Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Free Forrester Research on Future of BI

Endeca is offering a free Forrester Research on the future of Business Intelligence.

In it, Boris Evelson talks about the BI trends he sees for this year and beyond. In fact, Boris predicts that BI in the year 2020 will "be so different as to be unrecognizable."

Here is the executive summary:
Forrester continues to see ever-increasing levels of interest in and adoption of business intelligence (BI) platforms, applications, and processes. But while BI maturity in enterprises continues to grow, and BI tools have become more function-rich and robust, the promise of efficient and effective BI solutions remains challenging at best and elusive at worst. Why? Two main reasons: First, BI is all about best practices and lessons learned, which only come with years of experience; second, earlier-generation BI approaches cannot easily keep up with ever-changing business and regulatory requirements. In this research document, Forrester reviews the top best practices for BI and predicts what the next-generation BI technologies will be. We summarize all of this in a single ├╝ber-trend and best practice: agility. BP pros should adopt Agile BI processes, technologies, and architectures to improve their chances of delivering successful BI initiatives.

As always, Boris effectively communicates his insight into the BI software market. Be sure to download this free research paper today.

Friday, April 15, 2011

BI Dashboards with QMF Enterprise Edition

During business introductions, I used to provide people with the exact year that I started working in the software industry. But then I noticed the youngsters in the room would get wide eyes as they did mental calculations.

But just to give you a milestone, I started "coding" after Ted Codd had formulated the System Relational which would be the foundation of an entire relational database industry based on SQL, the structured query language. I also started after IBM released an implementation of the relational database on their mainframe VM/CMS platform, called SQL/DS. My first corporate job was about the time IBM released another version of the relational database for their MVS/TSO platform, called DB2.

Way back then, IBM also developed a SQL database reporting tool called QMF, which stood for Query Management Facility.

QMF has stood the test of time. It is still in use out there on mainframes and has not been forgotten, either by technical users or the software vendor. In October of 2010, IBM released QMF Version 10 with significant new features.

Like me, Mike Biere is a fellow Cincinnati resident who has been in the industry for a while. A senior manager with IBM, Mike recently wrote an article in the April/May 2011 issue of the z/Journal magazine providing readers with details that they might not know about QMF.

For example, did you know that you can build graphical web dashboards with QMF?

This is not your Father's QMF. The green-screen dumb terminals are a thing of the past.

Like the 4GLs that emerged about the same time in mainframe history, Mike reminds us that "QMF was initially designed to be a straightforward query and reporting tool. The assumption was that the information provided to the users from source tables was suitable for reporting purposes. It was intended to provide relief from the constant pressures users placed on IT to produce reports."

Today, IT has new pressures. For example, their business users expect to be able to interact with data visually and through a web interface. IBM has added those features to a new QMF Enterprise Edition for either a rich workstation client (Windows, Linux, and Solaris) or a thin client (Windows, Linux, Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, iSeries, Linux on System z, and z/OS).

Mike wants you to know about the latest changes to QMF, such as:
  • New Metadata Layer (definitions/virtual data sources)
  • Visual, Interactive Dashboards 
  • Enhancements for Business Analytics (150 new functions and OLAP support)
  • New Data Types and Sources (JDBC support)
  • New Data Environments Feature
  • Enhanced Charting Creation and Deployment (QMF for Workstation)
  • Technical Core Improvements

For more information about IBM's latest enhancements to QMF, visit their website.

Also, be sure to check out Mike's recent book, "The New Era of Enterprise Business Intelligence," which was released in August 2010 and is available in both physical and mobile e-book reader formats.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Living in the Cloud

I had not really planned to move to the cloud, but I find myself there.

While I am still tethered to Microsoft technology for some important Windows application development activities, mobile devices and universal user interfaces are pulling me away.

One major step in my new life in the cloud was "exchanging" Microsoft Exchange/Outlook. Instead of having a personal notebook computer bogged down with gigs of Windows software and years of e-mail attachments, everything is now available from the cloud using Google Mail.

