Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Journey Begins

It is pretty embarassing when you come back to a blog and the last posting was in November of 2005. Well given the new Web 2.0 world it must be time to start collaborating and sharing knowledge rather than being a scrooge and keeping it all in your head.

After about 7 years working in the field of Business Intelligence it is a scary prospect to stand up on your hind legs and sniff out what is happening on the horizon. It used to be so simple to do BI. Here was my typical project
  1. Hear about some Business Unit that was looking at new reporting requirements. Well, reporting??? That is what we used to do, it is kind of embarrassing to think about how many reporting solutions were branded as "business intelligence"!
  2. What's the first thing you do now?? Call the user? Are you kidding, what the heck do they know? I know what to do, lets look at the source systems, who cares how they are used!
  3. Oh boy, data analysis, a BI geek's dream. Here we go, warm up your SQL coding fingers. Yee haw, lets do some group bys, order bys, distinct values until we curl up at night dreaming inner joins and histograms.
  4. Once you know that data model and the data inside it you are off to the races (who cares how the data gets populated into the database, that would mean talking to the users, big no no)
  5. Ok, now the fun part, lets design as many star schemas as are needed to use every single element in that source system. We don't know if these subject areas are going to be useful, but gosh darn it we are going to give it to the business. BTW, they call customer's accounts? But the source system column name was customer_id? (pesky users)
  6. Now that we have our destination schema, now the truly fun part. And wasn't it fun? Nothing like hand coding hundreds of stored procedures to do your extract, transform and load routines. It was truly a dream for the hyper-active coder, to be pulling your hair out encompassing complex business rules directly in your code.
  7. Oh the sweat and tears when you try to make this all work together, like pulling out finger nails with pliers. But eventually you get the spaghetti factory moving, you feel like the next BI messiah.
  8. Hmmm, hey did anyone ask those pesky users if they wanted any reports off this beauty of complex systems?

If was fun wasn't it? The fact that your business users look at you like you have two heads didn't phase you at the time...

Thankfully, we have matured and have put in place some extremely sophisticated tools to make the above artwork of luck and raw perserverence something that is much more accomplishable. We are now poised on the next wave of innovation within the Business Intelligence and Corporate Performance Management industy, the new world of the collaborative web is going to take all this great information we can provide and place it within webs of users communities that can turn this information into action and results.

As I embark on this journey to see what is the right Business Intelligence strategy for my employer, I look forward to sharing what I find with whoever runs across this blog. If you have any comments or contrary opinions to those I state please, please comment, comment, comment. I'm wrong a lot, but it sure is fun to try! 8)



Antivia said...

Hi Mark,

I would say that one thing you should look to incorporate in your BI strategy is the need to harness the collective insight of your users. As you quite rightly pointed out all too many 'BI solutions' seem to push content/reports to the end user and do not take into account how you potentially can harness what your users are doing and how they are interacting with information.

By bringing Web 2.0 concepts of social networking, sharing, collaboration, tagging and resource rating into your BI strategy you can begin to leverage that collective insight and greatly enhance the BI experience.

Check out what Timo Elliott blogged about recently

Good luck!

Best regards

Mark Cudmore said...

Thanks Timo,

Enabling our clients to take their information and do things that weren't designed to be done will be so great. We aren't there yet, but I'm starting to see how it would work.

I'll spend some time on your blog, looks like you have some great ideas.


Antivia said...

Hi Mark,

It was actually me 'Mark' that left the comment. I was referencing Timo who is someone I respect in the industry.

Good luck!

Mark Cudmore said...

And we have the same first name! Thanks Mark!

B Lewis said...

Hey Mark, I'm working at a newfangled business intelligence company and we're looking for savvy BI folks to be part of the private beta and give us some feedback. You seem to have an unusual grasp of both BI and business issues, so it would be great if you could take part, or at least just poke around. Let me know if you're interested by shooting me an email at blewis (at)

This is a personal weblog, and does not represent the thoughts, intentions, plans or strategies of my employer.