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Tom Breur

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Tom Breur, Principal with XLNT Consulting, has a background in database management and market research. For the past 10 years, he has specialized in how companies can make better use of their data. He is an accomplished teacher at universities, MBA programs and for the Certified Business Intelligence Professional (CBIP) program. He is a regular keynoter at international conferences.  Currently,he is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Targeting, the Journal of Financial Services Management and Banking Review. He acts as an advisor for The Council of Financial Competition and the Business Banking Board and was cited among others in Harvard Management Update about state-of-the-art data analytics. His company, XLNT Consulting, helps companies align their IT resources with corporate strategy, or in plain English, he helps companies make more money with their data. For more information you can email him at tombreur@xlntconsulting.com or call +31646346875.

 

There is a new hype on Twitter: bashing BI trends. This is so much fun. Since everybody is making their BI trends list for next year, let’s all do something else. Let’s find out which trends are real and which are BS or let me rephrase that editorials from the marketing department. The winner of the best bashing of the most repugnant, far away, non inspired BI trend of 2010 will receive many thanks and perhaps a small price.


Posted December 4, 2009 5:54 PM
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PivotAt the last Microsoft BI conference in Seattle  project “Gemini” was annouced. Gemini is now available as Powerpivot (see also www.powerpivot.com). Powerpivot (inspired by pivot table?) allows users to analyse the data within the comfort of their Excel 2010 interface. In my experience however 99% of the data contained in an Excel sheet is often a datadump from operational systems or a datawarehouse (like) environment. Nothing wrong with that by the way. It allows users to play around with the data. But my point is that the data comes from the companies own operational systems. As most of us know (except perhaps the deaf and blind) the majority of data is to be found outside our own organizations. If you can find some way to combine your own data with relevant information from the net your quickly on your way to making smart decisions. As Rick Mans and I wrote in our recent article Samen Spelen (We are working on a English translation) the challenge is first to find the right information and than to make it manageable. So we want the slicing and dicing we do in BI classic on the web as well in combination with search. Well, Microsoft must have read our minds because they are working on something called Pivot (www.getpivot.com). It uses collections of large groups of data with a similar item and uses visualizations to find hidden patterns. Take a look at some of the demo’s and in your mind replace datasets like dogs, cars and playing cards with mortgages, prepaid customers or dairy products. I think Microsoft has taken a first step in the direction of mixing structured and unstructured data. Too bad it is still in two seperate worlds. Who knows what can happen if you mix it together. This leaves one final question. How to call such a product? Power Pivot Plus?


Posted November 19, 2009 9:46 AM
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Samen Spelen, Samen delen. Het lijkt een bezwerend mantra om de lieve vrede op de crí¨che te bewaren. Maar er is meer. Kinderen zijn eigenlijk continue aan het leren. Kruipen, leren lopen. Later spelen ze met lego, kralen of blokken. Het liefst doen ze dat alleen en zijn ze nog niet goed in staat om te delen. Ze houden liever alle leuke dingen voor zichzelf. Langzamerhand ontdekken kinderen echter dat spelen ook kan met andere kinderen. Maar dat betekent ook speelgoed delen. Dat gaat eerst nog gepaard met tranen maar later ontdekken kinderen dat samen spelen goed kan samengaan met samen delen. Sterker nog, het wordt steeds leuker zo samen. En voor je het weet, heb je een beste vriend of vriendin. Als volwassene is de wereld niet vaak niet veel anders. Wij vinden het ook soms moeilijk om ons speelgoed te delen. Laat staan bedrijfsgegevens of vergaande analyses. Maar ook hier blijkt weer groot voordeel te behalen. In dit artikel wordt ingegaan op de rol van bedrijfsinformatie (of business intelligence) en welke rol externe sociale netwerken (Internet Social Media) kunnen spelen bij het nemen van beslissingen. Wellicht zal een manager in de toekomst niet veel meer hoeven doen dan interne data te publiceren op het net en $50 te bieden voor de beste synthese.

DOWNLOAD DE REST VAN HET ARTIKEL

 Samen Spelen, Samen Delen


Posted November 18, 2009 10:24 AM
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I have written an article with Rick Mans on BI and Social Media. It was published on the BI platform (http://biplatform.nl/Kennisbank/Library/Whitepapers/Detail/Samen-Spelen). Article is in Dutch.


Posted November 16, 2009 10:21 AM
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http://biplatform.nl/I was interviewed by Hans Lamboo (Database Magazine, BI platform) on the development of BI.Interview is in Dutch.


