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New Frontiers in Business Intelligence

Nari Kannan

Where does the data for your BI come from?

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Data for your BI does not come from your own systems alone anymore!

With increased outsourcing of all kinds of functions, from design to manufacturing to sales to finance to warehousing and delivery, functions are done increasingly by third-party company companies.

In addition, companies have lots more channels and partnerships these days (like buying stuff from Lands' End catalog over the phone, online and from Sears'  physical stores).

Logistics folks like UPS and Fedex have gotten into all kinds of businesses like warranty repair, You think you are shipping  something under warranty to be repaired to the manufacturer, but you may be wrong. It may be really a UPS-run repair facility that you are shipping it to!

What do they do with the defective units if they send you a replacement? They may be creating "refurbished" or "recertified" units and selling them also.

So if someone asks you,how many of the 40-inch LCD TVs you sold in the U.S under your brand name, you may need to collect information from many different channels and companies.

In response to Dell's made-to-order computer-selling, companies like HP had to manufacture computers and printers somewhere near the demand, in many different countries, using many different outsourced manufacturer plants, then ship them, sort of just-in-time.

Data formats are also all over the place, all the way from Excel spreadsheets to different database back ends. If I had a penny everytime someone asked me "Do you have any software that can do ETL from e-mail messages," I would be a very rich man.

All these factor mean that it's not your old ETL anymore. Changing business models and supply chain configurations mean that data comes from many different places and many different formats.

The same rapidly changing business models also mean that your analysis and reporting gets more and more complicated every year.

This is where spreadsheet-warehouses start taking over earnestly and pretty soon your BI is spreadsheet-based. Many business owners want the business dog wagging the BI tail. It's futile for IT to resist any of this.

What are the answers? No easy ones, I'm afraid. The older models of creating cubes and populating them with steady streams of data from fairly standard sources are all out the window now.

You need flexible tools for collection of data and flexible tools for repoting that data out.

That's not easy, but it's  what seems to be happening! If that doesn't make a BI IT person's head spin, I don't know what will!

I love to work. I love to have complexity.- Mary McDonnell




1 Comment

Excellent article, Nari. A few years ago it was common that only 15% of the information in most organizations was structured data, the other 85% resided in unstructured and semi-structured formats. I suspect that that is just as true today. If anything, the amount of data not tucked away in nice neat databases has probably gone up. Given the many different sources of data within the enterprise and the increasing number feeding it from the outside of the enterprise, data extraction tools need to be the equivalent of a swiss army knife to be effective. Fortunately, there are flexible tools out there that are designed to access, transform and deliver data out of non-traditional sources. For example, our own product, Monarch, can extract data and metadata out of reports, PDF and XPS files, HTML files, formatted emails and spreadsheets and transform and customize the data for use in anyone’s analytic tool of choice, including the ubiquitous Excel. There is no need to create spreadsheet warehouses when one can continue to store the data in its original format and extract the data on an as needed basis. Given the increasing need for compliance and data province, this becomes a more sensible way to go than adding to “spreadsheet hell.?

Nari Kannan's blog explores how new approaches to business intelligence can help organizations improve the performance of business processes--whether these processes are creative or operational, internally-focused or customer-facing, intra-departmental or across functions.

Nari Kannan

Nari Kannan started and serves as the CEO of appsparq, a Mobile Applications development company based in Louisville, KY with offices in Singapore and India. Nari has over two decades of experience in computer systems development, translating product and service strategy into meaningful technology solutions, and both people and product development. Prior to this, he has served as both Chief Technology Officer and Vice President- Engineering in six successful startups, two of which he co-founded. He has proven experience in building companies, engineering teams, and software solutions from scratch in the United States and India. Prior to this, Nari started Ajira Technologies, Inc., in Pleasanton, CA, where he served as Chief Executive Officer for more than six years. While at Ajira, Nari was instrumental in developing service process management solutions that modeled, monitored, and analyzed business processes, initially targeting the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Telecom, and Banking verticals in India, and Finance, Insurance, and Healthcare verticals in the United States. Prior to this, he served as VP-Engineering at Ensenda, an ASP for local delivery services. He also served variously as Chief Technology Officer or VP-Engineering at other Bay-Area venture funded startups such as Kadiri and Ensera. He began his career at Digital Equipment Corporation as a Senior Software Engineer. Nari has a long involvement with Customer Support and other customer facing processes. At Digital Equipment Corporation he was involved with their 1800 person customer support center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He was tasked with coming up with innovative tools to help customer support people do their jobs better. He holds a U.S patent for a software invention that automatically redirected email requests for customer support to the right group by digesting the contents of the request and guessing at which software or hardware support group is best equipped to handle it. At Ensera, he led a 45 person team in developing an internet based ASP service for handling auto insurance claims, coordinating information flow between end-customers, Insurance companies, Repair shops and Parts suppliers. Ensera was acquired by Mitchell Corporation in San Diego. Nari holds a B.S. degree in Physics from Loyola College, and an M.B.A degree from the University of Madras in Madras, India. He graduated with a M.S. degree in Computer Science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1985. Contact Information: Nari Kannan. Email: nari@appsparq.com Mobile: 925 353 0197. Website: www.appsparq.com View more .


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