Timo Elliott on 2012

Continuing the DecisionStats series on  trends for 2012, Timo Elliott , Technology Evangelist  at SAP Business Objects, looks at the predictions he made in the beginning of  2011 and follows up with the things that surprised him in 2011, and what he foresees in 2012.

You can read last year’s predictions by Mr Elliott at http://www.decisionstats.com/brief-interview-timo-elliott/

Timo- Here are my comments on the “top three analytics trends” predictions I made last year:

(1) Analytics, reinvented. New DW techniques make it possible to do sub-second, interactive analytics directly against row-level operational data. Now BI processes and interfaces need to be rethought and redesigned to make best use of this — notably by blurring the distinctions between the “design” and “consumption” phases of BI.

I spent most of 2011 talking about this theme at various conferences: how existing BI technology israpidly becoming obsolete and how the changes are akin to the move from film to digital photography. Technology that has been around for many years (in-memory, column stores, datawarehouse appliances, etc.) came together to create exciting new opportunities and even generally-skeptical industry analysts put out press releases such as “Gartner Says Data Warehousing Reaching Its Most Significant Inflection Point Since Its Inception.” Some of the smaller BI vendors had been pushing in-memory analytics for years, but the general market started paying more attention when megavendors like SAP started painting a long-term vision of in-memory becoming a core platform for applications, not just analytics. Database leader Oracle was forced to upgrade their in-memory messaging from “It’s a complete fantasy” to “we have that too”.

(2) Corporate and personal BI come together. The ability to mix corporate and personal data for quick, pragmatic analysis is a common business need. The typical solution to the problem — extracting and combining the data into a local data store (either Excel or a departmental data mart) — pleases users, but introduces duplication and extra costs and makes a mockery of information governance. 2011 will see the rise of systems that let individuals and departments load their data into personal spaces in the corporate environment, allowing pragmatic analytic flexibility without compromising security and governance.

The number of departmental “data discovery” initiatives continued to rise through 2011, but new tools do make it easier for business people to upload and manipulate their own information while using the corporate standards. 2012 will see more development of “enterprise data discovery” interfaces for casual users.

(3) The next generation of business applications. Where are the business applications designed to support what people really do all day, such as implementing this year’s strategy, launching new products, or acquiring another company? 2011 will see the first prototypes of people-focused, flexible, information-centric, and collaborative applications, bringing together the best of business intelligence, “enterprise 2.0”, and existing operational applications.

2011 saw the rise of sophisticated, user-centric mobile applications that combine data from corporate systems with GPS mapping and the ability to “take action”, such as mobile medical analytics for doctors or mobile beauty advisor applications, and collaborative BI started becoming a standard part of enterprise platforms.

And one that should happen, but probably won’t: (4) Intelligence = Information + PEOPLE. Successful analytics isn’t about technology — it’s about people, process, and culture. The biggest trend in 2011 should be organizations spending the majority of their efforts on user adoption rather than technical implementation.

Unsurprisingly, there was still high demand for presentations on why BI projects fail and how to implement BI competency centers.  The new architectures probably resulted in even more emphasis on technology than ever, while business peoples’ expectations skyrocketed, fueled by advances in the consumer world. The result was probably even more dissatisfaction in the past, but the benefits of the new architectures should start becoming clearer during 2012.

What surprised me the most:

The rapid rise of Hadoop / NoSQL. The potentials of the technology have always been impressive, but I was surprised just how quickly these technology has been used to address real-life business problems (beyond the “big web” vendors where it originated), and how quickly it is becoming part of mainstream enterprise analytic architectures (e.g. Sybase IQ 15.4 includes native MapReduce APIs, Hadoop integration and federation, etc.)

Prediction for 2012:

As I sat down to gather my thoughts about BI in 2012, I quickly came up with the same long laundry list of BI topics as everybody else: in-memory, mobile, predictive, social, collaborative decision-making, data discovery, real-time, etc. etc.  All of these things are clearly important, and where going to continue to see great improvements this year. But I think that the real “next big thing” in BI is what I’m seeing when I talk to customers: they’re using these new opportunities not only to “improve analytics” but also fundamentally rethink some of their key business processes.

Instead of analytics being something that is used to monitor and eventually improve a business process, analytics is becoming a more fundamental part of the business process itself. One example is a large telco company that has transformed the way they attract customers. Instead of laboriously creating a range of rate plans, promoting them, and analyzing the results, they now use analytics to automatically create hundreds of more complex, personalized rate plans. They then throw them out into the market, monitor in real time, and quickly cull any that aren’t successful. It’s a way of doing business that would have been inconceivable in the past, and a lot more common in the future.