Posted November 16, 2009 10:18 AM
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Posted November 4, 2009 8:54 AM
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IT budgets are down. That’s a fact that nobody can deny. At the same time the need for relevant information has increased considerably. That is another fact. As a result IT is reconsidering its position whilst the business is waiting for the much needed report or analysis. This need for faster time to information and less IT involvement has given rise to something that is often called Business or Self Service Reporting (SSR). Traditionally BI reports are created by the IT department. SSR allows business users to do this for themselves.

 

This might sound like a radical new way of delivering information but it is nothing new. Gartner for example has always placed the Report writing function in the business part of the BICC. What is different now is that the tools have become more intuitive and easy to work with. Business users, albeit power users, can build their own reports with a relative ease. IT responsibilities for SSR are limited, or should I say focused, on delivering the quality data on time. Which is not bad considering the lower budgets. Another great thing about letting business user build their own reports is that it improves the quality of the requirements (no more misunderstandings) and the setting of priorities (they will probably build what the need the most first). So it really sounds like a win-win situation and often it is just that. But... there is a down side to this as well.

 

By spreading the report function across various lines of business a dilution of knowledge arises which is often strengthened by the information silos that are created. In a way it is back to the old days with the business (intelligence) silos across the company. Did I hear somebody say: single version of the truth? But the IT department has also a hard time in monitoring the use of the report function and keeping the performance on an acceptable level.

 

So how can we do something to solve these problems? One way is to make the SSR a little bit more IT monitored by setting up a ‘managed’ self service environment. That is something Microsoft has done. Another solution would be to create an organization structure to support these changes. This would be something like a BICC but more business orientated. Let’s call it a BI Service Center or BISC. A third possibility would be to limit the SSR to a certain kind or reporting. When there is a need for fast time to information or when there is a high need for business involvement SSR is the way to go. All other reports are created in some sort of central function. A hybrid solution can even arise where personal or self service reports become centrally maintained standard reports in time, thus solving the single version challenge.

 

Self Service Reporting can be a great thing. It will decrease the time to information for many people which is much needed in these roaring times. However SSR must always be implemented and positioned in a way that its benefits will not create concerns for others involved. Always keep the impact of SSR on your information architecture in mind while seeking for quick solutions. 


Posted November 2, 2009 10:20 AM
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Should I shave it off or not? Should I keep the beard or loose it? Voting is now open on linkedin: (http://polls.linkedin.com/p/63040/xcgat). Extensive Data Analysis  reveals that younger people and females say SAVE IT.  However Older people and men say SHAVE IT. So the question now is which group to focus on? For now I have decided to keep it at least until thursday (Nationale BI Event in Leiden).


Posted October 26, 2009 3:46 PM
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Agile

PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS WRITTEN WITH SANDER HOOGENDOORN - PRINCIPTAL TECHNOLOGY OFFICER AND AGILE EVANGELIST @ CAPGEMINI.

I was asked the question: ”Is Agile the correct development method for Business Intelligence?”.  An interesting question. According to me any development method that takes BI characteristics in mind is better than a method that does not. Therefore I would say that Agile is better than most waterfall based methods.

 

So, what are some of the BI characteristics that we have to take in account while using any development method? First , BI projects almost always have some sort of business purpose. For example, sales insight or call center performance improvement. But the business case is not always clear upfront. So the BI contribution to the bottom line is often unknown as well. Another thing is that the business requirements are also often not very precise. At the start of any BI project getting the detailed and finalized requirements from future information product users is a challenge at best. Finally, the whole development process is pretty much linear. We get data from the source, we ETL it to our warehouse, fill the data model, ETL it to our data marts and build the reports. So before any user sees the final result 80% of the work is already done. The biggest challenge for BI development methods is to deal with the ‘advancing understanding’.

 

Agile can contribute to this as it works with: small iterations, used cases, fast and frequent releases, much interaction with the client, integration of testing in the development cycle and so on.

 

The key question that remains: ”Are agile methods being adopted and used in the BI world?”. The answer to that is very simple: Agile is all in the mind. The question is not if Agile CAN be used, the question is if BI people WANT to use it. 


Posted October 16, 2009 8:32 AM
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Last week at the Butler BI event in the Netherlands, Timo Elliot from SAP BOBJ, gave a presentation. The cool thing was that his presentation featured live tweets. He integrated Twitter in the Powerpoint presentation. This opens up all kind of possibilities: remarks, voting … Check out his website and download the tool. I love this kind of innovative features. http://www.sapweb20.com/blog/2009/10/web-20-presentation-tools-from-sap-integrate-twitter-into-powerpoint/comment-page-1/#comment-272


Posted October 6, 2009 7:53 AM
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