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Archive for May, 2010

BBC news carried a commentary recently which provides a salient warning for outsourcing strategies.

In the wake of the Gulf oil spill disaster, it was noted that for outsourcing to be successful, it was essential that an organisation had “contractor management” as one of its “core competencies”.

The commentator went on to characterise the disaster as a “management failure”. How could BP have avoided the disaster? By modelling the contingencies, he said.

Would that have sufficed in your organisation?  For BP it did not.

This highlights one of the often-overlooked perils of outsourcing. It’s not just internal contingencies that need to be taken into consideration. In BP’s case, although they weren’t the organisation on the ground (so to speak), it is their global brand that bears the burden – externally and worldwide.

Last week I read analysis that suggested outsourcing had largely peaked (within the BI sphere). But management models come and go in waves; there has certainly been an amount of reinstitutionalising of hitherto outsourced functionality. Anecdotally, some of the reasons mentioned included the cost reductions not meeting expectations – and the difficulty maintaining functionality to a sufficient standard compared to inhousing.

Is contractor management a clear core competency of your organisation? Are the risks sufficiently modelled, understood and accepted? Can your organisation withstand a BP-level crisis originating externally? Or are your management processes more robust when functionality is maintained internally?

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A quick listing of HP’s latest analysis of trends within Business Intelligence:


1.  Data and BI program governance

– ie managing BI [and especially data] more strategically.


2. Enterprise-wide data integration

– recognising the value of such investment.


3. (the promise of) semantic technologies

– especially taking taxonomical (categorising) and ontological (relating) approaches to data.


4. Use of advanced analytics

– going beyond reporting/OLAP, to data mining, statistical analysis, visualisation, etc.


5. Narrowing the gap between operational systems and data warehouses


6. New generation, new priorities in BI and DW – ie updating BI/DW systems

– HP identifies renewals of systems, greater investment in new technology – perhaps in an emerging economic recovery context.


7. Complex event processing

– correlating many, varied base events to infer meaning (especially in the financial services sector)


8. Integrating/analysing content

– including unstructured data and external sources.


9. Social Computing [for BI]

– yet at the moment it takes great manual effort to incorporate such technology into BI


10. Cloud Computing [for BI]


You can find the full 60-minute presentation here.  HP noted that these points are very much inter-related.  I would also add a general tenor that I got from the discussion: that these are clearly more aspirational trends than widespread current initiatives.  HP’s research additionally highlighted the four most important current BI initiatives separately:

– data quality

– advanced analytics [again]

– data governance

– Master Data Management


Other current buzzwords, such as open source, Software as a Service, and outsourcing, didn’t emerge at the forefront of concerns.  For the first two, the comment was made that these were more background enabling technologies.  As for outsourcing, it looked like those who were going to do it had largely done it, and there was current stability around that situation.


Business Intelligence has obviously moved away from simple reporting from a single repository.   Concerns are now around data quality, integration/management – and making greater sense of it, particularly for decision-making.  Those trends are clear and current.  But I’d also like to note one small point almost buried in the above discussion: the use of external data sources.  Business value of data must inevitably move away from simple navel-gazing towards facing the whole of the world, and making business sense of it.  That’s a high mountain, and we’re only just becoming capable of moving towards that possibility in a meaningful way.

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