Business Intelligence Trends from 2012 Informer User Conference

Posted on March 14th 2012

Doug Leupen President Entrinsik and team at ICON 2012 Entrinsik’s Informer user conference (ICON 2012), had almost three hundred people from IT and every operational department from colleges, universities and businesses attending workshops and presentations about Informer and the future of business intelligence (BI) in education and business. Conference participants provided feedback during ICON’s three day conference, submitted applications to Entrinsik’s first Operational BI Awards and were able to see Informer’s new dashboards up close and personal during the keynote delivered by Entrinsik’s President Doug Leupen. Attendees echoed major BI trends from Forrester and Gartner including:

  • Democratization of IT
  • Data Flooding From Multiple Sources
  • Changing Roles And Responsibilities

Democratization of IT
About half of conference participants held up a hand in response to being asked who in the audience represented Information Technologies (IT) departments.  IT is under a different set of pressures created by new data sources, demands from power users and business decision time compression.  IT is being democratized by:

  • More users, using more data, drawing from more data sources
  • Mobile
  • Speed
  • Need for new tools (enterprise dashboards)

More Users, More Data Sources
Informer’s ability to successfully couple disparate data sources came up as an important idea, product strength and customer need in many sessions. IT departments are being asked to pull information from a variety of internal and external sources including data warehouses, internal and usually home grown databases and new data sources such as Google Analytics. The fact that Informer is a database agnostic platform came through as a crucial benefit.

“Power users want more control and access,” one IT professional shared. Power users take ad hoc reporting pressure off of IT provided another benefit. Several IT pros discussed how Informer users formed a support community within their colleges, universities and companies. Power users played a major role in Entrinsik’s BI Awards as Grand Prize winner Cathy Brown from McDaniel College explained:

“The ability to slice and dice data with Informer’s analytics allows decision-makers to have accurate, detailed data to make decisions and move McDaniel College forward.  Perhaps the coolest thing of all-our President and our Institutional Research folks can run this (Informer reports) at any hour. Informer puts reporting power in the hands of key decision makers.”

Not hard to see why the President of McDaniel College, in a sentiment echoed by his head of IT, called Informer a “game changer”.  Colleges and businesses face similar challenges – too much data from too many sources slowing decision making just when decisions need to be made faster.

Empowering users to “slice and dice” data in real time frees IT from pulling the same data over and over and never getting ad hoc reports right for disparate user communities.  Moving report creation closer to operational managers AND Presidents, CEOs, CIOs and CTOs changes the game. Gartner’s analyst Daryl Plummer notes how “control is slipping away” from IT in his Top Predictions for 2012 white paper. Plummer urges IT to become strategic, to “put the I back in Information Technology” since the “emerging digital enterprise thrives on information and value.” Plummer’s message and emphasis on INFORMATION liberation is what the IT pros at ICON 2012 want. More people interacting with more information faster was a clear BI trend at ICON 2012.

Big Data’s Flood
Many ICON 2012 attendees talked about millions of records flooding across from new sources. New sources from the web such as Google Analytics are being merged with internal reports to funnel a variety of data needs such as testing, monitoring social networks and quality checks for internal systems some created manually in Excel. “We use Live Excel on the front end, informer in the middle to touch several internal data sources and then bring in other data sources,” explained one IT manager at ICON. Live Excel was a common user interface; easy to understand why since it is such a familiar tool and using Informer as a conduit to the underlying database means that users have access to real-time data through Live Excel. Creative use of Informer and Live Excel was one way ICON attendees were bridging their current data flood.

Training users to do more with Informer was another common tactic. Several IT Directors discussed creating Informer training to help line personnel work directly with their data. One way to stem the IT flood is to have more hands on the sandbag lines. “I train three kinds of users,” one IT Director shared, “power users that need a quick Informer introduction and review, users that I know will be able to modify Informer reports and those that will just run Informer reports.”  The Director went on to express thanks for Informer’s ability to meet needs across a spectrum user skill sets from beginners to advanced.

Another way to stem the data flood apparent at ICON 2012 was using Informer as a quick QA tool. Several power users described cutting data maintenance loads by more than half thanks to Informer’s ability to error check and rehabilitate data. Several spoke to how Informer led to better data quality. “When you are the one working with the data at the reporting stage it is easy to look back to input and see where mistakes are being made,” one operational manager and Informer user shared. “Our goal in 2012 is to have everyone on Informer, eliminating some of the klugy and error prone ad hoc systems in favor of a supported, standardized and accurate reporting with Informer,” a CIO shared. The move to Informer, a Datatel partner, was made more critical by the upcoming elimination of Query Builder.

Mobile & Real Time
About half the conference used iPads or phones to stay in touch and take notes during the conference. Mobile and so called “embedded BI” was an ICON 2012 trend. Embedded “Embedded BI” means getting data quickly to its many operational (or embedded) decision points. This is why we called our first BI Awards, “Operational BI Awards”.  We create tools to help line managers and supervisors have the data necessary to make informed decisions in real time. Empowering line managers, as Gartner’s analysts point out, via tablets and other mobile devices is a critical 2012 goal for Entrinsik and Informer.

Speed
No one at ICON 2012 believed information demands would lesson or slow. Demands on IT and line managers are going in one direction – faster and more. Gartner notes that 85% of Fortune 500 will fail to exploit competitive advantages gained from “big data”. “The problem is there isn’t a single source for ‘Big Data’ anymore,” one IT Director shared. Big Data, or datasets so vast they become hard to work with directly, now come from internal and external sources. Informer’s ability to quickly couple disparate data sets helped many IT Managers. “Please stay in business,” was how one CIO answered the question of what more Entrinsik and Informer could do to help. No worries, was our easy answer.

Enterprise Dashboards
Informer’s new dashboards created real excitement. We conducted an informal poll asking if dashboards would be used by operational managers or “C” and “D” levels (CEO, CIOs, CTOs, Marketing, Sales and HR Directors). No surprise…70% indicated yes dashboards would be used by every department with around 30% saying dashboards would be limited to “D” and “C” levels.

Dashboards, normally reserved for senior management, can help line and operational managers do quick Key Performance Indicator (KPI) checks. We bet next year’s Operational BI Award Winners will include use of dashboards as early warning mechanisms for when and where deep data dives are necessary and needed. Dashboards help democratize IT, data and information, they stem big data’s flood and empower a larger user community to contribute quality data in and to pull real time critical data out making better business decisions in real time a reality.

ICON 2012 was fun, exciting and informative. Missed ICON 2012?

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