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Mike Ferguson

Welcome to my blog on the UK Business Intelligence Network. I hope to help you stay in touch with hot topics and reality on the ground in the UK and European business intelligence markets and to provide content, opinion and expertise on business intelligence (BI) and its related technologies. I also would relish it if you too can share your own valuable experiences. Let's hear what's going on in BI in the UK.

About the author >

Mike Ferguson is Managing Director of Intelligent Business Strategies Limited, a leading information technology analyst and consulting company. As lead analyst and consultant, he specializes in enterprise business intelligence, enterprise business integration, and enterprise portals. He can be contacted at +44 1625 520700 or via e-mail at mferguson@intelligentbusiness.biz.

February 2007 Archives

If any of you have got teenage kids you'll probably know what Myspace is or at least have heard them talking about it. Well try applying the concept inside a business and you begin to start to realise where we are heading here. Employees with their own workspaces and who are members of shared collaborative workspaces. The former is the employee personal workspace, the latter is where people working on projects together and people who are interested in the same information meet, share and collaborate.

In a collaborative workspace you have shared information (e.g. structured and office documents, BI reports, collaborative content) collaboration tools (to email and instant message people, shared calendar, threaded discussions.....), search, shared subscriptions etc. In a personal workspace you have what you are interested in and what is relevant to your role within the enterprise e.g. Your emails, your collaboration tools, your RSS feeds, your favourite content, your blog, your tags etc.

Now add BI and Performance Management into the mix and you get "Intelligent Workspaces" be they collaborative or personal. In intelligent workspaces (some may call them performance workspaces) you can search for reports and metrics, get real-time alerts, subscribe to RSS feeds on BI Metrics and new reports that you am interested in, collaborate with others to share BI. Individuals have MyScorecard with MyObjectives, MyDashboards, MyKPIs, MyAlerts. BI cannot do this on its own. But yet this is what many companies are now demanding. So consider how you plan to integrate. Integrate CPM and BI with portals, collaboration tools and content management to give us role intelligent workspaces all in your browser or integrated into you office applications. If you are already there, please let me hear from you and please share your experiences. It would be great to hear from you. If not drop me a note and I'll try to help out. As always you can get me on mferguson@intelligentbusiness.biz


Posted February 27, 2007 5:05 PM
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Amid this fast moving world of BI there are a lot of things on the agenda. BI integration with Portals, Operational BI, events, scorecards, text analytics, enterprise data management, master data management, SOA, process management....etc, etc. With so much on the to do list it is not surprising that some of us might miss a little piece of the puzzle that doesn't get a lot of air play. Any guesses? Well I would like to make a stand for rules engines. What about the business rules....we use them in deciding on business process behaviour, we use them to route messages on a service bus, we use them to decide how to present data on the screen and we use them for decision making. So where are they? For most of us they are locked away buried in our application logic, and for financial services perhaps in some batch decisioning systems. Yet if there is one thing we need to do it is to separate the rules from the systems that need them - especially in BI. The reason is because they change and in many cases quite often. If we introduce a rules server then we can define business rules that can test BI and help us make decisions.

As we enter the world of automated decisions to assist us in business automation this is one piece of technology we really need. But look beyond BI. You can use this SAME technology for dynamically changing process execution behaviour, for master data synchronisation, alerting and automated action taking and a whole host of other things. Some interesting vendors out there include Corticon, Fair Isaac Blaze Advisor, ILog, PegaSystems and SAS . In addition you can use also find open source rules engines such as the Drools Engine from JBoss. Combing rules engines with scoring models in a workflow can prove very powerful. While many of these vendors are focussed on process management their role in automated decision making is just as useful. If you are using rules in automated decision making to improve business performance and optimisation let me know at mferguson@intelligentbusiness.biz.


Posted February 26, 2007 8:44 PM
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As BI professionals we would have to have our heads buried in the sand to miss the storm building on the horizon. That storm is one of events. Lots of them. Think about RFIDs, credit cards transactions, telephone call data records (CDRs) or even partial CDRs for pre-paid customers. Also click streams, business process messages, and SOA where the whole thing runs on event messaging. Where is this taking us? We are headed right into event driven automatic analysis, and volumes of data like we haven't seen the like of before.

In my hotel room recently I was watching CNN and a discussion about how Hong Kong Airport is starting roll out RFID baggage tagging added to our luggage labels. In a year or two it will just be part of the norm in every airport. Retail supply chains and logistics operations are all heading down the RFID road and have been for some time. Anti-money laundering (AML) and Risk Management in banks are applications that demand automated action. Customer level risk management is starting to require credit reduction or 'close off' across all credit risk products as soon as one goes delinquent. Fraud is already a real-time automatic analysis application in banking.

In my opinion it is time we started to think about preparation for event-driven BI. Many of us are already doing event-driven data integration but that is just the beginning. The consequences of event driven are significant. With the demand for lower and lower latency of data we may not have time to move data into a warehouse and out to a data mart before analysis. We may have to analyse as soon as the data arrives in a warehouse (this capability is already supported in Teradata and IBM DB2 for example). This puts pressure on DBMS scalability. In some cases we may have to analyse before data reaches a warehouse (i.e. Business Activity Monitoring). This can be done by invoking scoring or predictive analytics services from a data integration flow or even from scoring model workflows that are event driven.

In my opinion this means we are heading for an era where automatic analysis will start to come into its own. Cognos has recently acquired Celequest in this area. Other large BI vendors will no doubt follow the Cognos lead and head into this market. Well before the Celequest acquisition this market has been growing and is vibrant today with vendors like Actimize, Fair Isaac, SAS, SeeWhy, SPSS, ThinkAnalytics and Tibco , to name a few, all competing for business.

In the hype of BI 2.0 there is a new lease of life to data mining. Back in the '90s the image of data mining was seen as only for the few and we had visions power users with double PHDs in statistical analysis. Today we are way beyond that. Now the bright power users are still there but the real value is once these models are deployed to be the 'look-outs' for patterns in data and for specific events occurring all over the enterprise. Event-driven in-place real-time scoring in the database is already happening in several of my clients and is growing, especially as SOA takes hold in organisations. The implication is lots instances of atomated analyses running concurrently in the BI system alongside 'classic' reporting and analysis. Workload management in DBMS products and BI servers will become even more critical to allow this new workload to run alonglside increasing numbers of concurrent users. This storm is coming. Time to get ready and re-visit your BI architecture to see if you can support it.


Posted February 11, 2007 11:44 PM
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