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Lyndsay Wise

Hi and welcome to my blog! I look forward to bringing you weekly posts about what is happening in the world of BI, CDI and marketing performance management.

About the author >

Lyndsay is the President and Founder of WiseAnalytics, an independent analyst firm specializing in business intelligence, master data management and unstructured data. For more than seven years, she has assisted clients in business systems analysis, software selection and implementation of enterprise applications. Lyndsay conducts regular research studies, consults, writes articles and speaks about improving the value of business intelligence within organizations. She can be reached at lwise@wiseanalytics.com.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in Lyndsay's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

February 2010 Archives

In general, while meeting with vendors at TDWI to get updates on products and to identify changes in roadmaps, etc., it becomes possible to identify general market trends and the overall position solution providers are taking to provide their customers with additional business value. Based on my conversations over the past week, here are some of the BI trends within the market at large.

Data warehouse appliances

The appliance market is becoming saturated with new players.  In a sense, data warehousing is developing into its own market as a separate entity from traditional BI.  Now many vendors exist providing hardware and software components to enable data warehouse design. Unfortunately, because of the focus on query performance and the total TBs or PBs supported, it can become difficult to differentiate between various offerings and understand which one best suits any organization.  Many solution providers themselves are lacking in the area of identifying the business value that is associated with a data warehouse implementation.  Teradata and Kalido are two examples of companies that understand that added business value is what should be providing the key differentiations within the market as a whole.

Embedded analytics

In addition to the appliance market expanding, solution providers are focusing more intently on developing and providing an analytic framework within the data infrastructure layer.  Advancements including in-memory, data federation, increased processing speeds, and the like, as well as the increasing popularity in columnar databases create an environment primed for analytics that take place within the database layer.  Conversations such as what to bring into the data warehouse or how many data marts to create may become more obsolete over time as companies can create analyses on the fly without having to take into consideration the structure of the database or what dimensions have been modeled.

Data management platforms

As an extension of the general data warehousing market, the way in which data is managed and integrated within BI infrastructure is changing.  Solution providers such as DataFlux and Informatica are starting to develop a platform approach to data management by combining data integration and master data management solutions.  This way of looking at data management is new in relation to available market offerings but will definitely continue to increase as more vendors expand their data management infrastructures and as organizations look towards a holistic approach to managing their internal and external data.

Robust, interactive dashboards and visualization

Much focus within the world of BI still remains on the data infrastructure and supporting layers.  On the front-end, organizations are starting to look at dashboards and visual analytics as an entry point to BI.  Mid-market companies and individual business units are primed for dashboard deployments that either access operational data stores or that is part of a larger hosted solution.  On the part of vendors, there is a push towards offering dashboards that can be deployed independently of developer intervention.  As more business users look to interact with data and to attain insights on the fly, vendors look towards creating advanced and visually pleasing interfaces that include the ability to design and interact with the solution without the expectation of strong technical skills.

Increasing focus on using BI to drive business value

One of the overarching focuses within the market, whether on the back-end or within the visualization side, is the increase in target of business users or of focusing on the business value of what solutions provide.  Unfortunately, because of the extensive data focus of BI in general, the ability for lay people to understand how analytics, data warehouses, etc. can help them solve their business problems has been elusive.  Luckily, solution providers are starting to slowly understand that the only way they will continue to provide customers with concrete business benefits is to sell the business in addition to IT experts.

Posted February 28, 2010 12:51 PM
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Every now and then I speak with vendors' customers to get a different take on solutions being used and what companies really think about products that are marketed with only a positive spin. I also enjoy hearing about the business benefits and value mid-market companies are achieving through their use of BI. As a bonus, I hope to get some insight into any snags or negatives about the product or overall BI project - which customers generally like to share once they start talking.  The negatives are a great tool that can be used to provide insights to other companies evaluating solutions in the market place and help them learn from other companies BI initiatives.

In this case, my "victim" of sorts, was Anna's Linens, a retailer focusing on home fashions with over 258 stores across the United States.  They are a mid-market company and have been using SAP Business Objects Edge BI for a couple of  years. And to my disappointment (even though I'm glad that they are getting a lot of benefit out of their solution), their Crystal use has been nothing but positive - very positive actually!

While transitioning from being a regional to a national retailer, Anna's Linens needed to consolidate information across various locations. Their goal was to find a way to look at marketing, store operations, and merchandising data holistically.  Additional considerations included the viability and current install base of a vendor, product ease of use, and the ability to deploy to multiple users within the organization. Once choosing SAP Business Objects Edge BI, the implementation was seamless and several reports were developed with the goal of creating a single view of operational data and moving away from data silos that existed within the organization (specifically in relation to marketing, store operations, and merchandising) . Anna's Linens was able to extract data and create analytics that provided additional insights into sales, customer conversions, and the effectiveness of advertising specific products.  In addition, due to the new visibility and centralized view of overall performance, Anna's Linens implemented traffic counters to identify foot traffic and its relation to customer transactions, units per transaction, marketing performance, etc.

Overall, Anna's Linens provides a great example to other mid-market retailers of the advantage of implementing BI. For some reason, retailers have generally remained behind the curve on BI adoption but are slowly beginning to understand the immense value of data. But beyond simply implementing BI, retailers need to understand how data visibility can be tied to continual improvement and how to relate sales data to actual performance.  In Anna's Linens' case, they have taken BI to the next level by enabling each department in the company to develop their own metrics - for instance, the measurement of customer service levels - and by creating a cross-functional steering committee to help build and manage BI reports and processes within the organization.

For a mid-sized retailer, Anna's Linens provides a good example of how other companies can take advantage of analytics within their organizations to gain broader insights into performance and to create a cohesive view of operations and customer focused data.

Posted February 5, 2010 9:19 AM
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