InetSoft Podcast: The Re-Evolution of Business Intelligence

This is the transcript of a podcast hosted by InetSoft on the topic of "The Re-Evolution of Business Intelligence." The speaker is Abhishek Gupta, Product Manager at InetSoft.

I find it interesting when you see technology solutions in business today are repeating themselves from previous incarnations and becoming more and more relevant in today’s world of business intelligence. For instance, there have been a lot of very interesting announcements in the last year about the virtual computing and cloud computing. If you were to look back 10 or 15, 20 years ago we called it distributed processing or client server computing. And even years before that we called it time sharing in a remote site and so forth.

But today the software that’s being announced and the communication linkages and the architectures have afforded us the capability of doing massive amounts of new applications, shortening the cycle to get to the data. And it absolutely requires you to know new kinds of organizations, not from just a technical base but from a support base for business.

One of the things I also see beyond just the technological introductions is a large amount of data, a large amount of systems, a large amount of integration requirements, master data management also being one of them and the use of data to better manage the customers internally and externally. And I guess a good answer for this also is when we start to think about the internal customers using IT information or business intelligence information as we focus here in this podcast.

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The reincarnation of the end user computing or managing end user computing of the 1980s and then the information center in the 80s and 90s, has now come to the business intelligence in the form of the business intelligence competency center or the business intelligence customer support center which is percolated up again as a major requirement.

There are now hundreds or thousands of users that need the basics. A lot are just getting to the data or initiating applications. Most people who have laptops, computers, PDAs or one of those things absolutely needs to know how to use them better in their business. And they are requiring training about getting around technical problems in connectivity and moving data and acquiring data and so forth.

So I think there’s going to be another revolution here not just of these kinds of technologies but also organizationally in order to support them through the Business Intelligence Competency Centers, which I’m being asked a lot about lately and doing a lot of private presentations for our clients and interchanging information on the best practices and doing that.

The Business Intelligence Competency Centers are as much on the mind of our audience as cloud computing. So yes, over the last 40 years the platform keeps changing, but what we keep doing on the platform keeps moving faster and faster so it’s kind of exciting. There are obviously great examples of success in data warehousing and business intelligence user companies but what are the relationship technologies that support business relationships?

The relationship technologies as seen back then obviously were not only PCs and telecommunications but today we see a transformation into the iPhone, the iPad, the Android and so forth with the applets or applications being downloaded from central sites and managed fee based and free based information. It’s there as well as the applications.

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What I am seeing is it’s not just handheld technologies. It’s everything from the ability to understand the customer’s needs and wants in a sales environment to being able to predict customer behavior in a marketing environment and getting the right offer to the right customer at the right time through the right channel. And the channels themselves are becoming relationship technologies.

This is the kind of thinking that I was into almost 10 years ago. What we were focusing on was not just the data and the application and the use, but what we see today is a clear evolution of relationship technology actually driving the business or driving the use of scanning devices now, on railroad cars, which have been around sporadically, iris scanning making it easier for people to get through customs, making it easier for people to see and be aware of things. Then there is the whole idea of opening up the internet to social kinds of networking. You can start with very primary things like E-harmony as a relationship technology. I mean it’s an application built to bring people together who have common interests, needs or beliefs or whatever it is. And beyond the dating role of that, which is by the way almost 10 years old, it's actually about a 40 year old application they used to do it in carnivals shows with punch cards.

Then there is the social networking in Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn and so forth, and there are very different kinds of technology uses there. Some even put character limitations like Twitter. What you find here is the world is now creating relationships that in many cases were somewhat difficult before being one to one almost direct either phone, personal mail, email whatever. Now you can do from one to many and many to one.

And in a business environment this social networking creates an opportunity to use the data from it and understand customers better, understand their needs, understand individuals, understand trends, and understand change. In very many cases some companies are using this just to change the world that they are in, or change the product opportunity of sales, or even to change how customers feel about their brand.

So I think there are a lot of different versions of that relationship technology starting with the devices themselves and all the way down to the data and socialization of the world wide web. Social networking is going to move further and further into a much bigger world of big data. A requirement for us is to really manage these systems not just from a volumes context but in the context of being able to understand what we need to do to react some of the things that are going on in the social network.

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Nowadays the big focus is on business analytics and behavior analysis, and it seems like we’re operationalizing the whole analytical environment. What do I see as the next step in the evolution of the use of BI over the coming years? In the last six months I’ve been asked that question frequently, and I don’t think it’s because people are just worried about the technology or wanting to know what the next technology is.

They’re trying to think about what it is that we are going to use all this information for because the information is in very many cases overwhelming, whether it’s at the company level or even within business units or departments. I think people are making mistakes in getting rid of lot of the detail for cost reasons or storage reasons or whatever. But I think the next evolution sets us on a trend here where we will move from the initial stages of doing data management or data transformation into information to the advanced stage of transforming information systems or IT into knowledge.

We’ll create knowledge bases, knowledge availability, experiential availability, training availabilities, and statistical knowledge. We will be taking a look at individuals, groups of people or individual human experiences. We’ll include backgrounds and relationship in business or even socially and use that knowledge to then take some form of action, or as I said earlier operationalize it.

I think that what coming now is a clear use of information to not only evaluate and make decisions but make very wise decisions based on predictive analytics in an operationalized environment that keeps changing. So it’s sort of like driving the car down the street in the old days in the 20th century and reporting on what happened behind us by rearview mirror, This was reporting 20 years ago. And now we are advancing beyond just looking out the front window or the dashboard to where we see, where we are going and how much and so forth but avoiding pitfalls or things in the way on our highway of where we were going.

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We are even using technologies, not only the GPS technologies, but using the business intelligent technologies to steer the business, drive the business down the various roads and avoiding the potholes or the canisters that are in your way or construction sites or whatever it is. The analogy I am using here to actually make the business more profitable, easier to run, more efficient, more effective and actually more innovative.

So I see this next step in business intelligence clearly combining different databases, data formats and non-structured data and structured data. The whole issue of geospatial is coming up not only as an output but maybe as an input. And space kinds of things that we’ve known for 20 or 30 years in the area of telemetry will be important. Could we steer a company through telemetry products, orders, customers, systems, advertising, competitors, industry data, weather data all this kind of stuff that people compute using complex kinds of models?

This will bring us to a stage which then opens up a whole different arena. The arena will open up from being limited to the technology in a software application to anybody asking any question at any time of the data warehouse and the business intelligence databases within them and doing any kind of analytics. If you think about it today in a world of the Internet, there is an ask any question at any time tool. It’s called Google, and you can get 600,000 answers.

If you put in a document or name of something, a book, whatever, you’ll get 100s of 1000s of answers. We need to be able to filter that out and be able to use it intelligently. So I think the knowledge base and the wisdom base in the future will be based on some of this business intelligence of the databases and data warehouses behind them.

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