Day 1 of the Gartner BI Summit was energizing. I started off the day with a great networking breakfast and presentation from Vi Shaffer on Healthcare ACO. During the networking portion I got to hear about many of the same challenges that my clients are facing. The question of "what BI tools are you using" got a good laugh from the table. The unanimous answer was "all of them". While funny, large healthcare organizations are without a doubt saddled with every product under the sun, primarily as a result of acquisitions.

Interestingly, in the keynote I heard Bill Hostmann discuss how we need to adopt a portfolio of BI products instead of trying to tackle it all with one tool. Probably not the answer the table full of healthcare payers wanted to hear, but supporting multiple tools is the reality and something we need to embrace. IT is always talking about helping the business change, but in the case of BI the business is demanding that IT change. They want quicker access to data and have a different question every day. With ongoing acquisitions and the need for timely data, there is simply not a one size fits all tool. IT needs to embrace and figure out the balance between the business oriented discovery tools and the mega vendors, trying to get to a single application is not the answer.

One of my favorite sessions of the day was titled "The Challenges of Information Management". Something I found interesting during the discussion was the recommendation to stop labeling projects with technology terms such as Business Intelligence, analytics, reporting and so on. Instead, try to market the project in business terms and expected outcomes. Such a simple thought, but something that could make or break a BI initiative. Just getting people to focus on the outcome instead of the technology can be extremely powerful. Something else in the session that struck me was the response to the question "Would you rather deal with BI Apathy or BI Anarchy". Every single person in the audience responded they would rather deal with BI Anarchy. Even more interesting was the fact that most thought their organizations were apathetic. Perhaps the response was a case of the grass is always greener? In my opinion, it is not and the reason I aligned with the BI Anarchy group was simple, I would rather deal with someone who is willing to work against the system to get data, instead of the one who I need to convince that data is important in the first place.

All in all it was a great first day, with a nice mix of networking and thought provoking sessions. It is nice to come to a conference that is all BI all the time!

My top 5 Takeaways from Day 1

  • As data sets grow and we move beyond tabular data stores understanding how to collect, analyze and use data is not the difference between an average and exceptional organization, it will be the difference between success and failure
  • $10 billion dollars are spent on BI yet satisfaction rates score just 4.5 out of 10. It is clear that we as BI practitioners have to find better ways to engage our customers and deliver timely data that answers the right questions.
  • Every 2 days we generate more data than we did from the dawn of time through 2003. What are we doing with all this data and how do we distinguish between data that is meaningful and data that is garbage? The answer is that in order to filter out the garbage, you have to look at it all. Further more, what was garbage yesterday might become meaningful tomorrow, so not only do we need to collect it, we need to keep it.
  • To truly disrupt a market you need a 10x improvement over existing tools, in memory technology is doing just that and will change the way we store and analyze big data
  • 30% of BI will eventually be consumed by mobile devices

Click here for my thoughts on day 2 of the summit.