Wednesday, June 28

Double dip marketing

You probably disapprove people taking a double dip with their chip in the party dip. But a similar technique is used by Microsoft and other software vendors. And Cognos is following suit. The marketing ploy generates a ton of money and word of mouth for the vendor. But are customers gaining any advantage with better quality products and services?

Certification programs and training classes. When software vendors promote training benchmarks to consulting and technology companies, who wins? And who's the real client?

Vendors like Microsoft, and now Cognos, double dip. Customers buy software (one dip). Consultants buy training (2nd dip). Consultants want to be reimbursed for this sunken cost. Customers buy consultants. Cognos gains marketing & word of mouth paid for by customers, employees and consultants (3rd dip?).

Granted vendors don't start there. They work hard to become successful to the point where people want their products (and are trained in their products). Shouldn't they reap the rewards of creating that base of customer/consultant demand? Just feed the pyramid and let others grow their business. Sounds like they have been reading Seth Godin's flipping the funnel ebook.

But customers benefit from higher skilled people, right? Sure, a skill benchmark is set. But set by the vendor - not exactly an independant assessment. And letters after your name look great on the resume (MSCE, PMP, MBA). But these certified people cost more to find, hire, and keep. And then certification alone doesn't reflect experience and quality of work.

The biggest vendors & products cost a premium. Highly skilled & certified people also come at a premium.

Pick the products that meet your specific business and technical needs. Think open source. Think young, eager BI companies nipping at the heals of the largest. Big doesn't always mean the best.

Quote bloggers live by, "Sorry this was so long. I didn't have time to make it shorter." -- Jefferson.

Saturday, June 24

1950's design

It may have been suggested to you as the latest and superior technique for building BI systems. The Iterative approach. Or RUP (Rational Unified Process). Or which ever cyclic methodology you follow, it isn't new.

Actually, these concepts have been around for decades. Plug into this 1950's YouTube video. The background music is classic. But the concepts they discuss using back then sound real familiar.

1. Define objectives.
2. Determine a theme boundary.
3. Many revisions and changes.
4. Sketch on paper then build 3D miniatures,
5. Then full-sized models.
6. Present for approval.

The question is, will we look back on our BI creations we build today and smile? Hopefully not the smile you get watching these 50's videos in fear that these styles will be retro and fashionable again. Gold-green shag carpet should be left in the past. As should Harvest-gold coloured kitchen appliances.

Can today's BI systems stand the test of time or are we producing our version of gold-green shag.

Here are other 1950's design videos for those reminiscing. One. Two.

Saturday, June 17

Other Best of Breed

To be fair to the "Other" category in the first survey, I've expanded that category. Those who voted for "Other" can now express their specific choice here. A quick click for those who picked "Other".

What people are saying about BI

When talking with people who "do" BI, I listen to what they think BI is. I hear: Analysis. MIS. OLAP. Reporting warehouse. Some people have just said, "we do Oracle BI", thinking the vendor/tools are what makes BI. And my favorite, "BI is BI" (assuming everyone knows what it means?).

So I used the Internet as a research tool and I can understand why there is confusion. Websites seem to have different definitions. MIS and BI are frequently used interchangeably but Wikipedia defines MIS differently than BI. Oracle's definition is tools focused, as expected. DM Review gives a decent business focused one. Which one do you grab onto?

It is true that the BI industry is getting more complex but the message being delivered is too. When talking with potential clients (internal or external) offer a consistent story that is authentic, entertaining, and enlightening. And offer it to the right audience.

If you're technically minded, deliver a clear message on the technology, its use, and limitations. Toolset/vendor specialists would do well with presenting an open minded view to gain an audience's trust. Delivering to the business may involve telling the advantages of performing better business decisions.

The message you deliver and to whom you deliver it are important.

Tuesday, June 13

Best-of-Breed winner

Many changes (improvements?) are happening in the BI space lately. Cognos has partnered with Google. Microsoft is embedding BI into their Office 2007 products. Oracle is the leading database vendor but losing ground.

But it's your perception of the BI products that is important. It is hard to beat word of mouth and see the results. Tell us if your IT group favours a specific vendor. Are users saying exemplary things about usability and features? Give your anonymous pick.

Sunday, June 4

BI on top of your agenda

Gartner's latest report mentions that CIOs and IT groups need to "shift the focus from technology that serves a small segment of decision-makers to a much broader initiative that puts people and business objectives first".

Business priorities:

Top technology priority is also Business Intelligence:

Here's the full Optimize Magazine's article that references Gartner's survey on Executive priorities.

The article hits on some good points. "Put people and business objectives first." "BI will become increasing pervasive across the business." But their is some traditional, old school thinking, which, in the past, has proven ineffective for many organizations. A competency centre ("BICC"). A mix of business and IT people from the company.

The challenge for organizations new to BI projects is a competency centre usually delivers below the mark because there is no BI experience ("competency") to rely on. Even with experienced BI organizations, many times the group is stale for new ideas and relies on existing infrastructure and concepts. Fix the bugs. Copy & paste through the company. Not their fault, as they usually have their "real" job to go back to.

People need the innovation and creativity to move a project forward. Find that person who will sponsor the project and keep the business design forward thinking. To design and innovate may be their only job. If the project is large enough for a committee, typically a transient group of members, perhaps a position for a Design and Innovation specialist should be created.

Friday, June 2

Until you see what is done

The design of BI is complicated. Not the technology architecture (although tough, just not what this post is about) but the innovative design that will meet the business needs. What should it look like on the screen? What is the best way to do this? Many times business people don't know what they want until they see it. Brian Sooy's Skeet shooting design woes tells the story.

The difficulty is how to work with the ambiguity without blowing your budget or spending more time & money than necessary. Or worse, not meeting the needs of your audience. ie. No one uses it.

Brian's definition of design:

Design consists of creating things for clients who may not know what they want, until they see what you've done, then they know exactly what they want, but it's not what you did.

So what do you do? Who should or could do the design? True business people and IT people think differently. It's why they are in their field of expertise. In some cases, organizations doing BI have instituted a middle-man to coordinate between business and IT. Unfortunately, these positions are dumped on from both sides and rarely carry the authority to make decisions.

An interior designer for building a house isn't there to facilitate between the contractor and the owner. The designer interepts the owner's wants & needs into the language the contractor will understand; but knows the contraints the contractor is restricted by. If you've even looked for a house, you will have seen someone's self-designed interior. The wall colours seemingly picked randomly. The furniture from Ikea and the local-artistic-funky furniture company. The carpet from the 20's. No vision, just ideas from magazine flipping.

For your BI project, find someone who can see both sides - business vision and the technology constraints. It's not important that they know 'how' it will get built in the end. Let them be creative and innovative with the authority to make design choices.