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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.

June 2007 Archives

Well folks, it had to happen. Earlier this evening Microsoft announced it had entered the MDM market with the acquisition of Stratature, a private MDM company based in Georgia USA. Although Microsoft is late into this market I am sure this is the opening play from our friends in Redmond Washington. I assume Microsoft will integrate Stratature with Microsoft SQL Server, Business Intelligence, PerformancePoint and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server to offer a co-ordinated MDM solution. I think for sure the master data definitions in any Microsoft MDM solution will end up in the SharePoint Business Data Catalog (BDC) as a way to get at master data from applications running on top of the SharePoint Server (e.g. Office). I have always felt that BDC on its own without common data definitions (which would be possible with MDM) means that users have to know the different data definitions for the same thing to clearly understand what they see via the portal or via Office applications. It was only a matter of time before Microsoft made a move into MDM. Now that it has happened we now have all four software giants (IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP) in this market along with best of breed independents. So let the battle begin.


Posted June 8, 2007 12:02 AM
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Having spent some time recently making use of new releases of collaboration tools from IBM and Microsoft it is pretty obvious that project management capability jumped head first into these products for use in collaborative environments. In a sense it is no surprise to see this as it is clearly a natural thing to want to collaborate with other team members on a project. Looking at IBMs new Lotus Connections for example, it is now possible to create activities and associate activities with goals. It is also possible to assign due dates to an activity and break it down further by creating TO DO lists. Furthermore I can then share these activities with others so that as a team you can collaborate to complete the activity and achieve the goal. Sound familiar? Well if you are working with Performance Management software I assume you should spot the similarity immediately.

You might say well so what? After all Microsoft can integrate MS Project with SharePoint (which has been possible for some time) to offer similar capability. BEA and indeed Vignette can also support so called "project" collaborative workspaces within their portal products and collaboration tools. For me as an analyst and consultant in Business Intelligence and Business Integration this synergy has been staring me in the face for ages and yet I see very few responsible for performance management in companies linking the two together. The strength of this synergy didn’t dawn on me until fairly recently when I was working with a client following what they do from CxO level down to operations staff on performance management. At executive level in my clients I often see the classic scorecards, dashboards, budgeting and planning that most mainstream BI vendors offer today typically based on balanced scorecard methodology. Budgeting and planning seem to still be stuck in the finance department in many cases. At operational performance management level I am starting to see more business activity monitoring (BAM) implementations typically associates with the Six Sigma methodology for process improvement. However I have many clients that now aspire to linked hierarchies of objectives, linked hierarchies of plans and linked hierarchies of targets so that from operation up to CxO level, everyone is contributing towards a common business strategy. I see this requirement everywhere these days. But what I also get asked about a lot is how companies can achieve enterprise wide budgeting and planning for all managers at all levels from CxO to operations. After all, why should budgeting and planning only belong at executive level? It should be enterprise wide. By this I mean the capability therefore for many to participate in this but that each managers’ plan and budget is tied to their bosses plans and budgets. This is critical if everyone is going to execute on a common business strategy. Not convinced? Then I recommend you read the recent book on Wikinomics - How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D Williams to realise why the wisdom of crowds is becoming so important.

So where is this discussion going? Well in a recent consulting assignment I was trying to understand planning from CxO down to operations. So I duly followed what was happening. When I started talking to operations staff and operations managers I asked where they kept their plans? “In MS Project” they said. “If you look here you can see all our activities that need to be carried out to achieve our goals at operational level in our area. This is how we do our operations planning to implement initiatives to improve performance in our area”. It turned out that there were lots of plans at operations level, all associated with project teams and all with activities and TO DO lists that need to be performed to achieve targets and objectives. Then the penny dropped in my head! If project management is now being integrated into collaborative workspaces then should it not be the case that Performance Management tools responsible for scorecards, objectives, targets, planning etc. need to integrate with project based Web 2.0 collaborative workspaces? The obvious answer is yes! Some Performance Management tools do support stand alone collaboration (proprietary capability) and can import plans from Microsoft Project today but it has to go a lot further. Performance Management and Collaboration tools have to deeply integrate. But open you minds further. A client CFO recently said to me that they needed cost based plans with costs to date assigned to plan activities to keep the plans on budget. I think this is an obvious ‘common sense’ requirement.

So, if you look closely at what we have you will see the following:
• Performance management software with scorecards, objectives, KPIs, targets, plans associated with initiatives that state what ACTIVITIES will be performed to help achieve objectives, budgets associates with these plans and dashboards
• Shared ACTIVITIES, objectives and due dates appearing in Web 2.0 releases of collaboration tools for project based collaborative workspaces
• ACTIVITIES in stand-alone project management tools
• Requirements for costs to be assigned to plans at ACTIVITY level
• ACTIVITY based costing as an analytic application offered by several BI vendors
• Business ACTIVITY monitoring (BAM) for operational performance management
• Processes made up of ACTIVITIES in Process Management software

Heaven help us if all these activities are scattered across all these technologies are all managed in different ways.
Hmmmm…… Come on you vendors out there! Link them all together PLEASE so that we can get really get to the promise land of truly integrated performance management and enterprise wide execution of business strategy with everyone towing in the same direction. It’s got happen. All I can say is watch this space for more mergers and acquisitions as it starts to come together!


Posted June 7, 2007 2:11 PM
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