My Google Mail, Calendar, and Documents are available from any of my mobile devices or from any computer with a web browser.

In addition to Google Docs, I have started using a free Dropbox account, which allows me to store any type of document, access them from any desktop browser or mobile device, and share them with associates by disclosing a simple URL. While I like Google Docs, Dropbox's easy integration with the Windows desktop gives it an advantage.

Many of my favorite software applications have moved to universal user interfaces.

Amazon was one of the first company I noticed advertising the value of this. Their commercials show people reading electronic books on any number of mobile devices: the Amazon Kindle, the Apple iPad, iPhone, Android phone, etc. The announcer says that it does not matter if you change phone providers; you can still get to the books you bought on Amazon.

Another great universal application is TripIt. I can easily create travel plans just by forwarding my e-mail reservation confirmations from hotels, car rentals, and airlines to TripIt. I can then view and manage my itineraries from my mobile phone, iPad, or desktop.

Likewise, software vendor Appigo has created a great ToDo application (based on David Allen's GTD-Get Things Done time management methodology) with a universal front-end. While I used to manually sync up my Microsoft Exchange with the iPhone and iPad ToDo packages, I now pay just $20 a year to keep my to-do lists in the cloud. From this central location, all of my access devices are automatically synced. Like TripIt and the Amazon Kindle, I can e-mail things to a personal ToDo account.

I spend quite a bit of time with LinkedIn, which has a very good web browser user interface. On the mobile devices, LinkedIn does an okay job with their iPhone version but they have not yet invested in an iPad application.

Even my music listening is moving to the cloud. Thanks to my oldest son who gave me a web-enabled Blu-ray device,  I can listen to Pandora music streamed through my television. If I were in my den or in my car, I would use Sirius/XMRadio, but more and more I rely on web providers such as AccuRadio or Pandora. Even when mowing the yard, I stream music through my iPhone (sorry, AT&T--but thanks for giving us early adopters those unlimited data plans).

(Note: I will put in a special word of thanks to Sirius/XMRadio for recently rewriting their mobile music application.)

Within the immediate family, we have Windows desktops, notebooks, and netbooks; Apple iPads, iPhones, and MacBooks; Amazon Kindle e-book readers; Nintendo DSi handhelds; Android phones; and web-enabled televisions.

Now that's universal access to the cloud!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Data Security Breach Impacts Major Companies (and Millions of Consumers)

Dallas-based Epsilon, the marketing services firm that had a security breach involving consumer e-mails, is not disclosing which companies were involved in the fiasco. Reports indicate that up to 50 firms were impacted, including the financial giants JPMorgan Chase and Capital One.

Yesterday, my inbox was full of apologies from major companies (all pointing a finger at Epsilon) such as Hilton, Walgreens, Best Buy, Disney, Eddie Bauer, and The Kroger Company.

According to Rik Ferguson, director at security software vendor Trend Micro, I should be worried.  Here is what Rik wrote in his blog:
"Not only do the criminals know your name and email address, they know where you go shopping, where you bank, which hotels you stay at and much more. If you are unfortunate enough to have received multiple notifications, just imagine what kind of profile is now in criminal hands."

News reports indicate how common this type of marketing outsourcing is in the industry. Many companies hand over their customer data to a third-party specialist and say, "here, you take care of this for us." Knowing that, hackers have an easier target; they can go after the little services providers instead of the big guys. Instead of just getting one firm's data, they can snag fifty at a time.

Some experts think that this Epsilon event may change the way companies outsource their marketing mass mailings. See ComputerWeekly for an article.

Just imagine the potential value the hacker sees in obtaining the e-mail addresses of every consumer of dozens of the U.S.'s major firms.

Data is valuable and thieves steal valuable things. They then sell it to other crooks who intend to make money off of the stolen merchandise. At some point, their money-making scheme might involve contacting the stolen e-mail recipients and trying to get access to their money.

