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Q&A: MicroStrategy, Teradata and Informatica CTOs on Pervasive BI

Jeff Bedell, executive vice president of technology and CTO of MicroStrategy, Stephen Brobst, CTO of Teradata, and James Markarian, senior VP of product strategy and CTO of Informatica, have collaborated on a noted whitepaper and joint presentations on the topic of pervasive business intelligence. Intelligent Enterprise contributing editor Mark Madsen recently asked these three thought leaders about the latest trends carrying us toward broader adoption and near-real-time decision support.

What exactly do you mean by the term "pervasive BI?"

Brobst Stephen Brobst, Teradata
Brobst: There are many definitions, but my definition is that we're getting the information from the data warehouse throughout and beyond the organization to partners and customers. Traditionally data warehousing has been focused on the corporate ivory tower. This is all about getting the data beyond strategy into execution.

So you're talking about pushing information down in the organization to people who currently don't have access today.

Brobst: It may be a push, but sometimes it's a pull and it's providing that pull capability throughout the organization all the way to the front lines and to the extended virtual organization. So both push and pull models work. The point is the accessibility to the data is throughout the enterprise and beyond the enterprise.

The terms "active data warehousing," "dynamic data warehousing," and "operational BI" have been bandied about in recent years. How do these relate?

/Bedell Jeff Bedell, MicroStrategy
Bedell: Pervasive BI is a broader term, and it does pick up notions of the concept of active data warehousing. You could say that it also covers operational BI. "Pervasive BI" takes on the higher concept to try to reach a broad set of users and not a limited use case such as traditional BI or just operational reporting.

Markarian: I like "pervasive" because you can apply it in many different contexts. Jeff [Bedell] applies it in terms of fanning out information to all different levels of the hierarchy. Informatica thinks about covering all sources of information in an enterprise and then pervading all the inner sources.

Brobst: Teradata sees pervasive BI as encompassing both strategic intelligence and operational intelligence. Thinking about it as an umbrella as Jeff [Bedell] described it is right on.

Could one of you explain what needs to change with our conception of BI?

Bedell: People over-simplify operational BI. When we see examples, a lot of operational BI is just a presentment of operational data, which really is more operational reporting. People need to recognize that to make smarter decisions, we need to inject things like predictive analytics into the data stream — not just show the numbers but actually have intelligence as part of the numbers that are coming across to make tactical decisions as well as strategic decisions. There is a cultural mindset that BI has to be extended into operational processes, and that's tangibly different than just showing the operational data in an operational process or in a thin layer of reporting on top of existing operational systems.

Brobst: Right. The key point is that you have to have what I'll call decisioning services to broaden that [intelligence] throughout the enterprise. This is more than just presenting operational data. Pervasive BI is more than just a dashboard; it's about integrating information into processes through a broad spectrum of decisioning services.

Markarian James Markarian, Informatica
Markarian: Yes, and when we talk about deltas, it all depends on where you are starting from. There have been a lot of enterprises that have had very successful real-time data warehousing environments, but the thing that is different is that [pervasive BI] helps bring transactional systems and analytic systems together so that you have more information at the point of decision, which tends to be a shift from traditional warehousing.

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