The TCO of analytics in the cloud and the mid-market advantage

Thursday, February 19, 2015 13:00
Posted in category Uncategorized

Last week I was part of a panel discussion with Robin Bloor of the Bloor Group and Marc Clark from Teradata to discuss the TCO of cloud analytics and the strategic benefits and challenges of cloud deployments. The reality is that more organizations are looking to the cloud due to broader storage, big data management, and perceptions of lower cost and easier to maintain solutions. As organizations struggle with larger and more complex data sets, this trend will become even broader. Businesses are already struggling with their data and trying to get value out of their information assets. One of the benefits of cloud analytics and computing in general is the ability for small and mid-sized companies to take advantage of technology and applications that may have previously been out of reach.

Within analytics specifically, SMBs have been hard pressed to take advantage of solutions that required new hardware and large up front investments. Although many solutions now provide offerings targeted specifically to this market, the reality for many is that without a data centre or dedicated analytics and data warehousing expertise in-house, the ability to build complex applications becomes a challenge. Simple analytics are one thing, so is the ability to access general business data. The challenge comes from managing diverse data sets – both internal and external to the organization – and transforming raw data into business insights that can be tied to competitive advantage on an ongoing basis.

The key benefits of cloud analytics for this audience is twofold:

  • Cloud storage eliminates the need for hardware acquisition and internal management of data and infrastructure
  • Managed services or SaaS (Software as a Service) type offerings provide analytics insight and expertise to support an organization’s analytics goals
  • Even with these benefits, the main thing for organizations to remember is the requirement to tie any cloud analytics initiative to a business challenge being experienced. Leveraging the cloud for its own sake will not determine success. Organizations require a direct tie in to identify how a cloud analytics strategy will help drive better analytics and business visibility.

    For more insights into the debate and issues surrounding analytics in the cloud click here. Some of the topics discussed include security, big data, the benefits of cloud, how cloud and cloud analytics deployments may differ, and general considerations.

    Market Diversity Creating Better Access for Midmarket Organizations

    Tuesday, December 23, 2014 8:56
    Posted in category Uncategorized

    As I start some preparatory work for 2015 initiatives, I have noticed that many analytics vendors are starting to shift their views of SMBs and the needs of midmarket companies in general. When solution providers first started developing their market strategy and developing analytics related solutions for SMBs, their products took similar shape. They were less expensive, less robust, with a smaller number of relevant capabilities. The general premise was that because an organization was smaller and didn’t have the same budget and IT resources as their enterprise counterparts, their business challenges were somehow “less” as well. The reality, however, has always been something slightly different. Although midmarket organizations may not have the same resources as their enterprise counterparts, the reality is that business challenges are the same for organizations irrespective of size.

    Within the past six months, I have seen this reflected in many vendor go-to-market strategies, with flexibility existing to account for varying budgetary allocations, but products reflecting the same robust capabilities irrespective of size. The reality is that with cloud, mobile, and self-service paving the way to broader access to information, and storage costs lowering, analytics access is becoming more of a reality irrespective of company size.

    The implications for midsized organizations looking at augmenting their analytics implementations or evaluating BI offerings are great. There is no longer the need to settle for a solution with a subset of capabilities or be limited by the number of data sources, number of users, etc. And in many cases, vendors are able to understand the broader needs of SMBs by developing offerings that can meet those needs without taking away functionality that was previously relegated to enterprise applications. Obviously, I am simplifying all of the factors that are contributing to this shift in the market. However, the benefits to SMBs are the same – organizations can now take advantage of offerings that may have been out of their range before. With cloud offerings and data storage in the cloud becoming more commonplace, midsized businesses can also develop more robust data infrastructures without having to worry about hardware and on-site implementation costs. All of these factors create an environment where solutions are finally able to adequately meet the needs of small and midsized businesses looking to leverage data for analytical insight and to meet their strategic goals.

    This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit  IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

     

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    The rise of embedded Business Intelligence (BI)

    Saturday, December 20, 2014 18:14
    Posted in category Uncategorized

    As BI use matures within the organization, the way in which it is being applied is also changing. Organizations are looking for more strategic ways to deliver analytical insight and make sure that the right people have direct access to the information they need. Part of this includes the increasing adoption of embedding analytics within operations. At the same time, organizations are taking advantage of embedded BI to provide customer facing analytics and added services by leveraging the data they collect. Consequently, the way in which data is delivered is evolving. Broader industry trends, such as self-service and data discovery, support this shift as well because the technology available is easily embeddable and analytics are easier to interact with.