 

About

 

Timo Elliott

Timo Elliott is a 20-year veteran of SAP BusinessObjects, and has spent the last quarter-century working with customers around the world on information strategy.

He works closely with SAP research and innovation centers around the world to evangelize new technology prototypes.

His popular Business Analytics blog tracks innovation in analytics and social media, including topics such as augmented corporate reality, collaborative decision-making, and social network analysis.

His PowerPoint Twitter Tools lets presenters see and react to tweets in real time, embedded directly within their slides.

A popular and engaging speaker, Elliott presents regularly to IT and business audiences at international conferences, on subjects such as why BI projects fail and what to do about it, and the intersection of BI and enterprise 2.0.

Prior to Business Objects, Elliott was a computer consultant in Hong Kong and led analytics projects for Shell in New Zealand. He holds a first-class honors degree in Economics with Statistics from Bristol University, England

Timo can be contacted via Twitter at https://twitter.com/timoelliott

 Part 1 of this series was from James Kobielus, Forrestor at http://www.decisionstats.com/jim-kobielus-on-2012/

Brief Interview Timo Elliott

Here is a brief interview with Timo Elliott.Timo Elliott is a 19-year veteran of SAP Business Objects.

Ajay- What are the top 5 events in Business Integration and Data Visualization services you saw in 2010 and what are the top three trends you see in these in 2011.


Timo-

Top five events in 2010:

(1) Back to strong market growth. IT spending plummeted last year (BI continued to grow, but more slowly than previous years). This year, organizations reopened their wallets and funded new analytics initiatives — all the signs indicate that BI market growth will be double that of 2009.

(2) The launch of the iPad. Mobile BI has been around for years, but the iPad opened the floodgates of organizations taking a serious look at mobile analytics — and the easy-to-use, executive-friendly iPad dashboards have considerably raised the profile of analytics projects inside organizations.

(3) Data warehousing got exciting again. Decades of incremental improvements (column databases, massively parallel processing, appliances, in-memory processing…) all came together with robust commercial offers that challenged existing data storage and calculation methods. And new “NoSQL” approaches, designed for the new problems of massive amounts of less-structured web data, started moving into the mainstream.

(4) The end of Google Wave, the start of social BI.Google Wave was launched as a rethink of how we could bring together email, instant messaging, and social networks. While Google decided to close down the technology this year, it has left its mark, notably by influencing the future of “social BI”, with several major vendors bringing out commercial products this year.

(5) The start of the big BI merge. While several small independent BI vendors reported strong growth, the major trend of the year was consolidation and integration: the BI megavendors (SAP, Oracle, IBM, Microsoft) increased their market share (sometimes by acquiring smaller vendors, e.g. IBM/SPSS and SAP/Sybase) and integrated analytics with their existing products, blurring the line between BI and other technology areas.

Top three trends next year:

(1) Analytics, reinvented. New DW techniques make it possible to do sub-second, interactive analytics directly against row-level operational data. Now BI processes and interfaces need to be rethought and redesigned to make best use of this — notably by blurring the distinctions between the “design” and “consumption” phases of BI.

(2) Corporate and personal BI come together. The ability to mix corporate and personal data for quick, pragmatic analysis is a common business need. The typical solution to the problem — extracting and combining the data into a local data store (either Excel or a departmental data mart) — pleases users, but introduces duplication and extra costs and makes a mockery of information governance. 2011 will see the rise of systems that let individuals and departments load their data into personal spaces in the corporate environment, allowing pragmatic analytic flexibility without compromising security and governance.

(3) The next generation of business applications. Where are the business applications designed to support what people really do all day, such as implementing this year’s strategy, launching new products, or acquiring another company? 2011 will see the first prototypes of people-focused, flexible, information-centric, and collaborative applications, bringing together the best of business intelligence, “enterprise 2.0”, and existing operational applications.

And one that should happen, but probably won’t:

(4) Intelligence = Information + PEOPLE. Successful analytics isn’t about technology — it’s about people, process, and culture. The biggest trend in 2011 should be organizations spending the majority of their efforts on user adoption rather than technical implementation.                 About- http://timoelliott.com/blog/about

Timo Elliott is a 19-year veteran of SAP BusinessObjects, and has spent the last twenty years working with customers around the world on information strategy.

He works closely with SAP research and innovation centers around the world to evangelize new technology prototypes.

