The trends putting intelligence back into business

3d small people - there is an ideaAccording to Gartner, the business intelligence market (including data warehouses and CRM analytics) is growing nine percent per year. While it was worth $57 billion at the end of 2010, it will surge to $81 billion by 2014 and as high as $136 billion by 2020. Rather remarkable, isn’t it? What’s driving this growth is the search for improvements in performance, and a change in thinking around people, processes and systems.  Let’s take a look at three major trends supporting the BI boom.

1.  Big Data. Smart data.

Big data – an over-hyped buzzword?  Well, the jury is still out on that. But what’s certain, is that the big data bubble has focused businesses perspective on data, and driven them to re-examine who their customer is and how they can continue to deliver what they want.

Due to the inefficiencies and cost associated, it is not feasible to capture and analyse all the customer data available, and then deliver insight as well.  Location data, blogs, purchase data, weather data, sensor data, social network data… what is available for capture to organisations is immense and requires exceptional technologies to efficiently process the large quantities within an acceptable timeframe.  What businesses are now doing is taking the first steps towards mastering big data analytics (although mastering is probably the wrong word; more like ‘lassoing’).  The big data bubble is creating a renewed and necessary drive by organisations to understand what data is actually going to impact on their business, what data can be accessed and manipulated into actionable outputs, and how they can get true return on investment from their systems.

Businesses that are setting clearer objectives, keeping data more organised and starting with smaller pieces of the puzzle, will be better placed to transform their big data into smart data.

2.  Introducing BI for the next generation – Self-Service.

By far one of the fastest growing trends is the ICT department’s relinquishment of the title as gate keeper to information.  By providing end users with more visibility and access to data means analytical reporting and information has become the foundation for operational decisions and applications. This is causing a distributed BI landscape that is making the data warehouse concept much less prevalent, though challenges arise in how we manage this environment without going back to the spreadmart world of yesteryear.  The one thing that’s for certain, it’s keeping happy the research-focused, tech dependent, outcome driven next generation of our workforce.

3.  The whole truth and nothing but the truth, Master Data Management (MDM).

MDM is a suite of business focused processes, procedures and standards, and technology that aims to improve the quality of data to bring control of high-value data assets back to the business.  Essentially, it’s about finding the truth – a single source of high quality, consistent data made contextually relevant across the organisation.  This is perhaps the trend becoming most critical to organisations, particularly in sectors such as mining, oil & gas, and energy, where the ability to guarantee the accuracy of management reports, operational transactions and system information is crucial to maintaining health and safe practices.  Businesses looking to improve their master data need to first ensure there is the correct level of business engagement and enabling technologies to easily manage, cleanse and control the data.

Although the themes that are driving these BI trends are not new, there have been step-change movements in the last two to three years – and many organisations are still only in the early stages of adoption. These trends will continue to evolve at a rapid pace, further highlighting the need for organisations to be clear in identifying what the business drivers are for the BI initiatives.

I outlined a couple more top trends in my recent white paper, “Top 5 business intelligence trends in 2013: enabling insights from anywhere, anytime, in real time.”


James Bashworth is the Practice Lead for Business Intelligence at Velrada and a Senior Consultant with over ten years’ of experience in delivery of Business Intelligence, Data Governance, Architecture and Business Analysis services. James has worked internationally around Europe and Australia, in sectors that include resources, government and financial services.

In addition to being a certified Microsoft Business Intelligence specialist James is also a distinguished Microsoft Virtual Technology Solutions Professional (vTSP), a position held by a select few in Australia. As a vTSP, Microsoft leverages James’ expertise to consult on BI strategy, architecture, business requirements and solution definition, in support of key client objectives.

Just add egg: What successful Project Managers can learn from Betty Crocker Written by Andrew Fisher of Velrada

BettyCrockerLogoYes, I am indeed talking about the Betty Crocker who makes cake mixes; the packets you sneak off the shelf into your trolley, mix in a bowl with water and an egg, toss it in the oven, then smile like the Cheshire cat as your guests tuck into your perfect, velvety creation and coo about “how much effort you’ve gone to…”.

Now, the fact that I allow my guests to think I deserve a place on the next round of Masterchef is not the point of this post.

The point, lies in the egg.  Let me explain…

In 1952, General Mills (owner of Betty Crocker) released Betty’s first cake mix.  The business world was abuzz with what was thought would revolutionise the way people baked and would fast become “the next big thing”.  But when sales didn’t take off, the execs hired business psychologists to conduct research to find the source of the problem.  And the problem, according to the experts, was the egg.

At a breakthrough focus group, it emerged that housewives felt that they were cutting too many corners; they felt guilty, almost as if they werecheating,because the products were just too easy. In response to this, Betty Crocker’s business psychologists came up with a plan… they took out the egg.  Yes, they simply removed the powdered egg from the mix, put an instruction on the packet that the housewife should add one freshly beaten egg, and suddenly the product began flying off the shelves. Today, amazingly, we still have to add that darn egg.

So, what can we, as successful Project Managers, learn from Betty Crocker’s story?

1.  Understand the user experience

Often what seems obvious to management or decision makers is very different to the end users.  Be thorough in your analysis, facilitate open discussions and assume nothing!

Don’t underestimate the value placed by a person on their role and their processes.

Enabling the housewife to add eggs made the process feel more authentic and so enabling her to feel successful as a homemaker and cook.  A small change in the workplace can make a big difference to employee feelings of stability and security.  Be perceptive, monitor behaviour and closely manage change.

2.  Involvement is critical

Greater client involvement, across all key sects of the business, increases their buy-in and therefore their sense of loyalty and ownership of the product.  If you want real business adoption, think about how you are involving the user and leaving them feeling engaged.

3.  Be adaptable

It’s not enough simply creating a goal, developing a plan and executing it.  Business and market conditions are often variable, especially during the course of large-scale projects.  Project managers should frequently review and revise the project plan, to ensure team learnings are integrated along the way and performance remains on track to meet the greater objectives.

And next time you’re rolling out a project, remember the story of Betty Crocker’s egg. She’s proven that if you can always keep the end user in mind, you can have your cake and eat it too.


Andrew Fisher is the Information Management Director at Velrada, and has over 20 years of experience in ICT enabled IM transformation project work. Andrew has a strong consulting and services delivery expertise across specialities such as Portals & Collaboration, Information Management, Enterprise Content Management, and Document and Records Management. He is currently leading a team to implement a number of integrated case management and business intelligence solutions in both the public and private sectors.