IBM series of seven short papers

A blog by Claudia Imhoff

Dr. Claudia Imhoff BI expertIBM gave me a unique assignment recently. It was to write a series of short articles on topics of interest to me. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did writing them. Here is a recap of each paper along with the link to the full version. Thank you, IBM, and I welcome your comments or questions!

1. Game changing innovations in data management and data warehousing 
Today’s world of business intelligence (BI) technology is one of remarkable innovation, giving companies unprecedented capabilities – ones that simply did not exist 5 years ago. But with any significant technological shift comes the inevitable disruption to the status quo, in this case, the standard architecture for BI. But disruption is not necessarily negative.

This paper describes game changing innovations and how they can improve the overall analytical prowess of your organization’s BI environments. It also serves as an overview of four significant advances in data management and data warehousing and analytics to help you understand where and when to deploy these new technological features to enhance and improve your BI environment.

2. Supporting information producers – the masters of BI 
This paper describes the information producers, also known as the power business users or the now popular term: data scientists. These information workers tend to be highly trained in math and analytical functions, and are skilled at building customizable BI components. They publish BI-related information for use by information consumers and less technologically savvy information workers. They have a great interest in a self-service BI environment and therefore want access to large and, in some cases, unusual sets of data. Information producers can be business analysts, market researchers, statisticians, actuaries, senior managers, or middle managers.  Unfortunately they are often frustrated by IT-developed BI environments and may create their own solutions (e.g., using spreadsheets, Access databases, open source and/or subscription-based BI technologies).

3. Supporting information consumers – the most difficult BI audience to satisfy 
Information consumers are the largest audience for Business Intelligence (BI). They generally consist of people who don’t have the time, experience or inclination to create BI reports or analytics themselves but are critically important to the enterprise. They are executives, mid-level managers, customer-facing personnel, and others making crucial decisions everyday.  IT resources or Information Producers (technologically savvy business users like data scientists, power users, business analysts) are usually the creators of the BI objects (e.g., dashboards, portals, analytical models, KPIs, reports, etc.) used by these consumers. However, consumers have a great need to increase their personal knowledge by accessing and understanding these objects to make more timely and appropriate decisions.

Unfortunately, this important audience is often woefully under-served in many BI environments because their requirements are often misunderstood. This paper describes these requirements and the technologies that are most useful in supporting them

4. Creating a sustainable, easy to maintain BI environment
Business Intelligence (BI) has become a mandatory part of every enterprise’s decision-making fabric. Unfortunately in many cases, with this rise in popularity, came a significant and disturbing complexity. Many BI environments began to have a myriad of moving parts: data warehouses and data marts deployed on multiple platforms and technologies – each requiring significant effort to ensure performance and support for the various needs and skill sets of the business resources using the environment. These convoluted systems became hard to manage or enhance with new requirements. To remain viable and sustainable, they must be simplified.

Fortunately today, we have the ability to build simpler BI technical environments that still support the necessary business requirements but without the ensuing management complexity. This paper covers what is needed to simplify BI environments and the technologies that support this simplification.

5. Using data  compression to speed up analytics 
Analytics have become the darling of many forward-thinking organizations. There is no doubt that the real value of BI is not in production reporting or simple queries: it is in the creation and usage of advanced analytics. These BI components yield a deep understanding of customers, products, channels, operations, and external entities such as partners, suppliers, and even governmental impacts on the organization’s health and well-being.

Many technological innovations have focused on improving the performance of these complex queries. These include in-memory and columnar storage, NoSQL databases, and data warehouse appliances. These advances have certainly made sophisticated analysis of data far faster than ever before.

However, with the advent of big data, even these may not yield the performance needed. This paper describes the need for data compression and the technological innovations supporting this functionality that help reduce storage costs and unwanted purging or archiving of valuable data.

6. Use cases for improved BI deployments
In the past year or two, we have seen a remarkably innovative perid for BI technologies. They promise faster, cheaper deployments with superior performance for all forms of reporting and analytics. And with all innovations, we have seen a period of disruptions to the standard BI architectures as well confusion in many organizations as to how and where to deploy these technological advances.

This paper presents a new architecture that extends the existing standard BI and data warehousing one to bring clarity back to implementers. Each technology – new and old – has its place in the new “Extended Data Warehouse” architecture. To further an organization’s understanding, use cases for each analytical environment plus considerations for the new deployment options of mobile BI and cloud implementations are offered.

7. The need for speed, simplicity and affordability 
BI requirements are constantly changing – but today’s environments are changing faster than ever. We now have technology that has completely altered the way we deploy BI solutions, the way we manage these environments and event the way we use BI.

There are three mandatory goals for modern BI architectures. The first is that BI must be available at the speed of thought. Second, we must simplify the deployment and management of these assets. Finally, economic times being what they are we must make these environments more affordable and be able to do more with less. This paper discusses these goals as well as the innovative technologies that support each one.