Thursday, May 12, 2016

Bimodal Business Intelligence – The Next Evolution


Recently the talk in the Business Intelligence and IT world has been about bimodal IT and bimodal BI. The concept of bimodal IT is that there are two service requirements which need be provided to information producers and consumers. The first mode is Mode 1, of course. This mode is the set of traditional methods and approaches which we have all used in IT and BI. It is formal and it is well-defined. It is a system which is reliable and the information within it is well-govern. Mode 1 would comprise of your Enterprise applications as well as data warehouses and formal reporting. The challenge with Mode 1 is that it can take months or years to complete before the full value can be realized. Mode 2 is more aligned with an Agile approach to development and geared towards the users and not IT. Mode 2 looks to address needs as they are raised. The introduction of a more self-service approach means that data consumers can find what they need, when they need it and not wait for a formal report to be created. Users have specialized tools available to them which are designed to support this Agile approach by providing tools which are intuitive and easy to navigate for less technical users. Mode 2 is focused on the user and not in IT, this means that governance must be incorporated into all processes to verify that data is being used appropriately. As Gartner put it; bimodal IT is like comparing a marathon runner to a sprinter.

Why does this matter to us? In the data-based world we live in, we have the ability to leverage information which previously had been difficult to access. Unless the IT department determined that there was some value in the data they may not include it within the formal data stores. This is the foundation of data warehouses and supporting descriptive and diagnostic reporting and we accept that in this environment, speed to analysis is not the top priority. Data Analysts in companies which need to react quickly, this approach struggles and this is where Mode 2 comes into play. Mode 2 aligns with the need to answer almost random questions or simulate new scenarios which previously had not been defined. The ability to react quickly to change and not simply produce a product but to build the right product, is where Mode 2 helps us the most. I consider Mode-2 like an Agile approach to information collection, analysis and consumption. It puts the power of analysis in the hands of the business users with little or no support from IT. They can use analytic tools which are built to appeal to their needs by providing a robust interface to produce impactful reports and dashboards. The leading tools which have emerged in this area include Tableau, Qlik, Spotfire and more recently Oracle is included with a Cloud offering named Oracle Data Visualization (DV). All of these tools align with the business psyche to provide users with the ability to ask questions when they are needed and to address immediate and changing needs in a simple and powerful interface for reporting and visualizations.

At the conference I had the opportunity to see Oracle’s Data Visualization product and attend sessions about how this was Oracle’s answer to Tableau, some even said it would be a Tableau killer. I am not convinced this to be true today but we need to consider that these are the early days for DV and it does have some compelling features such as its compatibility with OBIEE. Oracle’s Data Visualization is cloud-based and provides very similar fund. The product allows for analysis of data from multiple data sources from Hive and Impala to Oracle, Redshift and Excel and bring the data together in a mashup approach for displaying the results of the analysis. In addition the product features the ability to create guided analysis via the use of story books.  The challenge today is that there are few if any BI product companies which provide a single product to support both Mode 1 and Mode 2. The result is that we have one tool for Mode 1 BI; tools like OBIEE, Cognos and Business Objects and another for Mode 2 like Tableau, Qlik, Spotfire, SAP’s Lumira and Oracle’s Data Visualization.


The problem is what we do to make them all work together. How does one transition from Mode 2 to Mode 1 when analysis is required on a regular basis? How does Mode 1 satisfy immediate needs? By having products from different vendors we often have to redevelop work done by data analysts in Mode 2, by looking to a single vendor this problem may be reduced. However at this time this is not the reality. Instead we are in a time when we use heterogeneous products to service specific needs. The time for tools which cross the bimodal needs of a business are on their way, but not quite yet. We must create an environment where data discovery and analytics can be optimized in this bimodal approach but it must be done with care as data curation will be needed to instill the confidence that data is being used properly

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