His popular Business Analytics and SAPWeb20 blogs track innovation in analytics and social media, including topics such as augmented corporate reality, collaborative decision-making, and social network analysis.

His PowerPoint Twitter Tools lets presenters see and react to tweets in real time, embedded directly within their slides.

A popular and engaging speaker, Elliott presents regularly to IT and business audiences at international conferences, on subjects such as why BI projects fail and what to do about it, and the intersection of BI and enterprise 2.0.

Prior to Business Objects, Elliott was a computer consultant in Hong Kong and led analytics projects for Shell in New Zealand. He holds a first-class honors degree in Economics with Statistics from Bristol University, England. He blogs on http://timoelliott.com/blog/ (one of the best designed blogs in BI) . You can see more about him personal web site here and photo/sketch blog here. You should follow Timo at http://twitter.com/timoelliott

Art Credit- Timo Elliott

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Interview Timo Elliott SAP

Here is an interview with Timo Elliott, Senior Product Director SAP Business Objects.

Ajay- Describe your career in science from school to Senior Director in SAP to blogger/speaker. How do you think we can convince students of the benefits of learning science and maths.

Timo- I studied economics with statistics in the UK, but I had always been a closet geek and had dabbled with computers ever since I was a kid, starting with Z80 assembler code. I started my career doing low-level computer consulting in Hong Kong, and worked on a series of basic business intelligence projects at Shell in New Zealand, cobbling together a solution based on a mainframe HR system, floppy-disk transfers, and Lotus 1-2-3 macros. When I returned to Europe, I stumbled across a small French startup that provided exactly the “decision support systems” that I had been looking for, and enthusiastically joined the company.

Over the last eighteen years, I’ve worked with hundreds of companies around the world on their BI strategy and my job today is to help evangelize what works and what doesn’t, to help organizations avoid the mistakes that others have made.

When it comes to BI initiatives, I see the results of one fundamental problem almost on a daily basis: 75% of project success depends on people, process, organization, culture, and leadership, but we typically spend 92% of our time on data and technology.

BI is NOT about technology – it’s about helping people do their jobs. So when it comes to education, we need to teach our technologists more about people, not science!

Ajay- You were the 8th employee of SAP Business Objects. What are the key turning points or transition stages in the BI industry that you remember seeing in the past 18 years, and how has SAP Business objects responded to them.

Timo- Executive information systems and multidimensional databases have been around since at least the 1970s, but modern business intelligence dates from the early 1990s, driven by the widespread use of relational databases, graphical user interfaces, and the invention of the “semantic layer”, pioneered by BusinessObjects, that separated business terms from technical logic. For the first time, non-expert business people had self-service access to data.

This was followed by a period of rapid expansion, as leading vendors combined reporting, multidimensional, and dashboard approaches into fully-fledged suites. During this period, BusinessObjects acquired a series of related technology companies to complete the existing offer (such as the leader in operational reporting, Crystal Reports) and extend into enterprise information management and financial performance management.

Finally, the theme of the last few years has clearly been consolidation – according to Gartner, the top four “megavendors” (SAP, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle) now make up almost two-thirds of the market, and accounted for fully 83% of the growth since last year. Perhaps as a result, user deployments are accelerating, with usage growth rates doubling last year.

Ajay- How do you think Business Intelligence would be affected by the following

a) Predictive Analytics.

Timo- Predictive analytics has been the “next big thing in BI” for at least a decade. It has been extremely important in some key areas, such as fraud detection, but the dream of “no longer managing by looking out of the rear-view mirror” has proved hard to achieve, notably because business conditions are forever changing.

We offer predictive analytics with our Predictive Workbench product – but I think the real opportunity for this technology in the future is “power analytics”, rather than “prediction”. For example, helping business people automatically cluster similar values, spot outliers, determine causal factors, and detect trend inflection points, using the data that they already have access to with traditional BI.

b) Cloud Computing.

Timo- In terms of architecture, it’s clearly not about on-demand OR on-premise: it’s about having a flexible approach that combines both approaches. You can compare information to money: today, we tend to keep our money in the bank rather than under our own mattress, because it’s safer, more convenient, and more cost-efficient. At the same time, there are situations where the convenience of cash is still essential.

Companies should be able to choose a BI strategy, and decide how to deploy it later. This is what we offer with our BI on-demand solutions, which use the same technology as on-premise. You can start to build on-premise and move it to on-demand, or vice-versa, or have a mix of both.

