motivation was to capture some of the enthusiasm around MicroStrategy’s mobile product. Perhaps, this year is the perfect storm for mobility. As Paul Sorensen, Lanceteer and all-around-smart-guy postulates, with the recession still looming, the revolt against TSA’s new screening procedures and the release of 4G 2011 may be the year that organizations fully commit to a mobile workforce. That may mean that the demand for BI in a mobile form will drastically increase as users are no longer limited by the availability of hotspots.

As far as innovators go, MicroStrategy continues to be a leader, according to the BI Survey 9 MicroStrategy out-ranked the others, with SAS and Information Builders in at second and third place respectively.

What’s Next?

Next year’s trends are a bit harder to predict. Last year was pretty obvious considering the state of the BI union. Acquisitions are usually a gimme, they will continue to surprise us. I hope that it doesn’t slow down innovations of one of the fastest moving areas of IT, with $14.1 Billion in spend predicted for 2014 (November 17, 2010; USA Today).

From Strategy to Execution

It is time to put the gauntlet down. 2011 has to be the year of getting it done. One of the primary challenges of BI is the fact that many implementations are not successful on their first attempt. We as a community have to get better at this. I believe things like the increased focus on agile methodologies and books like ”Agile Data Warehousing” by Ralph Hughes will help with this. We also need to continue a high-level of collaboration. If predictions are true then there is enough work to go around, and if there are BI Professionals out there that aren’t doing a good job we all suffer. Let’s collaborate and bring our collective knowledge about what it takes to get this work done to a new level. You can join Lancet in this collaboration imperative, click here to learn how.

Analysis with a capital ”A”

I had a boss once tell me that sometimes you just need things to go through gray matter. I continue to be an advocate for analytics, but there is no easy way out. Certainly good BI and a solid data warehouse with a data visualization tool can help, but at the end of the day, nothing (at least not yet) replaces the gray matter of your analysts. It’s the only way companies will really be able to accelerate their analytic perspective. Give the analysts a sandbox and get the heck out of their way.

Here’s to a thrilling 2011!

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Productivity and Movies!

I use my iPad most for meetings with clients and at school for checking email, demoing software and surfing the web... but I’ve also watched Netflix in bed.   I also use Docs ToGo to read, edit and create MS Word & Excel files.    Most of my friends have reacted with jealousy.

- Serena Myers

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Technical Library without the Weight

I find myself using the iPad at airports and hotels and client sites;  it is way easier than my phone for emails and  I ditched Boingo after signing up for the ATT wireless on the iPad.    The AT&T connection makes demos and internet really easy.   The application speed and display on this thing are impressive.   And as much as I hate to admit it, my Android phone is seeing a lot less use since I got the iPad.

 So far the coolest thing that’s happened since I received my iPad is that  my project manager stopped by my cube while I had my iPad laying there. When she said, ”oh you’ve got one of those things...” I gave her a 2 minute demo of knockout BI features.   My iPad paid for itself in those 2 minutes.

 Common reactions from friends and colleagues are ”I have to get one”;     ”you can’t do that!”  

 My favorite App thus  far is Kindle – it means that I have my technical bookshelf with me at all times, and it doesn’t weigh 35 pounds.

-Harold Richter

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iPad Mania If you blinked you may have missed it but Lancet got a one sentence mention in the Sunday business section of the Star Tribune – the article was regarding iPad usage by employees in an advertising firm, and they snuck in a reference to Lancet as well.   The mention appeared on page 2 of the business section in the ”Inside Track” section:

The 150 employees of the Martin/ Williams ad agency got a nice surprise recently when management presented each of them with their own iPad.   ”We want everyone to stay engaged and be curious,” said agency CEO Tom Moudry.   ”We’re an agency that jump starts our clients’ brands and this is a symbol of our conviction to stay relevant.”  Lancet Software in Burnsville did the same for its 40 employees last month.

The iPad retails for about $500 so, times 150, which would be an investment of approximately $75,000 for Martin/Williams minus any volume discount and roughly $20,000 for Lancet.

But as it turns out Lancet (and Martin/Williams) are in good company.   According to the most recent edition of ”Information Week” approximately 65% of Fortune 100 companies are in the midst of a pilot or deployment of the iPad.   Editor Bob Evans poses the question “have the CIO’s at 65 of the largest companies in the world spontaneously and simultaneously gone stark raving mad? Or have they realized that these devices help employees engage more effectively with one another and significantly increase the likelihood of increasing revenue for those companies by getting better information more quickly into the hands of decision makers.”  

Now, doesn’t that sound like the definition of BI?

]]> Mon, 08 Nov 2010 13:19:13 -0700
Monster To-do list? There’s an app for that

The app that has really helped make me more productive is Todo by Appigo.   This has replaced my daily To Do list that I used to write in my Lancet notebook.   I used to write my to-do list every morning for about 30 minutes.   I’m now able to update everything in about 10 minutes and I’m still able to productively and reliably track my list.