Hopefully, you use an e-mail provider that is very adept at identifying scams such as phishing. However, with a complete profile of your buying habits, the crooks can now "spear-phish," a term used for a type of phishing scheme that goes after a targeted victim. If you were an Epsilon multiple victim like me, you will need to be personally vigilant against a targeted scam.

Reuters provides some things to do to prevent being a victim.

This should also be a warning to you about the data you store for Business Intelligence. It is valuable and you need to implement the proper safeguards to protect it from unauthorized access. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Software Advice Analyzes Vendor-Speak

Hunter Richards, analyst at Software Advice, wants to help you understand your software vendor's marketing language. Like the Gartner Magic Quadrant, Richards positions their marketing terms according to an intersection point on two axes.

Richards evaluates a variety of market terms according to 1) the ability to repress meaning, and 2) the completeness of overuse.

For example, software vendors who completely overuse marketing jargon that is totally devoid of meaning earn a position in the "Gibberish" quadrant (as opposed to "Creative Garbage").

To read the full article and to see where your favorite software vendor falls, see Richard's full article

PNC Bank Talks about BI

In a recent February 2011 presentation and round-table in Pittsburgh, PNC Bank discussed their BI experiences. The BI Xchange website provided a summary of that, with comments such as:
  • Executive support for BI is strong 
  • Purchased a data warehouse appliance to speed BI queries 
  • Standard reporting that came with pre-built applications did not meet their needs 
  • Mobile BI is an issue to banks due to security concerns
  • Looking into "Certified Reporting" to confirm figures in various reports are correct 
  • Using an OnShore/OffShore BI application development model 
  • For BI resources, start with good business people and teach them the BI tools (and warnings about that statement since there may be a reason these individuals have not chosen to be involved with the technology) 

The BI Xchange provides this summary of their organization:

The BI Exchange is a platform for professionals interested in exchanging knowledge, ideas and experiences about the field of Business Intelligence (BI). It is a community of both management and technology professionals with a focus on increasing awareness of how BI can transform the business processes. 
We hope that this community will foster knowledge sharing and in the long run we will accumulate a repository of best practices freely available to the entire BI community.

I will comment on just one of their topics: "Certified Reporting." Many organizations employ multiple reporting specialists creating documents with figures that do not match those of other documents. This is especially true in firms where the IT group has not taken an active BI role, leaving the business units to fend for themselves. During one BI assessment, a business reporting specialist confessed to me, "Nobody can prove me wrong."

In other words, there was no easy way to validate or deny the figures he put onto a report. Without a formal standard for business terminology or calculations, this individual could almost make up the results. In fact, when his sponsors did not like the answers on the reports, they gave him different business rules to follow. This is a serious problem.

Companies must formally define how their BI reports are created and have a single version of the truth.

About Me

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I am a project-based software consultant, specializing in automating transitions from legacy reporting applications into modern BI/Analytics to leverage Social, Cloud, Mobile, Big Data, Visualizations, and Predictive Analytics using Information Builders' WebFOCUS. Based on scores of successful engagements, I have assembled proven Best Practice methodologies, software tools, and templates.

I have been blessed to work with innovators from firms such as: Ford, FedEx, Procter & Gamble, Nationwide, The Wendy's Company, The Kroger Co., JPMorgan Chase, MasterCard, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Siemens, American Express, and others.

I was educated at Valparaiso University and the University of Cincinnati, where I graduated summa cum laude. In 1990, I joined Information Builders and for over a dozen years served in regional pre- and post-sales technical leadership roles. Also, for several years I led the US technical services teams within Cincom Systems' ERP software product group and the Midwest custom software services arm of Xerox.

Since 2007, I have provided enterprise BI services such as: strategic advice; architecture, design, and software application development of intelligence systems (interactive dashboards and mobile); data warehousing; and automated modernization of legacy reporting. My experience with BI products include WebFOCUS (vendor certified expert), R, SAP Business Objects (WebI, Crystal Reports), Tableau, and others.