Monday, June 13, 2011

IB Summit 2011 Has Started!

Information Builders' annual user conference is off to a great start. Last night was the Welcome Reception with open bar and an excellent meal.  I was surprised to see a full spread and not just finger food like in the past few years. Instead, the Hilton Anatole in Dallas served up dishes containing roast duck, halibut, tenderloin, lobster, and crab.

Is this a sign of the economy in general or just BI software?

We had a great turnout at our Partner Intelligence booth, where we are giving away one Amazon Kindle book reader to a customer and another one to an IBI employee. At conferences, vendor employees working the booths and presenting rarely get included in the give-away drawings. Here at Summit, with top-notch freebies such as iPads, iPods, XBox 360s, and so forth, I felt especially bad for my WebFOCUS/iWay friends so I bought an extra Kindle.

On this Monday morning, the General Session has just wrapped up. It was obvious from the size of the ballroom that Summit attendance is higher than last year. During his talk, Gerry Cohen showed three slides of new US customer logos since last year's event and two more slides of new international customers. Things seem to be going well for Information Builders.

During the software demonstration, IBI announced in passing that their WebFOCUS Developer Studio product will be replaced with a new "App Developer" that was created with a similar look-and-feel as the InfoAssist end-user reporting tool. Now, both products with have the Microsoft Ribbon Bar feature. The switch is to happen in WebFOCUS 8.0.

The other big item of interest during the software demos was the emphasis on mobile BI. Frankly, I was concerned last year when IBI only gave away iPads but did not talk about them in their software presentations. I was especially worried that their development seemed to be focused on Adobe Flash which would not work on the Apple devices.

But today, IBI indicated they are committed to BI on any platform. When the demo person showed a Flash graph, he added in a comment of "Of course, on your iPad this would be using HTML 5 to get the same content."  (Just as a side comment, I spoke with a gentleman who won an iPad at Summit last year. He said he was the first person in his small organization to have one. After they saw his new innovation, thirty-seven of his associates have since bought an iPad.)

The industry analysts talked about mobile BI as well. As always, audience interaction with the panel was good. Members included Howard Dresner, Wayne  Eckerson, Boris Evelson, Cindi Howson, Mark Smith, and Dan Vessett.

Some comments from the analysts provide some insight into the larger audience and fancier accoutrements of this year's event. First, BI has become mainstream and executives have jumped onto the bandwagon. Also, BI is not necessarily an IT topic. Instead, over half of the BI initiatives are being driven by the business people. IT is being forced to adapt.

One area of adaptation is in mobile computing. Mark Smith commented that today's executives are impatient. In the past, they had a team of reporting specialists producing daily "briefing books" of important information. Now, executives want that information real-time on their mobile devices and are frustrated that IT cannot make it happen quickly.

Another important trend is the shortage of BI professionals. Boris Evelson talked about the high level of job security we in the BI space are enjoying now and which we will continue to see into the future. Business is constantly facing new challenges and needs information to make the best decisions. Because of this, Boris said, "BI never stands still."

The good BI professional is hard to find. That is because he or she has both technical skills and business acumen. Wayne Eckerson called these the "purple people" because of their unique traits and scarcity. Cindi Howson agreed, saying that in her research she saw that the number one key success factor for BI was executive sponsorship; number two was having these hybrid business/IT people leading the BI team.

Howard Dresner discussed a case study where a "purple person" became an "organizational activist" who used BI as a lever to change the entire company culture. Dan Vesset pointed out that BI professionals need to learn to market themselves within their organization. Mark Smith said that some organizations are using social media to identify their internal "purple people" and engage them on the official BI teams.

So things are getting off to a great start. Keep an eye on the blog for more information.

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About Me

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I am a project-based software consultant, specializing in automating transitions from legacy reporting applications into modern BI/Analytics to leverage Social, Cloud, Mobile, Big Data, Visualizations, and Predictive Analytics using Information Builders' WebFOCUS. Based on scores of successful engagements, I have assembled proven Best Practice methodologies, software tools, and templates.

I have been blessed to work with innovators from firms such as: Ford, FedEx, Procter & Gamble, Nationwide, The Wendy's Company, The Kroger Co., JPMorgan Chase, MasterCard, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Siemens, American Express, and others.

I was educated at Valparaiso University and the University of Cincinnati, where I graduated summa cum laude. In 1990, I joined Information Builders and for over a dozen years served in regional pre- and post-sales technical leadership roles. Also, for several years I led the US technical services teams within Cincom Systems' ERP software product group and the Midwest custom software services arm of Xerox.

Since 2007, I have provided enterprise BI services such as: strategic advice; architecture, design, and software application development of intelligence systems (interactive dashboards and mobile); data warehousing; and automated modernization of legacy reporting. My experience with BI products include WebFOCUS (vendor certified expert), R, SAP Business Objects (WebI, Crystal Reports), Tableau, and others.