  • Easy to use and update
  • Efficient grouping of activities and priorities
  • Can sync with an online app (I haven’t used this)
  • Syncs very nicely with contacts (create an email to do and click on it and it opens an email to that person – can also bring up phone number of contact)


  • Can’t sort within a priority grouping
  • Does not sync with Outlook tasks – which I don’t use anyway

 This app may not work for everyone but I’ve found it very useful.

 I have been impressed with the iPads email functionality – especially with a keyboard.

 - Matt Cox

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Bring HR into the 21st Century, one app at a time

I’ve been spending time interviewing job candidates for Lancet since I received my iPad.    Every  candidate I’ve spoken to has brought up the fact that Lancet gave iPads to all employees. Some of their comments have been: “innovative”, “amazing”, “wow”, “I hope I can get a job here”, and “It sounds like management really values employees at Lancet”.  

 The app that has helped me the most is TaskPro – I always have a large HR to-do list and this neat app got me away from paper lists and into the hi-tech world.   I also downloaded Fundamentals of Business Information Systems, a 20 course series that will help me learn the basics that drive our business.

I’ve been very surprised that the iPad is so easy to use. For a non-technical person that struggles with the desktop I’ve had for five years, and has a ‘dumb’ phone because I still can’t figure out how to make it ‘smart’,  I was really intimidated by the iPad. But I’d be the first to say it’s all right there in front of you, and is truly easy to use  - it’s literally the only piece of technology I own that I can just power on and be instantly productive.

 - Terri Pilaczynski

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A Client’s Perspective: How Fast can I have this?

At my customer site every group which has seen their software on the iPad has loved it. Even though it was not in their budget for this year, senior management is going out of their way to get it funded. One of the initial guinea pig groups wants to go to into production very rapidly, before the end of the year.  One line I have heard almost everybody say is, “It looks sexy.” They can’t stop trying every possible gesture! We are trying to manage expectations on what we can deliver – but the excitement is palpable.   We are demoing to lot of other groups and it’s catching on like wildfire.

-   Lancet Consultant

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Email and Duets: an iPad Combination

I use my iPad mainly at home, to catch up on my backlog of daily emails at night.   The email interface is very efficient – better than using a phone.   It’s easy to read, reply and delete emails quickly.   I also surf the web quite a bit.   The longevity of the battery life has been a definite plus, and my experience has been that connections speeds are faster on my home wireless network with my iPad than my laptop and PC.

 Everyone I show it to loves the gesture navigation – they all want one.   The coolest thing I’ve done yet is play a piano duet with someone on the other side of the world using the Magic Piano app.

 -Matt Ahles

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My iPad: Simple, Easy to Use and Fast

I use my iPad to present various things during client meetings. MSTR Mobile, WhiteBoard Lite, PowerPoint and other content. WhiteNote – Seems to cover my needs for taking notes, while WhiteBoard Lite is a fun collaboration tool when all meeting particpants are on the same network. I love using it at client sites for mail, it replaces the need to log into Outlook Web Access or use VPN and Outlook. I’m using Mail, Notes, and ToDo with sync to Outlook tasks using Toodledo as the conduit.

I’m finding the iPad’s strengths are its simplicity, ease of use and immediacy. Its particularly great when working in the cloud or with VPN and Remote desktop, where you don’t need to carry around a workhorse of a laptop. My current main client is an iPhone and iPad shop, is excited about the use of iPads and bringing mine to meetings has generating some good discussion about the best apps, and other uses. Lots of friends are using it too. I have to protect it from family!!!!

-Michael Reid

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Working…at the Gym

I was at the gym when I got an urgent phone call that a project needed to be updated. I wasn’t going to be home for another couple of hours. Using my iPad and the LogMeIn app, I was able to resolve the issue without any inconvenience to the client or myself. With LogMeIn I am able to connect to my Laptop or Desktop and resolve most issues from wherever I happen to be. Of course this makes it easier to attend family activities and events without fear of being taken away by critical issues that come up.   I no longer have to carry my big laptop ”just in case.”

 I’ve been surprised by how well the iPad allows me to blend both work and personal use together. More often than not a device like this is either primarily a business device or a personal device but doesn’t meet well in the middle. This does a great job of both.

 I also bring my iPad to every meeting now. I’m using a combination of the apps ToDo and WhiteNote to become more productive in these meetings. I’ve taken it to a customer’s office and it started a whole conversation about its use at Lancet and how the customer sees using it. If I am home my family takes it away from me to play with it themselves.

-Ira Carlson

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The Five Disciplines of Business Intelligence A number of years ago the Vice President here at Lancet, Randy Mattran wrote a whitepaper called ”The Five Disciplines of Business Intelligence: How Lancet Software Development Views the Scope of Business Intelligence Implementation.” After a number of years in practice this model continues to direct our work and remains as applicable as it was when it was written.

5 Disciplines of Business Intelligence

The idea then, as it is now, is that covering these five disciplines (5D) will improve your likelihood of success for any BI deployment. We know that a sustainable BI program is more than the ability to complete a project. The 5D comprehensively defines the functions that all BI initiatives need to address. Here is each of the disciplines with a brief description. You can download your copy of the whitepaper at our Resource Center.

