Software // Information Management
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6/20/2007
01:03 PM
Cindi Howson
Cindi Howson
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BI in Rome

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in Technology Transfer's annual data warehouse and BI summit in Rome, Italy. It's been about 11 years since I've been to Italy and this was my first work-related trip there. So I was a little nervous. Does the Italian market care about the same issues as the U.S. market? Do they face the same challenges?

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in Technology Transfer's annual data warehouse and BI summit in Rome, Italy.

It's been about 11 years since I've been to Italy and this was my first work-related trip there. So I was a little nervous - does the Italian market care about the same issues as the U.S. market? Do they face the same challenges?My journey started with the usual travel hiccups of a five hour delay on the tarmac. I did wonder about my previous rants on how BI could rescue the travel industry. I knew that a dashboard alert was flashing somewhere that our plane was not doing well on timeliness. BI solves little when a lone worker forgets to secure containers in the cargo hold. BI in this case only warns you that you will have 100 frustrated passengers. For those connecting in Rome, BI could allow agents and airlines to be proactive in rebooking passengers' connections before arriving, but few seem to be that proactive. But let's not digress. Some themes from Rome:

• "All of the products are the same, so who is the cheapest?" They aren't all the same, although arguably, the differences are much less apparent than they were a few years ago. There are major strategic differences (see this BIScorecard Strategic & Product Summary). In comparing modules, say business query or dashboards, some may look similar but the difference is in the details - capabilities of business view layers, treatment of multiple data sources, and presentation design - are just a few of the detailed differences.

• Thousands of stand-alone spreadsheets disconnected from the BI environment continue to wreak havoc on everyone. Users spend an inordinate amount of time debating whose numbers are right rather than focusing on the business problems at hand. As one person expressed their frustration, "One of the most damning things BI vendors did was to allow direct export to Excel." In defense of the vendors, users asked for this! In defense of the users, it's because BI is not always deployed in a way that meets users needs. But just as parents have to say "no" to children, sometimes vendors and IT should say "no", it's not in the best interests of the company. New approaches to Excel integration offer hope (see this free BIScorecard report). Or be sure to attend this session at TDWI in August in San Diego, CA.

• Attendees use a mix of BI products - no one vendor seemed predominant. A quick poll seemed to show the Italian market is a little slower than the U.S. in migrating to the latest versions of products. My advice: if you want to take advantage of innovations in Excel integration, BI Search, Dashboards, rich Web-based interactivity, you need to plan for migrating.

• Predictive analytics in both countries gives cause for excitement, but ultimately, it is people - not computers - who have to deploy BI and analytics in a sensible way. It's just silly that Claudia Imhoff's credit card should be declined simply because a charge appeared in Italy versus the U.S. Notice to her credit card company - it's summer, people travel! A final word of wisdom, from fellow presenter, Stephen Few, it's dangerous to focus too much on predictive analytics, when so many are still struggling with the basics.

• Stephen's right, and here too, the attendees echoed a similar challenge faced in the U.S.: On average, only 25% of users within companies use BI. We have a long way to go to extend the reach of BI.

Clearly, there are language and cultural differences between Italy and the U.S., but it seems that we face many of the same challenges and aspirations in business intelligence. My final take away from my time in Rome: after enjoying pasta twice a day, every day, for a week, did you know Italy consumes almost three times as much pasta as the U.S?

pasta consumption

Source: Union of Pasta Manufacturers in the EU

Arrividerci!

Cindi Howson, founder BIScorecard.Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in Technology Transfer's annual data warehouse and BI summit in Rome, Italy. It's been about 11 years since I've been to Italy and this was my first work-related trip there. So I was a little nervous. Does the Italian market care about the same issues as the U.S. market? Do they face the same challenges?

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