Research for one of my projects led me to ask both software vendors and customers about the factors most important to software users in the selection of a business intelligence (BI) solution. Two topics resounded: the use of BI tools to improve data management and business performance management. Consumers are continuously looking for innovative ways to move, store, and improve the quality of their data as well as to ways to capture the most valuable information for improved decision making and business performance.
Let’s look at what the data tells us. Below is a Pareto chart based on data from Technology Evaluation Centers (TEC) on what software users consider to be the most popular functionality features for BI applications. For those of you who don’t know, the definition of a Pareto chart according to Whatis.com is “a vertical bar graph in which values are plotted in decreasing order of relative frequency from left to right. Pareto charts are extremely useful for analyzing what problems need attention first because the taller bars on the chart, which represent frequency, clearly illustrate which variables have the greatest cumulative effect on a given system.”
From the chart we can see that data management and business performance management (BPM) together make up nearly 60% of all responses. This means that these two topics are still of major concern for most organizations and represent the top priorities for companies in search for a BI solution. What are the root causes for this unanimous perspective?
Why is data management still an issue?
Turning data into valuable information has never been more important, as organizations today must be extremely cautious when managing information—its movement, analysis, presentation, and security—owing to local as well as global legal and economic considerations (new law regulations, new business models, etc.). Technologies and frameworks like the data mart and the data warehouse are addressing some of the back-end information management issues that support the decision-making process. Possible root causes for the quasi-perpetual data management issue relate to the natural evolution of data within the organization:
In addition, appropriate and expedient data management must involve the necessary technology (hardware and software) and the right people and business processes working together for the sole purpose of enhancing business performance. This is simple to say but hard to do, for as James Robertson states in his blog post “10 principles of effective information management”:
Today, managing data is more challenging than ever before owing to
a) the rapid pace at which business rules and its technology components change
b) the advent of social media channels, and
c) the development of new technologies involving structured and unstructured data.
As a result, organizations have to comply with increasingly complex business requirements, which are harder to fulfill and require faster time responses.
One option: divide and conquer
Perhaps we should start thinking about data management more in terms of an initiative than as an isolated product or technology. The root causes of data management issues we have identified suggest that these issues will persist owing to the nature of the data itself.
So, before even considering changing the existing data management infrastructure, it might be worthwhile to go through the following checklist:
A data management process is not a mere information technology (IT) project initiative. A joint and collaborative effort from both the business and IT segments of an organization is needed to achieve a successful data management initiative.
So are we any closer to addressing all the data management issues impacting the performance of organizations today? Probably, but there is no single approach that will address them all. The most important thing we can do to ensure a more efficient data management process is stay attuned to the changing business priorities of the organization.
As always, I welcome your thoughts—leave a comment below, and I’ll respond as soon as I can.
Quite useful and illustrative post. I’ll take a look at part 2 :)
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