Project Execution: Simply, this is about how projects are completed, based out of the project management best practices. Many organizations have their own project management best practices, built either specifically for BI or other IT projects (such as web development or software development). The important factor is that there is some consideration towards the management of project execution, not which project management discipline to follow. The most important aspect of this work is that you provide a method of repeatedly delivering on expectations with some degree of efficiency and agility.

Operations and Service Level Management (OSLM): Enterprise Data warehouses, by design, are the integration point for a wide rand of transaction and data-change systems. The EDW is impacted by system changes, business process changes, seasonal fluctuations in volume and business growth (such as down-sizing or M & A’s). OSLM encompasses all activities involved with the EDW, including ETL, data marts, cubes, aggregates, etc. It has to be someone’s job to make sure what you built keeps working, and that you have a structure in place to make sure the end-user community continues to have a satisfactory experience from the BI capability. There are nineteen activities in the second discipline to ensure that each of these components is well managed.

Program Management: At some point in your BI journey you will reach the point where you will have a number of BI projects running and they will all need to be managed under one umbrella, hence program management. The one unique aspect of the program management outside of the project management is that the program would continue to function even if there were no 'projects’ to manage. It might be easy to find funding for discrete new projects, but you also need to drive initiatives which steward development of shared assets, not only for consistency, but also for speed and efficiency in future development. Program management drives and defines the activities of the other four disciplines.

Architecture and Technology: In this context, architecture means information architecture and it is the cornerstone to well executed EDW and BI programs. The goal for information architecture in the 5D is consistency, extensibility and scalability to appropriately support the BI Program. This is one area of BI/DW where predicting the future is critical to laying the foundation for what BI is likely to come. This concept of architecture is critical to BI because it reduces the cost and complexity of individual projects and it avoids scalability constraints, both are key to program success.
Finally, the fifth discipline is....drum roll please

Business Integration: If you create a BI Program without integrating with the business it is bound to be defined outside of a framework of where the actual need exists; a certain recipe for failure. This discipline is the least technical and the most difficult to master, so it is the final discipline addressed because it requires some maturity. The primary goal of this discipline is to foster collaboration between end user organizations and IS to build an invincible bond of trust between information consumers and the capabilities offered by the BI program. When the business truly owns BI, the problems become everyone’s problem, not just another IT failure.
The five disciplines is a simple yet elegant way to approach this work. That is why we placed it as the number two post for our blog on how to get started. If you can review, assess and determine the gaps that you have in your program based on this work you will have a clear roadmap of how to get back on track, or start your BI journey.

]]> Thu, 22 Apr 2010 16:41:42 -0700
Collaboration Site for Blog Series In my first blog series post I mentioned that we would be creating a collaboration site as a method of improving the conversation on the 8 topics we will post. We will be using “Huddle” for the site. If you are interested in participating please email me at with a subject line of “Collaboration Site”. We (Lancet) will not be using your email for any other purposes than to add you to the Huddle site. I promise I will promptly delete your email unless you ask me to keep it.

I am looking forward to this experiement in real-but-virtual collaboration.

]]> Wed, 21 Apr 2010 14:11:01 -0700
<![CDATA[What BI Is, What BI Isn’t and Do I Need BI?]]> What BI is…

There are many definitions of Business Intelligence (BI); the easiest one is the right information to the right person at the right time in the right way. This is my least favorite because it implies a factor of luck, having to be in the right place at the right time. Of course, there are others such as the one written by H.P. Luhn in 1958 “The objective of the system is to supply suitable information to support specific activities carried out by individuals, groups, departments, divisions, or even larger units… To that end, the system concerns itself with the admission of acquisition of new information, its dissemination, storage, retrieval, and transmittal to the action points it servers.” And the one I use most often: Integration of data from disparate source systems to optimize business usage and understanding through a user-friendly interface.

What BI isn’t…

BI isn’t reporting, it isn’t analytics, it isn’t data warehousing and it isn’t dashboards. All of these things individually do not make a BI program, but put them together and that is exactly what BI is. BI enables each of these. BI is greater than the sum of its parts. You may question why BI enables data warehousing, but the truth is that you don’t need a data warehouse if you don’t have an intention of analyzing data or reporting from it. BI is an industry and a skill set, but BI isn’t the group you go to to provide you the knowledge or intelligence about your organization. Quite the contrary, BI allows those groups to function more efficiently. If you want to find an ROI for your BI program, go to the folks that know the data and have to complete herculean tasks to get reports out each month, there’s your ROI.

Do you need BI?

If your organization uses data to make decisions then the answer is yes. If your organization wants to use data to make decisions then the answer is yes. The degree to which you have to invest and create your BI program is what should vary. Every BI program is different because every organization is different (see my post on the BI ecosystem), this is not a one size fits all, if you’ve seen one BI program you have seen one BI program. There are critical similarities, such as the need for a data warehouse, ETL (in some form) and a method of report distribution; but the rest is the art of good BI.

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