In terms of data, “cloud intelligence” is still a work in progress. As with modern financial instruments, we can expect to see the growth of new information services, such as our “information on-demand” product that provide data feeds from Reuters, Thompson Financial, and other providers to augment internal information systems. Looking further into the future, we can imagine new information marketplaces that would pay us “interest” to store our data in the cloud, where it can be adapted, aggregated and sold to others.

c) Social Media.

Timo- Conversations and collaboration are an essential part of effective business intelligence. We often talk about the notion of a “single view of the truth” in this industry, but that’s like saying we can have “a single view of politics” – while it’s vital to try to give everybody access to the same data, there will always be plenty of room for interpretation and discussion. BI platforms need to support this collaborative decision-making.

In particular, there are many, many studies that show up our all-too-human limitations when it comes to analyzing data. For example, did you know that children with bigger feet have better handwriting?

It’s absolutely true — because the children are older! Mixing up correlation and causality is a common issue in business intelligence, and one answer to the problem is to add more people: the more reviewers there are of the decision-making process, the better the decisions will be.

Analysis is also critical to the development of social media, such as analyzing sentiment trends in Twitter — a functionality we offer with SAP CRM — or tracking social communities. For example, Jive, the leader in Enterprise 2.0 platforms, offers our BI products as part of their solution, to help their customers analyze and optimize use of the system. Administrators can track if usage is trailing off in a particular department, for example.

d) Social Network Analysis.

Timo- Over the last twenty years, partly as a result of extensive automation of operational tasks with systems such as SAP, there’s has been a huge shift from “routine” to “non-routine” work. Today, fully 90% of business users say that their work involves decision making, problem solving, and the creation of new analysis and insight.

To help support this new creativity, organizations are becoming more porous as we work closer with our ecosystem of customers, partners, and suppliers, and we work in ever-more matrixed environments and cross-functional teams.

We’ve developed a Social Network Analyzer prototype that combines BI and social networking to create a “single view of relationships”. It can gather information from multiple different systems, such as HR, CRM, email distribution lists, project teams, Twitter, etc., to create a multi-layered view of how people are connected, across and beyond the enterprise. For more information, see the SAP Web 2.0 blog post, and you can try it yourself on our ondemand.com web site.

Ajay- What is the area that SAP BusinessObjects is very good at (strength). What are the key areas that you are currently seeking to improve ( opportunities)

Timo- Companies evaluating BI solutions should look at four things: product functionality for their users’ needs, fit with the overall IT architecture, the vendor’s reputation and ecosystem, and (of course) price. SAP BusinessObjects is the clear leader in the BI industry, and I’d say that SAP BusinessObjects has the best overall solution if you’re a large organization (or looking to become one) with a variety of user needs, multiple data sources, and a heterogeneous IT infrastructure.

In terms of opportunities, we have high expectations for new interfaces for casual users, and in-memory processing, which we have combined in our SAP BusinessObjects Explorer product. Initial customer feedback has been excellent, with quotes such as “finding information is as easy as using the internet” and “if you can use a computer, you can use Explorer”.

In terms of future directions, we’re taking a very transparent, Web 2.0 approach. The SAP Business Objects innovation center is modeled on Google Labs and we share our prototypes (including the Social Network Analyzer mentioned above) with anybody who’s interested, and let our customers give us early feedback on what directions we should go.

Ajay- What does Timo Elliott do for work life balance when not writing, talking, and evangelizing about Business Intelligence?

Timo- I’m a keen amateur photographer – see www.timoelliott.com/personal for more!

Biography- http://timoelliott.com/blog/about

Timo Elliott is Senior Director of Strategic Marketing for SAP BusinessObjects. For the last twenty years he has been a thought leader and conference speaker in business intelligence and performance management.

A popular and engaging speaker, Elliott presents regularly to IT and business audiences at international conferences, drawing on his experience working with enterprise customers around the globe. Topics include the latest developments in BI/PM technology, how best to suceed with BI/PM projects, and future trends in the industry. 

Prior to Business Objects, Elliott was a computer consultant in Hong Kong and led analytics projects for Shell in New Zealand. He holds a first-class honors degree in Economics with Statistics from Bristol University, England.

Additional websites: http://www.sapweb20.com —  web 2.0 technology by, with, and at SAP

Email: telliott@timoelliott.com or timo.elliott@sap.com

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/timoelliott

Twitter: http://twitter.com/timoelliott

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/timoelliott/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/people/Timo-Elliott/544744135

For an earlier interview with Oracle Data Mining Product Management, Charlie Berger see https://decisionstats.wordpress.com/2009/09/02/oracle/