My Week At the TDWI Conference (2008) – II

On from Events, Web Analytics

Now, the summary of the second day of a week that changed many things in my professional life.

Today was HandsOn-Business Analytics with the very interesting Michael L. Gonzales. Michael walked us through some high level topics in today’s BI: the promise of BI, the BI gap, filling the BI gap, dashboards and scorecards, advanced visualization, location BI, and data mining.

As in Web Analytics (I believe), BI is facing some frustration regarding made promises on which it still does not deliver well: “traditional warehouse technologies and techniques fall short of delivering the promise of BI” says Michael Gonzales. All those systems have been generating tons of reports, leaving the analyst will all the insight lifting to do. In short, too much reporting and not enough actionable information.

Gosh, does that rings a bell for us Web analyst!!

Michael stressed the importance of seamless integration of technologies, and simplified data delivery, as key components of the foundation of successful BI. He mentions that more and more the integration and data management defectiveness are embedded in today’s database products. ETL, for example, has just disappeared has a field in itself, and the reporting applications, such as Business Objects, Cognos, and Hyperion, belong now to the likes of Oracle, IBM, and SAP. That made me think that the latter, not the former ones, could be the potential buyers for high-end products in the Web Analytics field (no, not Google Analytics). When I look at all that is being done here, and the difference in size of the players, I can’t see what kind of long-term future there is for those vendors as stand-alone companies.

We discussed the difference between scorecards and dashboards, but I didn’t always agree with him. Michael Gonzales says that scorecards are the ones handling the KPIs, while dashboards are for operational use. To me, it seems to be more a question of vocabulary than true differences. Following W. Eckerson (whose workshop on dashboard I will attend tomorrow afternoon), I prefer to talk about strategic and tactic/operational dashboards. We did a little lab with Microsoft Scorecard Manager; quite neat (although a little poor on the design side).

Michael also introduced us to the new trend of visual analysis, which I was first exposed in June 2007 during Stephen Few’s first public seminar. It makes SO much sense to “look” at data to discover insights. We got to play with tools such as Advizor Analyst (ouch!), WebFOCUS Visual Discovery, ESRI Business Analyst (cool spatial analysis tool), and Tableau Software, for which I got a sweet spot.

We ended the day with data mining. M. Gonzales stressed the high quality of BI going on in that field, calling for the necessity to make it an important part of the BI portfolio.

This was a great day of learning, and I certainly look forward to tomorrow’s session, when I will attend, in addition to Eckerson’s class, another Michael Gonzales’s seminar on statistics.

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