Who are the BI thought leaders?
The BI industry—is—an industry. Over the past 20 years it’s grown into a multi-billion dollar ($US) business largely on the strength of a symbiotic relationship between the luminaries who designed and advocated the classic enterprise BI paradigm and the vendors who created and sold the software and technical staffing to build the solutions.
Who are today’s BI thought leaders? Who should you listen to? Who has the knowledge, insights, and experience to help you find your path to BI success? Most importantly, who holds your interests first and foremost?
When you’re considering which BI thought leaders to follow, you might want to take into consideration their position in the BI universe.
Many of the people mentioned as BI thought leaders in the techno-business-IT media are the old guard, who made their reputations creating, promoting, and profiting from the framing of BI as the big, complex, complicated, enterprise-class industrial undertakings that have given us the current mainstream BI world. If you think that these people are the ones you want to follow into the future, they’re the leaders for you.
On the other hand, the world of BI is finally breaking free of the shackles of Big BI. It’s no longer a case of “Let’s build the all-inclusive data warehouse so we can divine the single version of the truth that we’ll then allow the business to see.”
NoSQL, big data, appliances, in-memory databases, intimate analytics, direct data access, high visualization quality, agile development, and other advances have dramatically reduced the barriers between business people and their data.
If you are interested in seeing where BI is capable of going, and how it might get there, beware the BI pitchmen (and women) who brought you the past.
Look to Stephen Few, Edward Tufte, Colin Ware, and their peers, for the principles of analytic information design. Run away from anyone who’s written a dashboard book or published thought-leader materials featuring pie charts, dial gauges, wet-look anything, bulb thermometers, radar charts, 3D inverted cone graphs, 3D anything, excessive color, bouncing bars, or any of the other look-at-me examples of the eye-candy-rules school of Sexy Marketingware Sells BI.
Look to Christian Chabot for the democratization of data. Look to the other vendors who are bringing tools to market that eliminate barriers between people and their data. These are the people who say “your data, your information, your way”. Pay no attention to those who say “First thing, let’s put in a comprehensive program of data governance to assess and ensure data quality. Then we’ll build us a comprehensive enterprise data warehouse and front it with the universal answer-anything analytical platform. Then, once we’re confident that we’ve fully identified, confirmed, vetted, and validated the essential KPIs, metrics, dashboards, scorecards, strategy maps, self-service reporting requirements, and other analytical elements and artifacts we’ll open the doors and let the business in for the show.”
Look for and follow the innovators who understand that the best BI architecture is emergent, the result of continual refinement responding to the aggregation and consolidation of the multiple inputs from live analytics created collaboratively with business stakeholders, and the synthesis of cross-source common business domains into coherent information models that then, in their proper turn, direct the design and development of the enterprise analytical data stores, e.g. data marts and warehouses, that provide the high level comprehensive information.
Follow those who understand that BI is not a project, with discrete inputs and deliverables, but a process of discovering, satisfying, and supporting business understanding of the information, insights, and stories that the data can tell. There’s little value in using your time to follow those who tell you that BI is all about building big data cathedrals and the monstrous software platforms to interrogate them. Be skeptical of those who are selling an architecture, highly polished universal schemas, their BI recipe book.
Follow those who understand that BI is a professional practice requiring intellectual and cognitive talents and abilities, education, experience, training, and the passion for figuring things out. Shun those who cast BI as an industrial, automated process well-conducted with the proper acquisition of sufficient technology along with the right blend of onshore/offshore cost-contained resource allocation and custom strategic very expensive consultant leadership.
Follow those who commit to delivering value in the form of real, live analytics immediately and constantly throughout your organization’s lifetime. Dismiss those whose idea of agile BI is taking a month or more to deliver a report identifying low hanging, high value strategic metrics that will provide your company with an enduring competitive advantage along with the very large and impressive MS Project plan manifesting the “Special BI Methodology” laying out the detailed step-by-step task structure and timeline that will deliver the results “our very experienced industry expert consultants” have determined you need to dominate your industry as an analytical competitor.