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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.
That highlights the fact that there are impacts on IT and business processes. What sorts of changes should we expect as we mature a pervasive BI environment?

Bedell: The ultimate way that pervasive BI succeeds is that you have executives such as a COO look at specific processes that need to be improved and figure out how to improve them by injecting intelligence. At a very high level, it would be a systematic way of going through every major operational process in a corporation and driving intelligence into each one of those until everything is optimized. Some organizations do that, and it's a big cultural shift. . . Leading companies are going to lead in this, and they'll drive the rest of us.

Technology-wise, a lot of the hooks are there today in the right products. Vendors that have focused on the things we mentioned here today are the ones that are trying to drive technology evolution. As the normal course of business, we're going to see more adoption of these types of systems, and they'll draw up new types of requirements. The big shift is injecting this into operational processes, predictive analytics and near real-time, right-time data. Those are shifts that have to take place on a broad scale that aren't there today.

Brobst: It's a multi-year journey for sure. If you look at the number of companies that have really automated decisions — and certainly no company has automated all decisions; they typically cherry-pick particular opportunities. It's a pretty small percent of companies that have are at stage five. Most leading-edge and fast-follower type companies are now evolving into stage four. . . .

Think about how to use information to not just increase efficiencies, but also increase competitiveness. Efficiencies can lead to more competitiveness, but also think about how you can use information to change the customer experience in a fundamental way. This is huge. A lot of times BI on the front lines is focused on efficiency types of improvements. The really advanced folks are thinking about not only that, but also how to be more competitive.

What do you see as the biggest barriers in implementing pervasive BI?

Markarian: There's no technology barrier to adoption. The main thing organizations need is a catalyst, which comes in the form of having a business case. What we've seen is that once people get a taste of operationalizing BI it has kind of a domino effect inside the organization. It gets to be a culture of "now," if you will, where every organization in the enterprise wants to be the one impressing with the most up-to-date information and leading, in times of tighter financial controls, through technological innovation.

Brobst: There are two points. Number one is vision. You have to have a vision; otherwise you're not going to be successful. That vision typically comes from the top, like the COO or other people in those kinds of positions. The second issue is inertia. Humans don't like change. Business process management changes are hard. Technology changes at a much faster rate than humans, so you have to pay attention to the human factor.

Author/interviewer Mark Madsen is president of Third Nature, a consulting and research firm focused on business intelligence, data integration and data management.