    These factors, as well as others, are slowly transforming the way BI is being adopted within organizations. Analytics no longer needs to be a separate application but can be accessed within operational systems to help business users gain the visibility they require. Businesses want to have a cohesive view of information. The ability to embed analytics within an application gives them a new way of deploying analytics without limiting who can access data. Better access to data in general, also helps sell its value overall, providing organizations with the basis to justify budgetary allocations to manage their data more effectively.

    The reality is that successfully adopting embedded BI within operations requires this added level of data management to ensure that information being accessed is valid and reliable. Otherwise, organizations are stuck with the same information related challenges that exist through the use of spreadsheets.

    The bottom line for organizations is that the added focus of software providers on better BI accessibility and increasing governed data access provides a more holistic framework to data access. Being able to embed analytics within daily operations or as part of a customer facing application while taking advantage of the broader capabilities BI vendors now have to offer, also supports better competitive advantage by leveraging integrated technologies. Therefore, when organizations evaluate the benefits of embedding BI within their organizations it is also important to identify how broader BI and data access can benefit end users by making information easier to access and more reliable.

    This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit  IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

     

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    Driving Technology Projects The Right Way

    Wednesday, November 26, 2014 11:17
    Posted in category Uncategorized

    Sometimes people get stuck in the weeds when evaluating technology projects by focusing on key features and product capabilities and not on solving business challenges. Although gathering both business and technical requirements are essential to any successful technology project, projects should start from a business perspective and based on a business pain being experienced. A common one might be lack of visibility into what is happening across the organization. Or not meeting yearly targets but missing some key information to find out why. In some cases, organizations launch initiatives based on business challenges being experienced, while in others, BI or analytics is an initiative on its own. Although there are potential positive outcomes, there are also greater risks of failure due to scope creep or the inability to design solutions that help business people gain insight into what they require for better decision making.

    To implement a solution successfully, there needs to be a balance between both – the need to address business challenges on the one hand, and the development of a supportive infrastructure on the other hand. Sometimes, however, there are time crunches or unrealistic time constraints placed on the selection process. The outcome tends to be technical resources looking at which solutions are the best technical fit and then fitting that to how solutions should be developed for end users. This differs from a traditional evaluation whereby organizations take the time to engage their stakeholders and ensure that business needs and daily processes are taken into account. Although time consuming, this phase helps with the software selection process, development of solutions that meet the needs of business users, metrics identification, and potential scalability challenges. In most cases, taking the time for diligence leads to solutions that help organizations solve the business pains being faced.

    For SMBs specifically, time and budgetary constraints may cause organizations to take shortcuts by evaluating product capabilities without taking the time to gather business requirements and understand the needs of the various stakeholders within the organization. The reality is that IT related projects should be connected directly to solving business challenges. As an extension of this, organizations need to start by focusing on the needs of business units and understanding how technology can address and help solve business challenges and not the other way around.

    This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit  IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

     

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    Moving beyond common SMB BI implementation knowledge challenges

    Monday, November 17, 2014 9:24
    Posted in category Uncategorized

    Just over a week ago I attended the Enterprise Data & BI Conference Europe in London. The conference focused on many different BI and data management related topics, many of which support mid-market goals to achieve greater visibility and better analytics. The takeaway most interesting to me was the fact that many SMBs are still struggling with their BI implementations. Many are either starting from scratch or trying to figure out how to expand their traditional BI implementations. Neither of which are easy as both require the ability to translate business requirements into technical needs and apply the right set of tools to meet the needs of business.

    The reality is that many organizations don’t even know where to start. This includes a general inability to develop the proper cohesion between business units sponsoring projects and IT required to develop the BI infrastructure. Within the European market, this seems like one of the most common situations among SMBs. One in which the market does not seem to be taking advantage as much as it could be. With the technology available today and the pricing coming down to be able to meet the budget restrictions of smaller organizations, midsize organizations require the guidance to understand the technology and key differentiations in the market. More than once, I have been approached to help organizations with their shortlist requirements to be asked about vendor offerings that should not be considered during the same evaluation due to the fact they were developed to address completely different business challenges. The issue remains that many organizations are still uncertain what key differentiations exist among products.

    Part of implementing the best fit choice requires this level of knowledge. Basically, organizations need to take a step back and look deeper than what they see via online marketing and develop an understanding of how specific offerings can meet their needs and help them address their business challenges. The ability to combine this level of understanding with what business users require is what can help organizations develop BI applications that are easy to interact with and flexible to take into account future scalability requirements.

    This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit  IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

     

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