BI 2.0: is it for real?

Most of us nowadays are overwhelmed by too many “2.0” […]

August 13, 2008

Most of us nowadays are overwhelmed by too many “2.0” that seems to be the new buzz word that all software editors, Medias, marketing strategists and so on are putting beside “WEB”, and now “BI”.

Let’s step back and try to understand what is it about?

If now we are dealing with “2.0”, means that we came from “1.0” (wow! I’m really impressed by my sense of deduction). OK, that was obvious for web when “1.0” meant surfing through the web, looking for information and then bringing it back for further handling. There were also services like e-banking, ebay, e-/put want you want/ … But the missing piece was: “Interaction”. People are using services, reaching information but not interacting between each other and this is what “Web 2.0” brought to us (Wikis, Blogs, RSS, Social Networks, RIAs, Mashups …). “Interaction” goes beyond communication with others; it is about sharing knowledge, debating, raising insights, finding new ideas and so and so forth.

So, Web 2.0, indubitably represents a disruptive set of technologies that shift us away from passive use of the web and put us in new active way of thinking. Though, thinking actively and interacting mean at some extents (as I mentioned it before) get information, share ideas, knowledge in real-time or near real-time. In other words, it is, by using massively the instant collaboration.

Tim O’ Reilly, who initiated the most widely accepted specification for Web 2.0, said
“data will be the driving force of Web 2.0…”. You might already know it, BI is about extracting insights from “data” and make it available for decision making and this where “2.0” is making sense for BI.

BI 2.0 versus Web 2.0

I see BI 2.0 as an extension of Web 2.0 in enterprise scenario where instead of using a passive reporting or static dashboards afterwards; we will collaborate or share ideas, commentaries to understand what behind figures. We will react to business events that will alert us at specific point in time and take decision as the action is happening and not after certain time. We will use a kind of BI Mashups (composite BI applications which will mix and match a structured and unstructured, corporate and public data in many new ways for analysis and interactive reporting capabilities) based on web services to build our dashboards and reflect our needs at certain point of time instead of relying on IT folks for building to us static BI portals.

Latency! the new deal

BI 2.0 is also about avoiding latency to deliver the right information for making the right decision at the right time. This sentence makes a real sense in the BI 2.0 world. Latency is most important drawback in today BI world. It is about waiting for extraction, transformation, loading data and then makes it available to the end users.

So, imagine yourself an operational manager. The question here is: What would be the most valuable information that BI could offer me in order to achieve my goals, be proactive, productive, etc…?
Looking to manage processes in efficient way, the most valuable information that you can get is the one where the action is happening because it gives you the opportunity to readjust your process in the way it is not too late. This is where the BI 2.0 brings value to the enterprise. What’s needed is a way to put relevant insight into the hands of operations staff in time to make a difference to day-to-day operations.

Yet, in this context, BI 2.0 should be used within the process as a way of routing workflow automatically, based on what a user is doing. In order to do this, you have to not only capture data in real time, but you need to analyze and interpret it as well.

What is About the BI architecture?

Try to imagine a marketing director of a global company. As such, his is receiving in his interactive dashboard key indicators about how its products are performing in different regions and these are streamlined by events processing. So the question here is: in case of standard BI relying on ETL stuffs, is he able to wait for tomorrow in order to act? I think in most of our today businesses, the answer is no! Because it will, simply, lead to an out-of-date decision.

So probably, in our BI 2.0 universe, this marketing director will act according to the events and alerts that he is receiving in his dashboard and then triggers a marketing campaign for instance from within his dashboard acting directly on another process.

This is essentially event-driven BI – analyzing up-to-the-minute data in the context of historic information – so that actions can be initiated automatically. The data warehouse isn’t good at this and in my opinion won’t be (or shouldn’t) anymore considered as the “single version of the truth” because it is simply being asked to support functions it was not designed for.

Of course, I’m not saying that the data warehouse is death but it role should be reviewed regarding the new paradigm of the SOA and EDA (Data services, MDM, BRM, BAM, CEP, …) which undoubtedly will lead to review the existing BI architectures which is struggling more and more.

With BI 2.0, the monolithic role played by the Data warehouse, as I said, to deliver subject oriented data, non volatile, integrated and time variant will collapse. Because data isn’t stored in a database or extracted and/or transformed for analysis; BI 2.0 uses event-stream processing. As the name implies, this approach processes streams of events in memory, either in parallel with actual business processes or as a process step itself. So, the outputs are real-time metrics and alerts or triggers that act on other application or processes. So that processes become intelligent and this will be the new challenges that decision makers should undertake now in today fast growing market.

In summary

As you can see BI 2.0 is a term that encapsulates several important new concepts about the way that we use and exploit information in enterprises. Probably some of you will say “this guy is dreaming”. But let me just say this: no dream implies no vision, no growth, no profit, no business …

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